The War of the Worlds (2019) – Episode 1 Recap & Review

Regarding The Earth With Envious Eyes

The War Of The Worlds is not a particularly difficult novel to adapt but in the case of BBC’s latest Sunday night drama, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. With key elements of the original story changed and some politically charged societal messages around feminism, The War Of The Worlds gets off to a poor start here, delivering a glacially paced storyline that takes a good 30 minutes before kicking into gear.

We begin with a female narrator reading out the early script from War Of The Worlds before the martian ship takes flight and heads toward Earth. We’re in Woking 1905 as our tale begins, with astronomer Ogilvy witnessing the blast from Mars through his telescope. Printing out pictures of the phenomenon, he debates with un-wed couple Amy and George over the possibility this is a volcanic eruption from the red planet. In the morning, George says goodbye to Amy and heads off to the Telegraph where he works as a journalist.

After an eloquent speech, George bides his time and listens as the press are briefed regarding an imminent attack from Russia. It turns out the man giving the speech is George’s brother, Frederick. As we soon find out, that attack is not coming from our Eastern neighbours, it’s actually coming from Mars. The chances of that are, of course, a million to one but before we see the craft inevitably crash-land, George and Amy discuss female empowerment back home.

In the morning, Ogilvy, Amy and George look on in marvel at the crashed spaceship, believing this to be a shooting star. Despite it causing quite the ruckus, they’re the only ones who arrive on the scene for now and as the ground rumbles, they discuss what to do next. As it happens, The Telegraph aren’t interested in this story and instead, want more details on Russia. An annoyed George leaves work while Ogilvy and Amy continue to dig.

Meanwhile George visits his ex-wife Lucy and asks her to sign his divorce papers. She refuses though and instead he heads back on the train after his fruitless ordealand straight back to the dig site. Once there, Ogilvy hears mechanical whirrs comings from the spherical shape, eventually turning into the monstrous, robotic creatures that terrorize England.

Rushing back to their apartment, Amy and George watch as more objects fall from the sky. In the wake of the devastation, George heads back to the site to try and find Ogilvy. However, there’s no sign of him and it turns out the army have taken control of the situation, rounding up the dead and pedalling the story that these fatalities were caused by a forest fire.

Amy heads to Ogilvy’s lab and snatches up the various photos from Mars. However, she doesn’t get long to procrastinate with George as explosions blast Woking and cause George and Amy to flee on a stray horse. In the ensuing chaos, Amy and George are seperated and it’s here we see the machines first-hand. The large, mechanical behemoths tower over the land, roaring mechanically at George. He screams at Amy to head to Frederick’s while he’s knocked down under flying rubble. As we soon learn, he survived the attack and finds himself caught in the midst of destruction while in London, Amy arrives and informs Frederick of the attack. To complicate matters, it turns out Amy is also pregnant.

As the episode closes out, we skip forward in time to see Amy with her child; a war-weary survivor struggling to find George. As the camera pans out we see the desolate ruins of London stretching on in the distance.

With glacial pacing and some serious changes to the original story, The War Of The Worlds gets off to a bumpy start here, taking far too long to get to the meat of the plot. The early female narrator lacks the intensity of Jeff Wayne or H.G Wells either, although the orignal orchestral score is a nice inclusion, albeit at the expensive of not being entirely faithful to the book. Personally, I would have liked a more modern interpretation for some of the iconic themes from the original broadcast, but given the changes made to the source material, perhaps it’s for the best they’re not included.

While I’m all for equality and feminism, I’m not quite sure the wake of an alien invasion in 1905 England is the time or place. It doesn’t help that Amy herself doesn’t have a whole lot of characterisation and the entire character drama revolves around such superficial, pointless melodrama that it makes these scenes completely obsolete thanks to the teasing glimpses of the future.

With the promise of more action next week, there’s still time for this to change but as it stands The War Of The Worlds is a disappointing adaptation, one that’s even harder to swallow given the numerous teasers the BBC have put out over the months building up to this. Still, there’s plenty of time left to turn it around but for now, The War Of The Worlds has quite the mountain to climb to reach those illustrious heights the original hits.


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