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To Dor Nacha Tay

I realised that I wasn't watching anything, so I decided to choose something to watch. And I chose War Of The Worlds. Yes, I know. Sorry.

I love War Of The Worlds. I don't entirely know why, because a lot of the time it tries its best to be terrible. Which might actually be why I love it. It was made for almost no dollars at all, and is a bit reminiscent of the first Evil Dead movie, in that there's quite a lot of enthusiasm, an awful lot of slime, but not very much money to pay for it all. If you look inside the alien costumes, you might just find Ted Raimi. Actually you'd more likely find an underpaid Canadian, but Ted Raimi would probably have done it if they'd asked.

So. Aliens invaded Earth at the end of the 19th century. They were beaten by the bacteria, but they came back in 1938. Orson Welles wasn't lying, he was telling a real story, of a real invasion; the government just want you to think that it was fiction. Then the aliens came back again, in 1953. Basically every book, radio play or movie of The War Of The Worlds wasn't a story, it was the truth. Except the Tom Cruise one, obviously. This gave the writers of the TV series a lot of backstory to play with, but it also made the people of Earth look incredibly stupid, as their planet apparently keeps getting invaded by huge sodding great stomping metal tripods with slimy aliens inside them, and nobody seems to have noticed. Or they noticed at the time, when they were running about screaming a lot; they just forgot about it again right after. Okay.

Anyway. When the aliens invaded in 1953, they killed lots of people, two of whom were the parents of a baby named Harrison Blackwood. Harrison was adopted by Clayton Forrester, the hero who saved the world in the 1953 movie (or who would have done, if the bacteria hadn't beaten him to it); and was raised to be a: weird as hell, b: spectacularly paranoid about anything that might be an alien, and c: absolutely hilarious at the most inappropriate of moments. Then he became a professor, and set about trying to find the aliens before the aliens could find Earth. Unfortunately for Harrison, it turns out that the aliens are already here. Gasp!

This then leads to a TV series, with lots of gory death and rotting flesh, and putrid, bubbling pools of multi-coloured slime that used to be people. Generally with much humour, quite a lot intentional, and quite a lot not.

Our characters:


Harrison Blackwood. Harrison is our star. I suspect that the writers were fans of Doctor Who, because Harrison is absolutely what a Doctor Who fan in 1988 would be most likely to write as their own new incarnation of the Doctor. Harrison is vegan and a pacifist. He's also got a thing for hats and tuning forks, wears a scarf, is an insomniac, and has a hundred and one other personality quirks to boot. The only thing he doesn't do is wear a stupid costume. He probably would, though, if you asked him. Harrison's entire life has been geared towards looking for aliens to fight, presumably without having stopped to work out how, as a pacifist, he's intending to fight them. This abruptly leads to quite a lot of problems, when the aliens turn up and keep trying to kill him.


Norton Drake. Harrison's best friend, and understudy in all matters weird and/or related to being it. Norton uses a wheelchair, but because he's an electronics and computer whiz, it's an electronic, computerised wheelchair, which works via voice activation. Since it's frequently a lot quicker and easier just to push the wheels, rather than telling the chair where you want to go - especially when you never get to leave your office - I'm not sure what the point of this is. It does make him look a bit clever, though. Which is good, since he never gets to leave his office. For some reason that has never been explained, Norton has a comedy Jamaican accent in the pilot. Or he does some of the time, when he remembers to use it. Fortunately for everybody, he never used it again.


Suzanne McCullough. Suzanne is the audience identification figure, I guess. Harrison hires her at the beginning of the series, to help him find aliens; so she then spends the rest of the show getting annoyed with Harrison, and trying to figure out what the bloody hell is going on. Oh, and she has a daughter, because... actually for no reason at all, except that she's female, so she's got to have a kid. (TV rule #37). Suzanne's a bit rubbish, because she's the normal one, and in a show where everything else is completely insane, that's always going to come across as boring. Then it turns out that she's awesome with a gun, and likes blowing stuff up, which goes a long way to making her better than every other female sidekick ever; except then they don't let her do it again. Presumably also because she's female.


Suzanne's daughter. Whatever.


Colonel Ironhorse. Who does have a first name. It's Paul. Nobody ever uses it though, and his real first name is Colonel. Colonel Ironhorse is the anti-Harrison. Everything Harrison does drives Ironhorse up the wall. Ironhorse just wants to live a good life in the army, saluting stuff, and standing very straight, and being splendidly American; but thanks to Harrison he now has to spend his life fighting things he doesn't entirely believe in, and playing bodyguard to a lunatic scientist who likes poking dangerous things with a big stick. This means that the only War Of The Worlds fanfic that it's possible to find on the internet involves Ironhorse having sex with Harrison; because whenever you meet somebody that you want to punch, you naturally will end up in bed together. Especially if you're both men, and neither one of you is gay.

The plot:

Find aliens. Blow stuff up. Melt things. Always end on a downbeat and, wherever possible, have Harrison and/or Ironhorse say something more seriously and dramatically than anything has ever been said by anybody before. If you can possibly work lettuce and tuning forks into the script as well, then so much the better.

I am exaggerating, of course. War Of The Worlds does have its cracks, mostly due to its complete lack of a budget. For the most part it's a good show, though. The acting gets a little rocky in places, in a giant ham sense, but the story itself is very inventive. There's bucketloads of black humour, and the show's designers were very good at hiding the budgetary limitations too; only showing parts of aliens, and parts of their 'fabulous' equipment, hidden by low lighting and shadow. The frequent darkness creates a good atmosphere, even if it is really only there to hide the cardboard and sticky tape. That's not to say that it doesn't deserve criticism, though - most of which should be directed at the pilot. If this show has its faults, pretty much all of them are in episode one. Which is annoying, as it's where I have to start.

Episode one, then: "The Resurrection". The photo story:

We begin with a US military base. All is quiet, in the dead of night, when a routine delivery turns out to be a terrorist attack. This is good, because it means that the first five minutes or so of the episode are just not stop exploding of stuff.


The terrorist attack begins as all terrorist attacks should - with a motortricycle flying out of the back of a lorry.


And a bazooka. This show may not have much money, but boy does it know how to spend the cash that it does have.


Boom!


Thousands upon thousands of barrels. Very important barrels.

Do not forget the barrels.


Boom!


All the exploding and the bullets leads to the barrels getting knocked up quite a bit. Slime begins to ooze out.


And then, bursting through the top of one of the barrels, comes an alien. Oh no! Why the authorities decided to seal the bodies of supposedly dead aliens into barrels back in 1953 is anybody's guess. Giant fiery flaming infernos would surely have been a better approach.


An alien.


The aliens set about snatching all of the terrorists, and taking over their bodies.


Hands are by and large the only alien bits we ever get to see. They're cool hands, though, so that's okay.


Having woken up and acquired some shiny new bodies, the aliens attempt to phone home, using some amazing hi-tech equipment. Or an umbrella. Whichever is cheapest.


Detecting some transmissions aimed at a position out in space, Harrison turns up intending to track down whoever's responsible. He has chosen to do this in a blue, floppy hat. Why is anybody's guess. He's Harrison. Get used to it.


This means that Ironhorse has to make his series debut attempting to be very serious and dramatic whilst looking at said hat. That might explain why he's in such a bad mood. He's here for the terrorists. Harrison attempts to win him over by not telling him anything helpful, whilst smirking. Ironhorse retaliates by pointing out that the American army is allowed to pretend that there's no such thing as habeus corpus. He glares. Harrison smirks. Meanwhile the aliens take over the world, and everybody dies.


A former terrorist. Radiation allows the aliens to resist the bacteria that stopped them before, which they consolidate by taking over human bodies. The radiation still has an effect on them though, leading to their host bodies erupting in giant sores all over the place. I suspect that the show's creators were quite spectacularly warped.


Having stopped glowering at each other long enough to actually get something done, Harrison and Ironhorse decide to go and take a look at what the terrorists are up to. There's no sign of any terrorists. There's just some barrels.


Harrison realises that everything he's been afraid of his whole life has suddenly happened. He doesn't tell anybody about it, though, or anything useful like that (the novelisation helpfully explains how his adopted father was hounded to an early death by sceptical colleagues, hence Harrison's tendency not to explain anything. The TV show just has him go mad and start yelling about barrels).


Suzanne realises that she's working for a raving nutjob. You'd think the hat would have been a clue.


A random alien. Having got out into the big wide world, with thousands of barrels liberated from the military base, the aliens set about snatching bodies left, right and centre.


Alone and afraid, Harrison remembers the last invasion.


It's the sort of thing you'd expect the rest of the population to remember too, but apparently not. Suzanne, meanwhile, on the verge of running away from the weirdo she's working for, agrees to take him to visit her uncle General Wilson, who conveniently is head of the whole army, or something.


This leads to the best scene in the history of TV sci-fi. It's even better than Doctor Who's infamous "No! Not the mind probe!" line. Probably the only time anybody has ever managed to make the words, "My god, they killed my parents!" into something laugh out loud funny. Almost certainly the only time anybody has ever tried.


Elsewhere, Ironhorse and his soldiers have tracked the 'terrorists' to their lair; whilst Harrison, unable to convince General Uncle Wilson that anything is wrong, has tracked the aliens to their lair. They meet in the dead of night, unsurprisingly at the same lair.


Harrison attempts to convince Ironhorse that he's not going up against terrorists. Ironhorse, in keeping with just about every military man in every science fiction drama ever, doesn't believe him.


Ironhorse's soldiers therefore zero in on their easy target. And promptly get massacred.


Hearing the screams of his men as they're taken over by swarms of aliens, Ironhorse decides that he has to go and join in. After all, if twenty heavily armed soldiers were unable to defeat the enemy, he's bound to be able to do it on his own. And radioing for help is just dull.


Grr.


A pretty flower growing in the forest. Or Ironhorse's subtle, one-man offensive.


What happens when you shoot an alien. See what I mean about warped.


More of Ironhorse's subtle assault tactics. Oddly, this leads to the aliens noticing him, and all converging on him at once.


But have no fear! For there's a pacifist hiding in the undergrowth. They're always useful in battles. Whizzing to the rescue, Harrison hauls Ironhorse out of trouble, using the sheer power of his glare alone. Because he's the hero, he's completely impervious to the hail of bullets aimed in his direction by twenty-plus aliens armed with machine guns. Either that or the aliens' crack invasion force is really crap with weapons.


Suzanne wisely chooses to stay out of the way.


What you're left with when a deaded alien stops melting.


Harrison attempts to convince Ironhorse and Suzanne that it's all about aliens, damn it. It's not easy being dramatic in maroon knitwear, so they agree that the least they can do is pay attention. General Uncle Wilson then sends Harrison and his team to a secret, secure house in the middle of nowhere, from where, guarded by lucky old Ironhorse, they will form Earth's defence against the alien invasion force. Actually I think he's just trying to get Harrison out of the way. If he really believed that Earth was in danger from an alien invasion force, I like to think that he'd assign just a few more people to the task of defeating them. And maybe ring up some other countries, and get them involved as well.


Harrison sits alone in his new, underground lair in the middle of nowhere, and mutters about aliens. Ironhorse begins plotting his revenge against General Uncle Wilson. The terrorists/aliens are on the move again, though, so it's time to do something. Without any help, naturally.


Ironhorse therefore sets out armed with two scientists and not a lot else, and finds that the terrorist aliens are homing in on a yet another secret military base. This one filled with alien space ships.


So it is about aliens after all! There's no time for Ironhorse to come to grips with this fact, though - or, you know, apologise - for the aliens are coming. There's just enough time to plant some explosives on the ships, and hope that it works.


Ironhorse and his fabulously well equipped assault force watch the enemy approach.


Suzanne then takes the initiative, not only with a gun, but with a gun that she designed and built herself.


This leads to further spectacularly gruesome alien death. And, also, is about the last time that Suzanne gets to do anything useful.


An alien ship comes to life.


The gang flee, with much shooting and exploding.


Aliens!


Sadly the explosives that the team planted earlier do their work, and the alien ships blow up. Actually that's probably good news, as otherwise the team would all be dead; but they were very nice ships.


The team celebrate, convinced that it's all over on account of how they've blown up three ships and shot an alien. Harrison, who actually has a brain, is rather less sure.


Elsewhere, an alien lurks in a cave, and e-mails his home planet. Hi! Rmbr me? Bin asleep 4 35 yrs. LOL. Soz. Nao gt hge army tho! Yay! Plz snd reinfrcmnts. Luv Dave.

Yep, the aliens are out there, and humanity's only defence is Harrison Blackwood. Be afraid. He's awesome, he really is. It's just that he's as reassuring a defender of worlds as a small puppy, and about as dangerous.

Earth is screwed.

Comments

( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
elenopa
Jan. 14th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
Not seen this one. How did I miss it?!!
swordznsorcery
Jan. 15th, 2012 10:16 am (UTC)
It aired very late at night. I don't think I ever saw it on before about half past midnight.
ladygretchen
Jan. 21st, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
I nearly fell off my chair with the alien Email. Great summary!!
swordznsorcery
Jan. 22nd, 2012 09:38 am (UTC)
Hello! I thought you'd run away to Facebook! :)
( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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