Back in 1988, a year after Paramount launched the Enterprise back into space with The Next Generation, they turned to another sci-fi property they owned, with the intentions of bringing it to the small screen in a weekly syndicated series.
Serving as a sequel to the classic 1953 film, the series developed by showrunner Greg Strangis brought the invaders back to life in this Canadian shot television series. The one big stumbling block that never seems to be addressed in the series, is why no one seemed to remember the original invasion, and the reconstruction of countless cities following that first failed assault.
And actually while I’m ruminating on plot holes, they missed a huge opportunity to introduce a government conspiracy angle. Someone stored the recovered bodies (which the lead in the show knows about), someone hid the war machine (and could have been studying it) but none of that is touched on through the course of the series as far as I remember,.
Strangis glosses that over in his first script, The Resurrection, which debuted on 8 October, 1988. I was totally ready for this when it aired. In fact I had already read the paperback adaptation of the pilot episode (which came with it’s own alien hand bookmark), and was ready to see where the series took me.
The opening pilot episode is a feature length story that has lots of set up, and you have to try to ignore some of the really bad, computer added text for the credits. Of course the low budget also applies to some of the effects, though there are some nicely gory ones as well (something they could get away with in syndication).
The story sees a group of terrorist assaulting a military base, although all we really get to see are countless barrels marked caution and classified. A number of these get shot up during the attack, which apparently rouses some of the long dormant aliens.
And these aliens show us something we didn’t see in the original film… they can inhabit a human host, but only for a limited time, as the radiation begins to cause the host body to decay.
No one however seems to believe the threat that these aliens could pose, and instead a small team is thrown together to investigate and repel the invasion. The team, known as the Blackwood Team, is overseen by astrophysicist Harrison Blackwood (Jared Martin) – who has a connection to the lead characters in the original film, is joined by the equally brilliant microbiologist Suzanne (Lynda Mason Green), with daughter, Debi (Rachel Blanchard) in tow. They are joined by the wheelchair bound Norton Drake (Philip Akin) and their one military asset, Colonel Paul Ironhorse (Richard Chaves).
The first episode has to introduce the four leads, the aliens, the threat they pose, the style of scares and action they want to convey, and keep the story moving.
For the most part, it works as 80s tv fare. The series definitely looks dated (shooting on video instead of film or digital will do that), and some of the ideas aren’t as fully explored as they could be, and the plot holes of course.
The series continues to hint at the importance of the number three to the aliens, and having them take over human hosts saves tons on creature effects, though the alien arms and hands do look cool when they make appearances.
There are a few missteps, including Harrison’s annoying girlfriends, Charlotte (Gwynyth Walsh – who would become B’Etor in Star Trek: The Next Generation). There’s no believable way, these two would be together, they don’t seem to have any chemistry at all. If memory serves she’s not long for the series, and neither do Harrison’s hats (I hope).
The four leads together (well when they are together, Norton gets left behind a lot at the military controlled Cottage, that serves as the homebase for the heroes), have good chemistry, and there’s a lot of fun to be had in the series. Even if it is dated, and doesn’t look as good as it could.
In fact, if there was a series due for a reboot, this could be one… imagine what they could do with it now with the right budget, cast, and storytelling. Still, I get the feeling I am going to love revisting this series and we’ll see how I feel when the big change happens in season two…
You can watch along with me… War of the Worlds: The Complete Series on DVD is available now from Paramount!