The invaders are back – 35 years after we thought we had destroyed them…
I love the concept of The War of the Worlds, from H.G. Wells’ original story, to the Jeff Wayne concept album, via the original 1953 film that updated the story to contemporary times. (The Spielberg film felt as if it needed some serious editing at the script stage to work for me.) The 1988-90 TV series is a bit of an oddity, in that there are some great moments, but an awful lot that makes you go, “Really?!”
The idea is simple: the Martians weren’t killed off at the end of the film, and somehow their bodies are in suspended animation. When they are revived, they start taking over human bodies and preparing for a new invasion. Standing in their way are the standard team of plucky scientists and Army personnel (led by The Fantastic Journey’s Jared Martin) – who in a move which comes as a bit of a surprise watching it now, but wasn’t so unusual at the time of broadcast, don’t always win.
The episodes still surface periodically on satellite TV, but rewatching them now, nearly 25 years after they were made, you can spot the nice touches that producer Greg Stangis brought: a Raiders of the Lost Ark type warehouse; characters from the 1953 film; even survivors from the invasion that Orson Welles recounted in 1938!
Of course, the show relies on a collective amnesia about the original invasion, and it was made on quite a low budget, so you do need to suspend your disbelief quite a bit, but this sometimes gory first season tried to do something different with the Wellsian mythos.
Verdict: An often-forgotten slice of 1980s sci-fi hokum which stands up better than quite a few of its contemporaries. 6/10