The terror of The War of the Worlds has always been rooted in its total plausibility. H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel has endured for over a century on the strength of its simple, mortifying premise: tentacular Martians invade our world, and before anybody can mobilize to try and stop them, untold millions are killed before human diseases narrowly spare the species of its extinction. Wells understood the fear of alien invasion long before it became a cornerstone of popular storytelling: “Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
As long as there’s human war, there’ll be an allegorical purpose for retelling The War of the Worlds, and BBC has announced that the network will be the latest to interpret Wells’ classic story, in the first notable translation of the book since Steven Spielberg’s flawed-but-nightmarish 2005 film. As part of a slate of 11 new dramas commissioned by the network, the latest version will be a three-part series, and the first British TV adaptation of the story. Peter Harness, best known for his hit 2015 miniseries adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, has been tapped to write Worlds.
Curiously, the series will take an approach that virtually other adaptations have, and situate Wells’ story in the Victorian era, as the novel does. While it’s often been updated to meet modern political implications, we can’t wait to see how utterly frightening an alien invasion looks when there’s little to no means of warning anybody about its arrival. The series is scheduled to go into production early next year, so audiences have a while to wait yet, but with Harness’ involvement and the iconic source material, BBC’s latest endeavor is already shaping up to be one of the TV events of 2018, or maybe 2019.
In the meantime, and on the same topic, here’s an underrated candidate for the most unsettling scene direction of Steven Spielberg’s career: