Old Time Radio at OTRCat!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Not-So-Great Martian War

 Thanks, BBC America. You have robbed this American of two hours which I shall never see again.

The Great Martian War is a BBC alternate history "documentary" in the style of The History Channel. I saw an advert at the con when I was watching Aliens in my room. I was agog, a-twitter, even, though not a-Tumblr: no ball pit. I prepared to set aside the requisite time Saturday night to wallow in the benison of Auntie Beeb's bounty.

I was instead treated to "We can do H.G.Wells better than Wells, because Doctor Who and Sherlock.".

Before WW1, there is the Martian War, with flea-like giant tripods we dubbed "Herons", smaller tripods with extensible tentacles called "Spiders", and scavenger pillbug-types called "Lice". Oh, England, you and your clever nomenclature!

(Heron with attendant Spider)

WW1 newsreel footage is composited with CG Martian war machines to good effect; the downside is that they utilise a very limited number of SFX shots, and reuse them (often), and flip them, and otherwise cry "We wish we had had a bigger budget!". Interspersed throughout are interviews with survivors from the war, as well as descendants. They did their documentary homework well, with the emotional appeal of men and women who had lived through an interplanetary horror to tell the tale. But pathos cannot carry the day, and in the end, and with the Revelation of the Martians, the tale ends, not with a bang, but a yawn.

The only thing missing to complete the thing was this:

So, if you have two hours spare that you do not mind wasting to bring you that much closer to your demise, then by all means, enjoy this cold oatmeal-fest. Otherwise, play whist, or mumblety-peg, or better, re-read Wells' War of the Worlds. I have the edition illustrated by Edward Gorey!



Michael W said...

I gave it a B-. The BBC could've done so much better with the premise.

Jay! said...

Was it more like a BBC-?

Michael W said...

@Jay: Good one!

No, when I watched this I was actually hoping for a sort of approach like "World at War", or "Battlefield". I caught the same thing Weatherly did: the constant re-use of existing footage (which really doesn't help a program such as this). If they couldn't manage much more footage, then perhaps they should've taken the "Battlefield" approach and given us shmoozy CGI maps showing troop progress, etc.

Jay! said...


Kind of reminds me when that Tom Cruise/Spielberg abortion came out.

There were two other WOTWs released about the same time. One had C. Thomas Howell and the other was poorly made Brit one with bad CGI (It too was repetitive and boring.).

Michael W said...

@Jay --- to my mind there's only ONE "War of the Worlds" film worth watching, and that was the 1953 Pal/Haskin production.

In a distant second place is this episode from "The Great Books" series: a discussion of Wells' book intermingled with a serviceable dramatization of the story (and ably narrated by Donald Sutherland):


Jay! said...

@Michael- Yes! The one with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson.

For a while I owned a dramatization on LP that had Richard Burton narrating.

I, of course, have the Orson Welles rendition on disc.

Michael W said...

@Jay --- I still have Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds . . . both on LP and on CD. Agreed it was a brilliant piece of work.

You might be interested in learning that Wayne has updated his musical: Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds -- The New Generation. Some of it is interesting (listen to it on YouTube) but, on the whole, I prefer the original version.