Author H.G. Wells created panic when his 1887 novel The War Of The Worlds was read on radio in 1938 and people thought that visitors from space really were attacking Earth. It’s a story that is still relatable, according to Gabriel Byrne, who returns to play neuroscientist Bill Ward in sci-fi series War Of The Worlds from Monday, 24 May on FOX (DStv channel 125) at 20:45.

“My character is a neuroscientist and he tries to understand the world around him. In S1, when the aliens came, he wanted to research them while the rest of the world was fleeing for their lives. He put science first, life and faith a distant second,” says the actor, who read the original sci-fi story as a boy growing up in Ireland.

“If you look at the modern world we are living in, we have many different forms of aliens. People from other countries are called alien invaders, even this terrible pandemic that we are living through, it’s alien to the world we once lived in. And that is the genius of this novel by H.G. Wells, that 125 years later, we are still able to be gripped by the story and to understand and relate to it and the situation, albeit in a slightly removed context.”

S2 is going to take a slightly different journey, one that Gabriel says will allow viewers to better understand the characters and what they are going through.

Watch FOX

FOX (DStv channel 125) is available on DStv Premium, Compact Plus and Compact. To get DStv or to upgrade your package, click here

It’s the end of the world

S2 is taking place more than a year after the arrival, so what has changed?

Gabriel: Our position (as a show) is in a way different to other apocalyptic shows that dwell in this World War theme. We are trying to change perceptions and understand the situation: aliens have arrived and they are not friendly. We don’t have hidden propaganda in our show. We are looking at this situation, this is what we need to do, this is how we’re going to do it. So our characters are going to change, to develop and become more aware of their position in this very different world they live in.

The alien drone robots, the quadrupeds, don’t look terrifying… 

Gabriel: And that is exactly why they are terrifying. We fear what we don’t understand. Threats to our survival and fiction – the ability to create the alien robots that walk on all fours like dogs but are vicious killers – allow us to resolve our fears and our desires about existence. We have made changes from the book, which is still a brilliant work of art, to fit into today’s world. And the terrifying thing about S2 is that things aren’t going to get any better right away. Bill has lost his family, all that he has left is science and the need to understand. But for some of the other characters, they’re trying to save their families. That is something we all worry about in today’s world.

How is Bill doing? 

Gabriel: He’s had to build himself up again. You know, he lost his ex-wife and child. Because of his profession and his knowledge, he may be able to deal with the situation from an “outside” stance because he’s a scientist and those people think in a very specific way. He’s going to deepen emotionally. It’s pretty tough to make a scientist seem exciting, yet our viewers bond with Bill. They have a connection because of what he’s going through.

Filming under COVID-19 lockdown must’ve felt a little strange. 

Gabriel: Absolutely. It felt like we were in the midst of this alien invasion and the streets were empty, like in the series. It’s surreal because it felt like life is stranger than fiction right now. There weren’t aliens in the sky flying around Wales (where S2 was filmed from July to October 2020) but the streets were empty like the world was at war with these beings.

What should viewers take away from the show? 

Gabriel: Listen to scientists. Listen to these people who know what they’re talking about. They say that before an earthquake, dogs start to bark, the birds go quiet. And the scientists were the dogs that were barking (in the real world). Look at us now (with the pandemic). We were warned and while some of us listened, others didn’t. Look at us now. Bill is a scientist, he’s trying to figure out, through science, what the answer is. Science is not a conspiracy. And it’s something my character – and others – are using to save the world.

Going underground

What is it like adding content to a show of which the script is over 100 years old? How was S2 made during the height of the global lockdown? War of The Worlds’ executive producer Julian Murphy reveals what you didn’t know…

You’ve had to expand on the story from the original script. Does it have the ending H.G. Wells would’ve liked?

Julian: I think so. It’s inventive, it’s a surprise. We were definitely surprised when the writers came to us with their work for the end of S2. It hints at more to come and I think that is very deliberate. We have been deliberate with everything in this series. The aliens and the invasion is fully explained. Well, mostly – there are 1 or 2 things left to the viewers. But I think it has a very satisfying ending. I think that what is most important about this show is that the characters go on a great journey and our viewers go with them. These journeys are all very different and there is an emotional journey. H.G. Wells left a lot of work, a huge book. We have ideas for future seasons if we’re lucky.

Producing and filming a series during the pandemic must’ve been interesting from a practical point. Has it dramatically changed from the past?

Julian: Absolutely, especially in terms of sanitising and masks. But it was challenging because it was a change from S1. We didn’t know how exactly we were going to get it right but I think we have. It was strange being in cities with no people, that empty feeling, which is similar to in the show. But we had a lot of safety and security systems in place, things we had never done before. We also tested the core cast and crew pretty much every day. We had systems to protect everyone, actors, crew members, makeup and wardrobe teams. It’s terribly complicated.

Watch War of The Worlds S2, Mondays from 24 May on FOX (DStv channel 125) at 20:00

FOX (DStv channel 125) is available on DStv Premium, Compact Plus and Compact. To get DStv or to upgrade your package, click here

How to watch DStv online

Sign up with the DStv app, a free service for all DStv subscribers. With the DStv app, the same channels you watch on your decoder at home are available for you to stream online or on your mobile device wherever you are.

Download and watch later

Get the DStv app (Apple or Android) and download episodes to watch on your phone or tablet – just remember to connect to the Wi-Fi first so there are no surprise data costs.