Picking up thirty years after George Pal’s 1953 adaptation of H.G. Well’s classic novel War of the Worlds, the television incarnation tells the story of the resurrection of the alien invaders from Mars (retconned to Mor-Tax in this version) from their state of suspended animation (rumors of their death had apparently been highly exaggerated). Once back in action the aliens begin a plot to make Earth more like their home world…and fast as a veritable shit load of their friends are scheduled to arrive on our lil’ blue marble within five years time. Unfortunately for us, the aliens can now inhabit human bodies in order to travel among us undetected.
To fight this unearthly menace, the government assembles a highly trained task force led by Dr. Harrison Blackwood (played by Jared Martin, whom fright flick fans may recognize from the Fulci death sport film The New Gladiators), an astrophysicist who’s parents were killed in the original 1953 invasion. Also along for the ride are Dr. Suzanne McCullough (Lynda Mason Green) a microbiologist and single mother, Norton Drake (Philip Akin) a paraplegic computer genius, and Lt. Col. Paul Ironhorse (Predator‘s Richard Chaves) your standard hard-assed military man. Over the course of the first season of War of the Worlds, our lovable misfit heroes relationships grow stronger as they are continuously faced with new machinations from the three armed nightmares from beyond the stars.
In Season One, War of the Worlds displays equal parts over-the-top horror featuring some outrageously hardcore practical gore that I still can’t believe flew in the late 1980’s (except when it didn’t…I remember some networks showing edited versions of the episodes after some folks had a conniption) and charming humor (also generously topped with pure cheese). Also of note are the series fast pace, excellent alien suits, and overall fun, adventurous tone.
The only major complaint I had with Season One was the “selective amnesia” excuse the series utilized to get around the “why doesn’t everyone remember an alien invasion” question. That was a star ship sized hunk of bullshit in 1988, and it sure as hell is now as well.
Moving on to Season Two we are faced with a paradigm change I absolutely despised in ye olden days. This season is set in the near future, half the cast is killed right away, the aliens from season one are also obliterated making way for a new alien menace, and the once fun loving and quirky Blackwood becomes a sad sack Debbie Downer. The remainder of the team is joined by a new face, the mercenary Kincaid (played by beloved TV Highlander Adrian Paul) and they get a new headquarters…a sewer based hideout. Things become much more para-militaristic this go around, and as you can surmise the tone is rather dark.
I have to admit, revisiting the last season of War of the Worlds after twenty nine years I really dig it! The shift in tone is admittedly jarring, but I actually appreciate to bold new direction the show went in (though I still wonder what the show would have been like if the story line from Season One was more directly followed)
In short; War of the Worlds is a fun series filled with gore, action, an enjoyable cast, great call backs to the classic 1953 flick, and enough surreal moments to keep ya coming back for more!