The War of the Worlds is a literary classic, the first science-fiction novel to truly deal with the idea of alien invasion. It was first syndicated by Pearson's Magazine in 1897, and was published as a book the next year. The story captured the imaginations of readers, and has been adapted into many forms - including a radio play that, according to urban legend, caused mass panic in the United States.
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BBC One and Mammoth Productions have announced that filming has begun on the latest adaptation. Set in Edwardian England, the three-part drama series will see George (Rafe Spall) and his partner Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) struggle to deal with societal prejudice. The couple's lives will be turned upside-down when alien invaders sweep across Britain. The script promises to balance the human side of the story with the horror and spectacle of an alien invasion. That's just the kind of balance that popularized The War of the Worlds in the first place. As part of an official press release, the BBC have released the first image from the drama.
The Edwardian setting is a fascinating experiment on the BBC's part. All previous adaptations have rewritten the script to make it contemporary. Instead, this latest adaptation attempts to place the story in its original setting. That means the production crew will have to strike a careful balance. As director Craig Viveiros observed, "We aim to provide a thoroughly modern thrill ride for the audience, delivering an alien invasion story that will shock and awe audiences across the globe." Fortunately, it's clear writer Peter Harness is himself a fan of Wells's work. As he explained:
"The version of The War of the Worlds that I wanted to make is one that's faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book, but which also feels contemporary, surprising and full of shocks: a collision of sci-fi, period drama and horror. There is nothing cozy or predictable about Wells’ novel, and that’s what I want to capture in the show. We have an incredible cast, a brilliant director and a wonderful crew - and I can’t wait for them to explode the terrifying story of the first alien invasion on to our screens."
The key to any adaptation is to do something fresh and new. Ironically, in the case of The War of the Worlds, this fresh concept is actually an attempt to go back to the story's roots. That makes The War of the Worlds an exciting blend of the BBC's most loved program types: period dramas and science fiction. It's an experimental approach that is sure to pay off.