The BBC has released the first trailer for the upcoming adaptation of the classic HG Wells science fiction novel The war of the worlds† The three-part miniseries is set in Edwardian England – just a few years after Wells published his novel – and it looks like it will be a fairly faithful treatment of the source material as the people of Earth fight to survive in the face. of a Martian invasion.
(Spoilers for the 1897 novel below.)
First serialized in 1897, The war of the worlds was published as a book the following year and has remained in print ever since. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, the story begins with astronomers on Earth looking through their telescopes at what appear to be explosions on the surface of Mars. Shortly afterwards, a meteor falls to Earth, which turns out to be a capsule with large, tentacles containing aliens. The creatures do not come in peace; instead, they use their tripod combat machines to destroy much of the city of Woking and its environs with their heat rays and poisonous black smoke.
Britain’s armed forces prove powerless against the aliens’ more advanced technology, and eventually the Martians conquer London as well. The surviving humans (including the narrator and his brother) go into hiding to avoid being picked up as food for the Red Planet’s invaders. Ultimately, the Martians are struck down by a disease, in which they lack immunity to many of the Earth’s natural pathogens. Or, as Wells put it, they were “slayed, after all human devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has set upon this earth.”
In his treatment of what was then visionary science and technology, Wells’s novel proved to have an enormous influence beyond the usual literary circles. It inspired physicist Robert H. Goddard, among others, who invented the liquid-fuel rocket and helped usher in the modern space age. The novel also inspired numerous adaptations in film, television, radio, and video games. Perhaps the most infamous adaptation of The war of the worlds was a 1938 radio broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles. The director’s decision to frame the first part of the hour-long broadcast as a news story sent some 50 gullible Americans fleeing in panic (far fewer than the million panicked people who were covered by newspapers at the time). were reported).
The first film adaptation was released in 1953 and won an Oscar for visual effects. That movie, in turn, spawned a sequel TV series in the 1980s, where the Martians were stored in suspended animation rather than dying out. When they accidentally wake up, another world war breaks out. The blockbuster from 1996 independence Day arguably owed a lot to Wells’ novel, including a clever twist on the viral angle. Most recently, in 2005, Tom Cruise starred in director Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worldsa loose adaptation of the novel set in America rather than England, which proved to be a critical and box office success.
This latest tweak follows the standard premise, with some impressive visual effects of its own. According to the official synopsis:
Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of HG Wells’ groundbreaking story – the first alien invasion story in literature – follows George (played by Rafe Spall) and his partner Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) as they try to defy society and to start a life. Rupert Graves is Frederick, George’s older brother, and Robert Carlyle plays Ogilvy, an astronomer and scientist. The war of the worlds tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.
The trailer opens with an ominous announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like something has arrived in England.” What at first glance looks like a shooting star, heralds the arrival of the first Mars capsule. Soon, the Martians and their tripod fighters are attacking the land, even as a politician declares in deep denial that there is nothing to worry about. The British army is unable to repel the alien forces. But if the miniseries stays as close to the novel as it seems, there’s probably a microscopic surprise in store for the alien invaders.
The war of the worlds will be broadcast on BBC later this year.
List image by YouTube/BBC