The BBC dropped the first trailer for its upcoming adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells science fiction novel . 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, 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 opens with astronomers on Earth observing what appear to be explosions on the surface of Mars through their telescopes. Soon after, a meteor falls to Earth, which turns out to be a capsule housing large, tentacled aliens. The creatures do not come in peace; instead, they use their tripod fighting machines to destroy much of the town of Woking and its surroundings with their heat rays and poisonous black smoke.
Great Britain’s military forces prove powerless in the face of 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 scooped up as nourishment for the invaders from the Red Planet. Ultimately, the Martians are felled by disease, lacking immunity to many of Earth’s natural pathogens. Or, as Wells phrased it, they were “slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this Earth.”
With its treatment of what was then-visionary science and technology, Wells’ novel proved hugely influential beyond the usual literary circles. It inspired physicist Robert H. Goddard, among others, who went on to invent the liquid-fueled 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 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 report led to some 50 or so gullible Americans fleeing outside in terror (far less than the million panicked people reported by newspapers at the time).
The first film adaptation was released in 1953 and won an Oscar for visual effects. That film in turn spawned a sequel TV series in the 1980s, whereby the Martians were stored in suspended animation instead of dying off. When they accidentally reawaken, another war of the worlds breaks out. The 1996 blockbuster film arguably owed a great deal to Wells’ novel, including a clever twist on the viral angle. Most recently, in 2005, Tom Cruise starred in director Steven Spielberg’s , a loose adaptation of the novel set in America rather than England that proved to be a critical and box office success.
This latest adaptation follows the standard premise, with some impressive visual effects of its own. Per the official synopsis:
Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale—the first alien invasion story in literature—follows George (played by Rafe Spall) and his partner Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) as they attempt to defy society and start a life together. Rupert Graves is Frederick, George’s elder brother, and Robert Carlyle plays Ogilvy, an astronomer and scientist. 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 seems that something has arrived in England.” What appears at first to be a shooting star heralds the arrival of the first Martian capsule. Soon the Martians and their tripod fighting machines are attacking the country, even as a politician in deep denial declares there’s nothing to be concerned about. The British military is unable to repel the alien forces. But if the miniseries hews as closely to the novel as it seems, there’s probably a microscopic surprise in store for the alien invaders.
is slated to air later this year on BBC.