Eerie terror and human drama in War of the Worlds

5 reasons why this new imagining of the sci-fi classic is truly a different kind of science fiction.

H. G. Wells’ enduring doomsday sci-fi novel is now on FOX (125) in a modern, dramatic and truly original adaptation. The creation of BAFTA award-winning writer Howard Overman (Misfits, Crazyhead, Merlin), scientists pick up a transmission from space, and the world has to face the reality that there could be intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Hopeful for further contact, humanity is completely overwhelmed when the invaders all but wipe out the earth’s population – and only a handful of surviving communities are left to deal with the devastation.

Sound good so far? Here are five reasons why this adaptation of War of the Worlds is like no other interpretation you’ve seen before.

1. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic disaster story

Show creators were never interested in creating a typically bleak, smoky, rubble-laden wasteland in the aftermath of the alien attack. Instead, everything still looks uncannily undisturbed, which creates a tangible sense of panic and disorientation in not only the characters but for viewers as well.

“If you look out your window and the city still looks the same, it’s a strange experience, because your life has totally changed but outside it’s all very still and familiar,” Overman notes.

2. Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern lead a European ensemble cast

Oscar-winning Irish actor Byrne notes that our current age of social and political anxiety is something that Wells’ material (and sci-fi in general) allows us to deal with, as it has done for previous generations.

And ultimately, humanity’s greatest threat comes from inside ourselves: “This new retelling of the story is a warning that it’s only our own humanity that will save us,” he says.

And for the Downton Abbey actress, it was refreshing to get out of those restraining period dresses. “I can’t tell you what fun that was, just to be in a pair of tight jeans and to roll around in the dirt. I loved getting my nails dirty. It was freeing,” McGovern laughed.

The rest of the cast includes Adel Bencherif, Lea Drucker, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Natasha Little, and it is directed by Belgian Gilles Coulier and Brit Richard Clark.

3. It’s set in modern Europe

The series was filmed on two separate sets at the same time to take place in current-day France and England. The show’s creators aimed to create a modern reimagining of Wells’ novel and to examine what the aftermath of a devastating alien invasion would mean for the world today. And with a great number of retellings being set in mostly the US, Overman consciously focused on Europe, to expose audiences to other countries’ perspectives as well.

4. Character-driven “low” sci-fi

While Wells’ book is considered the granddaddy of modern sci-fi, show creators aimed for more reality than fantasy when developing their adaptation.

“We always talk about it as ‘low-fi sci-fi,’” producer Johnny Capps told Variety magazine. “It’s a sci-fi concept explored in a very realistic setting.” Their guide throughout filming was always to keep track of how real everything felt, something that makes the performances and scenes so much more visceral.

For Overman, the complexities of human relationships were at the heart of his fresh interpretation, and for him, the drama surrounding the characters are just as crucial as the action.

5. More than one season can be expected

Showrunners are confident that War of the Worlds distinct voice will translate to many more seasons of action and drama, and that a “multi-season” narrative has always been on the cards. Creators confirm that the team has already laid the foundation for Season 2 – something drama fans will no doubt be happy to hear.

Watch War of the Worldson Wednesdays on FOX (125) at 20:45, starting 30 October. 
Also available on Catch Up and DStv Now

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