Review: War of the Worlds - Season One (15) / Directed by: Various / Written by: Various / Starring: Jared Martin, Philip Akin, Lynda Mason Green, Richard Chaves, Rachel Blanchard, Denis Forest, Adrian Paul, Catherine Disher / Release Date: April 30th
The DVD release of War of the Worlds was the first of two series broadcast in the late 1980s. It acts as a follow up to the 1953 George Pal film and is based on the premise that the Martians were not quite destroyed by human bacteria but were placed in a state of hibernation which the US Government used to confine the Martians in a military base.
Like all good invasions, whether it is alien or zombie, a terrorist group successfully infiltrates the military base and unknowingly releases the Martians who kills the terrorist group and use their bodies as cadavers. However, this invasion doesn’t go unnoticed – Dr. Harrison Blackwood (Jared Martin), an astrophysicist, and computer genius Norton (Philip Akin) discover radio-activity on Earth, which is typically found in space in their field of work. With newly recruited microbiologist Suzanne (Lynda Mason Green), they set out to trace the original source of the signal and stumble onto a similar investigation being covered by Lt Col. Paul Ironhorse (Richard Chavez). A chance encounter with the Martians seals the alliance into an alien investigation team backed by the US Government.
I honestly thought that this series would be dire; however, there are some wonderful aspects to it. The series goes beyond being just a follow-up to the 1953 film in more ways than one. The episode Eye For An Eye is set in Grover’s Mill; the famous alien landing-spot for Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 radio drama. In the episode, a real invasion took place in 1938 and was defeated by a group of men who help the team to take down an invasion in Grover’s Mill for a second time. Meanwhile, in A Multitude of Idols, Blackwood seeks the help of Sylvia Van Buren (a character from the original 1953 film, played by the original actress Ann Robinson). Meanwhile, the series’ use of the Cold War (which was still happening at the time) dates the series in a good way. The episode Epiphany (which guests The Avengers actor Patrick Macnee) deals with the Martians looking to exploit the hatred and tensions between humans (which were ripe during the Cold War) in order to invade. This resonates with HG Wells’ original novel and how he integrated the hot topics of the Victorian Era (largely colonialism) into this work.
However, War of the Worlds attempts to evolve the story and fails massively. In the series, it turns out that the “Martians” are actually the Mor-Taxans from the another planet light years away; Doctor Who has made this mistake before of taking a monster which has passed into folklore and making it into something else, it just spoils the enjoyment of the familiar and is really unnecessary. Also, when their cadavers begin to rot as a result of radiation, they inhabit shapeless suits which look like discarded Doctor Who monsters. Meanwhile, through no fault of its own (it was made in the 80s), the random interjections of gore, such as aliens bursting out of cadaver’s stomach (hmm... has that not been done before?) and bodies melting, were special effects typical of the 80s but they get a tad boring and predictable after you’ve gone through the first six episodes.
War of the Worlds has something special to it, which I think is what granted it a second series in its original run; it attempts to streamline the ideas across all adaptations of the original into one story which (for its time) works really well against a Cold War backdrop. However, the gory effects are repetitive and the bastardisation of some of the original material spoils the series after a while. In addition, the only special features with this DVD are the episode synopses, which I still don’t quite understand the use of.
Special Features: Episode Synopses