I was extremely excited to read that after the Spielberg / Cruise twaddle and the failed attempt to get a movie version of Jeff Wayne’s musical made, that the BBC themselves have made a true to Wells novel Victorian set War of the Worlds.
I first came across this news last summer, but it is only recently that I saw an early trailer for the series, featuring a very brief image of a fighting machine looming over Shepperton church – I think!
I think it is fair to say that myself, and a fair few other folk, were rather disappointed in this design. Indeed, it actually resembles one of the alien Masters from a previous BBC adaptation, that of John Christopher’s “The Tripods”, well known for boring people to death in the 1980s.
It certainly doesn’t resonate like Mike Trim’s classic design for Jeff Wayne.
Many readers perhaps think of “War of the Worlds” as being a rather steampunk novel, what with all its descriptions of “boilers on stilts” which will be another potential source of disappointment in the new design. Indeed Wayne himself saw the Steampunk in the source material when he heavily steampunked the set and costumes for the Liam Neeson version of the stage show; guyliner and goggles, cogs and corsets ahoy for the cast and band!
But the Martians weren’t actually a steampunk fantasy, they represent an attempt to describe the utterly unworldly in a language of Victorian design and industry, one of boilers and funnels and the huffing and hooting of ships and trains.
Hence we shouldn’t be disappointed when our fighting machines look like what they are; space vehicles millenia ahead of the technology of Wells’ or indeed our own times. And if we want designs closer to our aesthetic sensibilities, look at Alvim Correa’s beautifully atmospheric illustrations done at the time for an illustrated version of the novel.
And also hope that the new BBC adaptation does what no other adaptation has ever done; depict a truly terrifying martian itself.
Copyright Mulberry Lightning 30.01.19