01/05/2012. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
Region 2 DVD: pub: Revelation Films B00790RMRS. 6 DVDs 1084 minutes 24 episodes. Price GBP24.67 (UK)). cast: Jared Martin, Linda Mason Green, Philip Akin and Richard Chaves.
check out website: www.revfilms.com
I can remember this ‘War Of The Worlds’ TV series being on UK television in the 90s. Screened at some unearthly hour when most people would be in bed, it lingered on for a month or two and then seemed to disappear. Previously released on DVD in the USA, it is now available from Revelation Films, a company you may remember which was responsible for successfully releasing many Irwin Allen productions including ‘Land Of The Giants’ and ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’ in the UK.
The series was definitely not a great success. First shown on TV in 1988, it ran for two seasons before being axed for a dismal show in the ratings. There was a marked difference between season one and season two but that discussion can wait for a later review. We are looking at the first season here and basically it's a bit disappointing in many areas but, surprisingly, good in others.
The major reason why it's disappointing is that it is contrived. Yes, contrived is a very good word to use and the viewer comes away with a sense of being cheated. It's based on the original movie made in 1953. HG Wells would probably turn in his grave at the thought of his Martians being so badly treated! As you probably know, with the planet overtaken by the war machines and the red weed, the only thing that saved the remnants of humanity was disease. The Martians were wiped out by an earthly plague!
In this series, it appears that they are not really Martians at all but aliens from another star system. Additionally, everyone seems to have forgotten the original invasion which made a meal of Earth. Life was apparently back to normal, difficult enough to believe in itself, but the amnesia that had infected the population was without credible explanation and very contrived. The dead Martians from the first invasion had been dumped in a waste site only to be revived when a group of terrorists accidentally irradiate everything, so killing off the bacteria that had immobilised them. The Martians then take over the human bodies, a bit of a cheat in itself. Why can't aliens just be aliens and not humans in disguise? Could it be for economy of production reasons?
The Martians or aliens then try by various duplicitous means to make the planet ready for a big invasion of millions of their own species from outer space! A ragtag bundle of converted humans, they are literally falling apart and are kept together by sticky tape and glue. Up against them is a secret team from the government. Called the Blackwood Project, they pit their wits against the aliens, trying to thwart their plans. This is the essence of the first season.
We are further cheated by the stereotypical characters in the Blackwood Project. If we said that the acting, especially by Jared Martin who plays Dr Harrison Blackwood, is a bit wooden we would be verging on being kind. There are four main characters in the Blackwood Project: Dr. Blackwood himself, a modern woman in Dr. Suzanne McCulloch (actress Lynda Green Mason), a paraplegic computer whiz kid Norton Drake (actor Philip Akin) and a Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Ironhorse (Richard Chaves), the stereotype military man.
The aliens spend all their time in a radiation soaked bunker somewhere out in the Nevada Desert. A triumvirate of main characters, they exist in a hierarchical society. They want to wipe out humans to make Earth a suitable place for the 3 million colonists on their way. It can therefore be seen that the opposition to the Blackwood Project is extremely single-minded, without reason and deadly in nature. There is also a bit of ecology here in that the aliens think humanity has ruined a nice world, generally polluting it almost to ruination, whereas they would cherish it, creating equivalent of the Garden of Eden. This belief reinforces their motives for eradicating humans.
We could have done without all this contrivance and cheating. Had this series been put forward without the Martian nonsense, it would have been much better. Trying to tie it to a previous movie was probably an exercise in publicity management, promoting an easily recognised identity to entrap the viewer. Instead, such a move made the viewers a bit uneasy about the whole affair, confusing them with contrivances and inexplicable notions but once all these mistakes have been put aside and the episodes are viewed for what they are, it becomes oddly compelling. Putting aside the excruciating parts of the plot and the wooden acting, it's really not bad at all.
It's quite obvious from the start that Jared Martin's character seems to be a parody of Indiana Jones in dress and style. Despite this not being entirely successful, could there be a connection between Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford and Harrison Blackwood? Was this a deliberate connection?
The terrorists that initiated the resurgence of the Martians were not very convincing. I mean, they were hardly Baader-Meinhof? We never discovered the reason behind the terrorists' campaign or even the political state of America at the time. Their demands and aspirations were quite wishy-washy but they did eventually make reasonable aliens!
When the aliens died, there deaths were gruesome. Remember Roy Thinnes in ‘The Invaders’? In that show, the aliens caught fire and burnt away to nothing. The aliens in ‘War Of The Worlds’ had a much more theatrical death, often with some of the original Martian bits and pieces making one last wriggling display before dissolving into a pulpy smear of slime.
Making reservations for the above-mentioned faults, the series became rather addictive. There were lots of plots and counter-plots, dastardly fights to the death with victories and defeats for both sides. Elusive characters appeared now and then only to resurface later. You'll also see a few ‘Star Trek’ actors in various parts.
When summing up, if the first season was all there was to the series it would be given a thumbs down because it didn't really come to a satisfactory conclusion and had lots of faults with the plot. I think the production team realised this as well but without giving anything away, the second season was a much better. I believe this will be released at some time in the near future. For that reason, if you can get this DVD collection at a reasonable price, it will build you up for the next instalment.
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