FORGOTTEN TELEVISION: WAR OF THE WORLDS (1988-1990)

War of the Worlds tv guideThis article is dedicated to my sister Rosemary, who is a huge fan of this overlooked show. 

War of the Worlds posterWAR OF THE WORLDS (Television Series) – This short-lived series proceeded from a fun premise. In this program’s world the Martian invasions depicted occurring in 1901 ( 1897 novel), 1938 (Orson Welles radio version) and 1953 (first film version) were really three separate real-world attempts by extra-terrestrials (NOT Martians, however) to conquer the Earth. In an “X-Files before The X-Files existed” sort of way the world’s governments collaborated in an extensive – and successful – coverup to pass those invasions off as fiction.

The faux-Martian craft were presented as the explanation behind the first UFO sightings and their damaged spaceships and presumably dead bodies were being kept in hiding at various bases around the world for reverse-engineering and other studies. The leftover bodies from the 1953 invasion were really just dormant, thanks to the aliens’ latest attempts at immunizing themselves against the Earthly illnesses that were always their undoing in the past.    

War of the Worlds castThose dormant aliens are now emerging from their sleep and attempting once again to conquer the Earth, this time by taking over the bodies of human beings thereby giving themselves full immunity. Human scientists, military and governmental forces battle the aliens. 

Though all of that sounds derivative War of the Worlds actually managed to make it all seem fresh through quality scripting, fleshed-out characters and a capable cast led by Jared “Fantastic Voyage” Martin, Ann Robinson, Ilse Von Glatz and Richard Chaves. An added element of suspense lay in the fact that the aliens sometimes WON so viewers felt genuine tension. Pacing was a problem, however, and I would say the show’s episodes would have benefited from a half-hour run time instead of an hour-long format.  

War of the Worlds gogglesWar of the Worlds was sort of a tale of two seasons. Season One had the nice paranoid and conspiratorial vibe of The Invaders and served as a proto- X-Files. Season Two featured a different production team and placed more emphasis on open warfare with the aliens like V: The Miniseries and served as a proto- Falling Skies. I personally thought both seasons were appealing in different ways and I could see how the constant “government successfully covering up the alien attacks” bit was already wearing out its welcome in Season One. There was no real reason to add a new group of aliens so early in the series, however, and that aspect of Season Two was clumsily handled.

Many viewers were also turned off by the sudden switch in Season Two from the aliens slowly building their ranks and stock-piling tech for a war to a post-apocalyptic setting with an Earth already mostly conquered (Shades of Killraven!). It played like there was a “missing season” between one and two. When Jared Martin was still reasonably young it would have been great to see a “lost season” produced to fill in the blanks. If this show had enough of a following for a proliferation of fan fiction that lost season would be fertile creative ground.   

War of the Worlds eyeFurther infuriating fans of the first season was the way the new production team jettisoned many subplots that Season One had been slowly building upon. The apparent belief was that audiences wanted quick answers, but the later success of The X-Files and other serialized shows disproved that theory. And killing off popular lead characters from Season One was just asking for trouble. 

Overall, this neglected milestone in Science Fiction television deserves to be much better known. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the conspiratorial approach of Season One or the all-out warfare approach of Season Two, this program is thought-provoking and fun. The show’s fictional Blackwood Project ought to be as popular as Project: Torchwood, Blue Rose Cases, S.H.A.D.O. and U.N.I.T.    

FOR MORE FORGOTTEN TELEVISION CLICK HERE:https://glitternight.com/category/forgotten-television/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

  

20 Comments

Filed under Forgotten Television

20 responses to “FORGOTTEN TELEVISION: WAR OF THE WORLDS (1988-1990)

  1. Rose

    Very good article and I hope I can find the show to view somewhere. Plus, your sister must be very cool…

  2. Jared

    I wish they’d brought Q’Tara back…

  3. Gerald

    I think my parents used to talk about this show.

  4. Greta

    I disagree. I hated this show.

  5. Kalyn

    Jared Martin looks like Adam Ant.

  6. Sean

    I was a big fan of the show as well and I agree that there really should have been an in between season to explain a number of things – primarily how society utterly collapsed on itself during an implied period of about 3 or 4 years between the two seasons.

  7. David

    I just rewatched the pilot on DVD. It’s been over 30+ years, and the acting was a bit hokey and completely in line with the way the actors and writing were in the 80’s. Some parts are almost embarassing in quality. Yet, despite that the show has some exciting moments too, and both good and bad special effects. I’ll try and watch the rest of the series to jog my old memories from childhood. I also remember the show improving somewhat. At least I hope so.

    • Hello and thanks for the thoughtful reply! I agree about the acting but I guess we have to remember that was over 30 years ago. Acting in popular entertainment will always seem awkward after that large a passage of time. People from the late 1980s certainly always laughed at the awkward acting in 1950s productions, after all.

  8. Jon D.

    I’ve always loved this series, especially Season 1, since it first aired in my home region here in the UK, late one Sunday night back in 1989, starting at 11;40pm, with the first two episodes (The Resurrection, parts 1 and 2) editing together into a movie. I was just 12 years old, and it was the very first TV series I recorded every episode of each week, carefully labelling each tape and giving it fake BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) ratings, depending on the gore/violence quotient in that week’s episode.

    I loved the tone, the content, the fact that the series had both the good guys win some weeks, and then have them lose and get decimated in other weeks. It kept viewers entertained. I also liked the fact it wasn’t afraid to be gory/violent, and show these aliens murdering humans in quite grim ways. The fact the aliens were brutally ruthless and took pleasure in killing humans, because they saw us as “disposable”, was fantastically way-ahead-of-its-time, even including the Biblical episode titles!

    The opening salvo, with the alien tentacle crawling over the earth, along with a pivotal piece of dialogue of that week’s episode, at the end of each week’s opening credits (if my memory serves) was also joyously creepy. (I believe the DVD releases omit these in full, which is a shame.) It’s doubly-disappointing that Season 2 was completely different, and they tried to make the show more lighthearted/actiony; less dark and depressing, and more fantastical. What makes WAR OF THE WORLDS work, was the fact it wasn’t nice, cosy viewing. i liked the darkness, the bleakness, the horror overtones.

    A great show then, and one I still love (in spite of its cheesiness) today.

    N.B. Would love to see a cast reunion if possible, for its 25th Anniversary in 2022/23!

  9. I’ve always loved this series, especially Season 1, since it first aired in my home region here in the UK, late one Sunday night back in 1989, starting at 11;40pm, with the first two episodes (The Resurrection, parts 1 and 2) editing together into a movie. I was just 12 years old, and it was the very first TV series I recorded every episode of each week, carefully labelling each tape and giving it fake BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) ratings, depending on the gore/violence quotient in that week’s episode.

    I loved the tone, the content, the fact that the series had both the good guys win some weeks, and then have them lose and get decimated in other weeks. It kept viewers entertained. I also liked the fact it wasn’t afraid to be gory/violent, and show these aliens murdering humans in quite grim ways. The fact the aliens were brutally ruthless and took pleasure in killing humans, because they saw us as “disposable”, was fantastically way-ahead-of-its-time, even including the Biblical episode titles!

    The opening salvo, with the alien tentacle crawling over the earth, along with a pivotal piece of dialogue of that week’s episode, at the end of each week’s opening credits (if my memory serves) was also joyously creepy. (I believe the DVD releases omit these in full, which is a shame.) It’s doubly-disappointing that Season 2 was completely different, and they tried to make the show more lighthearted/actiony; less dark and depressing, and more fantastical. What makes WAR OF THE WORLDS work, was the fact it wasn’t nice, cosy viewing. i liked the darkness, the bleakness, the horror overtones.

    A great show then, and one I still love (in spite of its cheesiness) today. Would love to see a cast reunion if possible, for the show’s 25th Anniversary in 2022-23!

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