DVD Review: War Of the Worlds - The Final Season / Cert: PG / Director: William Fruet, George Bloomfield, Neill Fearnley / Screenplay: Greg Strangis, Tom Lazarus, Nancy Ann Butler / Starring: Jared Martin, Lynda Mason Green, Philip Akin, Richard Chaves, Rachel Blanchard, Denis Forest, Adrian Paul / Release Date: August 27th
The premise of this show, which aired for two seasons in 1988-90, is that, some forty years after coming unstuck in their first invasion, the aliens are back for another bite of the cherry. This time, though, mankind presents a softer target – the economy's in ruins, everyone's tuned out on legalized drugs and all the cars are rusty. Bound to be a doddle, right?
Wrong, and Season Two, now available on a 5-disc box set, sees both sides digging in for the long haul. Aided by an advanced technology consisting of yellow goo, seaweed and cabbage leaves, the aliens work against humanity in various underhand ways – they tamper with the water supply and atmosphere, and even go so far as to clone the lead singer of a punk rock group called The Terminal Band (whose signature tune “Scavengers” – “Take to the streets! Blood on the streets!” – would go down a storm at Glasto) and pack their music with self-destructive subliminal messages. On the rare occasions when they try more forthright methods, they soon come to regret it because their hand weapons, which look like cabbages, are impossible to aim.
Despite, or perhaps because, they're ever so slightly rubbish at implementing their nefarious plans, they make for a thoroughly entertaining bunch of villains. It's fun to watch them bickering when things go wrong, and they're easy on the eye, too, in a hollow-cheeked, slick-haired, Kraftwerk video kind of way. And sometimes moments of genuine eeriness occur, as with Ardix (Richings), the cadaverous alien lab tech who utters a blood-curdling scream every time he supervises the cloning process.
It's the humans who let things down. They're dour, and not too bright, as typified by their leader, Harrison Blackwood (Martin) – supposedly a top boffin, although his idea of science is to bring alien artefacts back to his underground HQ and then leave them lying around until they thrust a tentacle into some innocent passer-by.
To be fair, the dourness is intentional. The whole series has a downbeat, seedy feel, with noirish lighting, grungy beards for the male actors and lots of scenes in deserted warehouses. There's a surprising amount of gore, and physical SFX that wouldn't look out of place in a cult horror flick (when the aliens get shot, their faces collapse and green stuff comes spurting out of their eye sockets). And some of the individual storylines are very good – including one, where they go back in time to the first invasion, which cleverly recreates a '50s B-movie vibe. There's a darkness and grittiness to this show that recalls traditional British sci-fi, and for that reason many UK viewers should feel right at home watching it.
Special Features: None