War of the Worlds (1988–1990)
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Then for reasons that will forever escape rationality, the producers were switched and the series radically, FATALLY revamped into a cyber-punk show. The off-hand killing of two main characters, the addition of an unneeded extra male lead, and a drastic switch in the series format from covert action to urban guerilla warfare..... I stopped watching it after a couple months. Most of its fans did too.
The first season is fascinating in retrospect for being one of the roots of X-FILES. But like EERIE INDIANA, it was just a little too ahead of its time. If the show had come along, say, three years later (and NOT had those idiots take over the series in Year Two), who knows what might have happened?
However, Paramount had plans to assassinate the show and installed Frank Mancuso Jr. as the new executive producer. He obliterated the first season storyline, continuity, most of the characters and killed the show in the process. But to many fans, the only real season of WOTW was 1988-1989.
That's what I loved about the series: EVERYTHING was unexpected. Then late in the first season, you started having plots that were too obvious. (On TV in the 80s, there was no way aliens were going to detonate a nuclear bomb in the middle of the USA--especially with our heroes in the same city!) From that point on, the show settled for standard science fiction. It was still interesting, but it had lost its spark and never got it back.
This humble tv series from the late 1980s is almost forgotten by the majority, especially in the UK where it was broadcast in a post-midnight slot.
But it does have a lot going for it. The leads in the first season are all likeable, the stories were ahead of their time in terms of television science fiction and it's later obsession with paranoia, as perfected by 'The X Files'. The continuation of the 1950s movie was a great benefit, as it provided the series with a backbone from day one. It's creepy aliens and their catchphrase "To Life Immortal", and the somewhat grisly scenes in which they murder humans or die and break down into a strange acidic goo are certainly not family viewing material, but they are a precursor *to* shows like "The X Files" which occasionally relied on the new-found ability to provide grisly shocks without falling foul of the censors.
However, the second season was an utter mess. Two of the leads were killed in the first episode, the original aliens also bit the dust, and some ridiculous lower-budget "Mad Max" look took over as new aliens with the ability to clone people, and that strange fellow Adrian Paul of "Highlander: The Series" fame appeared on the scene. I gave up before the show finished its late-night runs, no longer interested in the show which once showed great promise.
The first season was, and still remains a classic slice of American television, and if you can get hold of any episodes, its worth a look.
Eight stars for effort on this series.
Perhaps the best season was the second, when the war becomes a drawn-out war of attrition, culminating in one of the most thought-provoking finales I have seen this side of Babylon 5. It is currently airing on Space in Canada, and is definitely worth seeing if you can.
This must be the creepiest sci-fi horror show/movie ever. I was 10 years old when I first saw it. Now, 21 years later, I still have nightmares.
The reason may be the complete lack of human emotions within the aliens. No empathy whatsoever for human life. The aliens are portrayed as total different from us - not "almost human/American" like in other sci-fi shows. These ones cannot be reasoned with. You cannot negotiate with them.
Three episodes moved me deeply.
1.Quinn. "no Harrison...you are the alien".
2.The abducted woman. The end scene when Harrison just being to late to rescue her. It gave me an incredible parallel with my own life. Being to late to save the most loved one person in my life.
3.The strong drug. The scene with humans collecting drugs from the floor. Acting as animals.
The only flaw with the show is its low budget. Imagine what it could have been with a modern show's budget.
And one more thing. WOW is no predecessor to "X-files". X-files is a cheesy, unrealistic show with vampires, werewolves, and baseball-loving aliens. YES! Baseball-loving aliens. Give me a break...
WOW is the real deal. With real human emotions. With real characters. With a real nightmare-plot. Great job! GREAT!
It was a shame that the series did not capitalize on the episode, "Angel of Death". The unexpected, ironic, and somewhat twisted humorous ending would have made for a much more interesting second season had the original plot line been followed. As it was, some viewers, including myself, disliked the second season's post-apocalyptic setting and stopped watching the series.
I present here my own speculative analysis of the aliens from Mortax, for anyone curious enough to read on.
Most likely the inhabitants of Mortax originated from a tightly controlled, rigid, caste-driven society. The upper caste was smug in its superiority over the lower caste classes, even those presumably of a high class, such as scientists. The ruling caste or upper classes which ruled Mortax probably were probably a hereditary class which may or may not have included a military class as a subsidiary upper caste.
At some point in its history, the lower caste classes of Mortax gained political power enough not to overthrow the current ruling caste but enough to gain comparable political parity and most importantly, respect.
As a result of this paradigm shift in Mortax civilization, the upper ruling class now had to address the lower classes with respect. They now called the lower classes, 'comrades'. The lower classes could now address their heretofore upper caste rulers as, 'advocates', not, sir, ma'am, majesty, excellency, highness, lord, mistress, or any other such title conferring superiority over the claimant and inferiority over the one saying it. But it is very clear from the comments of the often frustrated Advocate triumvirate that the bigotry of the upper castes over the lower castes is still very much alive. But now it is politically incorrect to say so in front of them.
Mortax civilization was now unified and moreover, unified in its new, overriding goal, the salvation of its race, civilization, and culture. Unfortunately, the smug racial superiority and bigotry of the upper caste were now subsumed by all of Mortax society. The new inferior class fit only for extinction were the humans of earth. The invasion of earth is an invasion to humans. For Mortaxians, it is a 'colonisation' of a habitable planet regrettably infested with inferior biological sentients called humans whose existence is expendable. The invasion is a fight to the death for all of humanity.
In my opinion, the best things about this series were the eccentric Dr Blackwood, the interesting dialog, and the alien threat. The aliens allowed the the creators of the show to indulge in some quite surreal and at times macabre set pieces. They were stranded from the famous invasion of the original story and 1953 movie. The invasion failed and these aliens were written off for dead. Now invading "on the cheap", they infiltrate human bodies and try to amass the technological means to contact the rest of their people in space to get reinforcements, which would effectively resume the invasion. Meanwhile, they try to learn about the humans while recovering hibernating aliens and tech. Kind of like a cross between terrorist cells and bodysnatchers. This was a clever way to build the story up from modest resources and present a threat of invasion which was gradual, but with high stakes. The aliens were not used as allegory for communists, yuppies, etc - their motives were, as I recall, not easily understood. The effects of watching "assimilated" humans constructing Rube Goldberg gadgets out of garbage while babbling to each other with scrambled, pitch- shifted speech is hilariously weird!
As has been remarked upon, the second season of the show is a huge departure from the first. Unlike the 1st season, which I have watched recently, it has been almost 20 years since I've seen these. They were worth watching, but in a different way. Everything fast-forwards to a near future where the aliens have all but taken over the Earth. Dr Blackwood has buckled down to a weary guerrilla resistance leader, his old team killed. The larger scale and darker tone of the second series were welcome, but since it was the product of a completely different creative team, there were many inconsistencies. Mostly in retconning of the aliens. Some of these ideas worked, others did not. It worked more like a sci-fi version of Vichy/ Maquis France in World War 2.
Not a great series, in many ways, but a worthwhile and entertaining effort.
Then the second season started.
What the hell was Frank Mancuso Jr. thinking when he made this series? It sucked! Here are some of the reasons why it sucked:
1) You killed off half the cast, including the strong military commander and the computer expert. They were actually the most interesting characters on the show!
2) What year is it? For one thing, it's never explained how much time has passed between the first and second seasons, and there's also the matter of where the woman who owned the house where lived in the manor went? She just disappeared.
3) The main characters now live in an underground pipe.
4) Even when the main character (Harrison) said he never used a gun, he just broke his own moral code and shot some guys in the second season premiere.
5) The plots just sucked. Period.
Bottom Line: Stick to the first season, and forget this season ever happened. You'll be better off.
Season 1: The series begins about 35 years after the movie where the aliens are resurrected by nuclear waste and set out to conquer the world. Only the Blackwood team, consisting of the free-thinking genius Harrison, the mother/scientist Susan, the tough soldier Ironhorse, and the sometimes funny wheelchair-bound Norton, must stop this from happening. While some of the acting is less than stellar(some of the acting from Harrison is over-dramatized, Drake's could have been better too along with several secondary persons, but Susan and Ironhorse acting was good) and some cheesy 80's culture make an unwanted appearance (some of the bad clothing and irritating music), the series was solid and exciting. By adding the viewpoint of the aliens it made for a more unique and interesting storytelling (some episodes are influenced by other movies like "Alien" "The Thing", and "It's Alive!") that were also well-written, though at times it did lag. All the characters are likable, even, ironically, the aliens themselves. I must note that the some violence is gory, almost R-rated, including melting bodies, eye-gorging, and limb-ripping, though I am hardly complaining on that issue. Like many fans I wished the 2nd Season continued on this pace, however...
Season 2: ***Spoiler begins*** Killing off Drake and Ironhorse was a huge mistake ***Spoiler ends*** Season 1 is practically discarded, with character's personalities altered, a new apocalyptic-"Blade Runner" setting, and even a drastically different alien invaders. The mythology and character set-up from Season 1 no longer exist in Season 2, leading to major conflicting storyline. This was a major complaint from fans, however, if you view it as a separate series, it's still very good. The aliens are giving more familiarity, the new dark world setting is interesting, and the story lines deal with some touchy issues like religion, ecological & urban decay, and the influence of music and movies on the brain. While Season 2 had some fresh ideas, it did bring the whole series on a radical altered path that turn many fans away.
On the DVD set: Season 1 has been released on DVD, which is great, though it could have been a better set. There are no extras and the picture quality is below DVD standards, though it is still very watchable and not as bad quality as some may have you believe. The missing arm animation, which irked many people, is easily forgotten. It's just great to see it out on DVD.
"War of the Worlds" the series was a fantastic short-lived show that may have helped paved way for others like "X-files". It's entertaining delight, so buy Season 1 on DVD as soon as you can!
I really didn't care for the second season at all. The technology was never consistent, one week they use video phones, the next week they use audio phones. Also, why the change from Mor-tax to Morthrai? And how did Blackwood's people learn the name "Mor-tax"? The original movie clearly linked the aliens with Mars. Now, they could have used that by indicating that Mars was used as an advance staging point. Perhaps the aliens hoped to use Mars and "Morta-form" it, but it was a losing battle, and the aliens who were settling Mars diverged from the original race, developing unique physical traits and a different political objective. They decided, in desperation, to use the resources allotted to them and invaded Earth, gutting the Mars colony to the point it was no longer viable in an all-or-nothing, win or die gambit to take Earth. They fall silent for 35 years, then are resurrected, see the possibility of finally succeeding, and signal the original home world. A year or so later, the Morthrai arrive, dismiss the incompetent Mor-tax for their bungling of the Mars project, and proceed with conquest of Earth, which does, they come to realize, seem like the only viable option.
Now, that's just my way of rationalizing what we saw in 1953 and in 1988 and 1989.
There was a Star Trek link in the series: in one episode, a boy is playing with STTNG action figures while his now-alien parents drive the car, and he makes a sign to appeal to a pair of nuns speeding by ("Nearer My God to Thee!").
Yes the picture quality is lacking and I do wish the animated alien had grabbing the Earth segment was intact but overall I'm very pleased.
AS far as sound quality is concerned I was very pleased. The local TV station that played this series back in '88 wasn't stereo. For the first time I am able to hear the audio of the show like people in big markets (with stereo TV stations) were able to. Best of all, none of the usual audio artifacts (that result from overly high bit rate reduction; sounds like a low bit mp3) are present. I heard tape hiss, some splices and audio dropouts all of which aren't uncommon with analog audio production.
I would like to know the origin of the transfer material. Was the transfer done from original edited 35mm prints or from 1" videotape broadcast masters. If the editing and final production was mastered to tape, I bet that fully edited 35mm prints probably never existed.
If more seasons come you can be damned sure I'll buy them.