Back in the late 1980s, I was first discovering classic science fiction film and was completely taken in by George Pal’s original War of the Worlds film from 1953. I was in my late teens, and as soon as I heard that there was a new series coming along picking up decades after the original invasion I was in.
I had the novelisation of the pilot episode, I videotaped each one as it aired, and I was hooked.
But I always wanted to go back and reexamine the series, now the entire series has been released as one collection from Paramount Pictures, available today.
Diving into it, I’m of a divided mind. The image isn’t the best, but that is no fault of Paramount’s. The original series, produced here in Toronto, Canada was shot on video to bring down production costs. So I won’t really complain about that.
I will say that this series demonstrates everything that was wrong with syndicated television. The show is made so that anyone can come along at any point in the series, watch an episode and understand what is happening completely. There’s even an opening monologue over each season to bring you up to speed.
The series (prime material for a reboot or continuation) would have benefited from a serialised storytelling. I mean, it is a war, there should be a constant repercussions and events that play out through the entire series.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any good stories. On the contrary, both seasons have standout tales, even though the second season was completely revamped when a new producer/show runner (Frank Mancuso) took over the reins from Greg Strangis (the series creator) and Sam Strangis.
The one benefit of being a syndicated series is that both the violence and the gore can be a little more intense than your standard television (at least it was at the time).
The first season sees Harrison Blackwood (Jared Martin) leads a small group of scientists, that includes Suzanne McCullough (Lynda Mason Green), Norton Drake (Philip Akin), and Colonel Paul Ironhorse (Richard Chaves). From a remote manor they track, and try to counter the resurrected alien threat.
The episodes take on a number of issues, and surprisingly, and gratifyingly, the good guys don’t always win.
In the second season, there are some cast changes, and Adrian Paul joins them as John Kincaid, a rough and tumble hero type that helps Blackwood take on a new alien threat (which includes our friend Julian Richings) in a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk world.
Fans who were with the series from the its outset were shocked, and upset when the second season got underway, offing major characters and changing the world, and the aliens themselves.
It disrupts the show’s continuity.
Taken on its own, it could be enjoyed, and some people prefer the second season.
I can see the positives and minuses in both seasons, and am greatly enjoying the revisit of all forty three episodes.
There is one thing that would work so much better for the series today than it did in the late 1980s, which was a glaring plot hole at the time…
No one seems to remember the original alien invasion of the 50s. Cities were destroyed, millions died, but no one remembers it. Today, however, this could be gotten away with, because we live in a time that some people are moronic enough to believe the Earth is flat, others deny the Holocaust, and social media and biased news programmes deny facts.
I love revisiting this series, it brings back so many memories, and now, years on, I’m recognising locations, as well as guest stars.
So much fun. Can we please have a reboot? Or update? I’ve got some great story ideas!!
War of the Worlds: The Complete Series is available from Paramount Pictures today!