'No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s…'
A curiosity falls to Earth on Horsell Common, and a nightmare begins. England is laid waste by huge fighting machines, armed with devastating heat rays. Humanity brings its own weapons to bear upon the invaders, but can they be any match?
Trapped in a war of two worlds, one couple battles to survive. Herbert and Amy bear witness to… The Martian Invasion of Earth.
Written by HG Wells, dramatised by Nicholas Briggs Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Cast Richard Armitage (Herbert), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Amy), Hywel Morgan (Curate), Ewan Bailey (Daniel), Richard Derrington (Ogilvy), Helen Goldwyn (Agatha), Christopher Weeks (Edward), Benedict Briggs (Boy), Nicholas Briggs (Martians / First Officer)
February 8th 2018 08:43:45 GMT: Latest reports indicate the Martians have landed in our download accounts all over the world!!The Martian Invasion of Earth has begun!
"The chances of anything coming from Mars..." and all that. Words etched on my memory after a childhood of listening to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds during my youth. Nice to see it repeated here - delusion from the human race is not an uncommon thing!
The Martian Invasion of Earth is so good, I gobbled it up all in one go. Afterwards, I really wanted to listen to all BF's HG Wells adaptions from the start, all over again. I'm never one to stand at the back of the queue when it comes to moaning about a scheduled release being delayed, but this is very much worth the wait and rounds of this series of classic releases in a very epic, very bleak way - I do hope Big Finish don't let the classic adaptions end here (some HP Lovecraft would be nice in the near future).
I very much like the tweaks and nudges that have been applied to this adaption. Little touches like the day after the first attack, life on Earth continues as normal, just as it would if such things really happened. It doesn't matter that the planet is being attacked by creatures beyond our understanding, just make sure you go to work and keep the little wheels of industry turning!
The sound design and music are exceptional, among BF's best ever. You get a real sense of scale and size of the attacks. Nick Briggs always gets the balance between 'the little people' and the 'mass unknown threat' just right, and Iain Meadows and Jamie Robertson exploit this tremendously with some mighty soundscapes. Only the Curate lets things down a little, with the actor's high-pitched delivery sounding like a caricature of what everybody thinks a cliche priest should sound like. Richard Armitage is very good, a voice dripping with disbelief and melancholy - a good move having him actually being HG Wells. And absolutely top marks to Lucy Briggs-Owen, who puts everything into her performance as Amy. In fact, a top cast all round.
Sometimes, on Facebook and the like, announcements of new projects from Big Finish are greeted with 'oh, but it's only audio,' etc. Give this to anyone and I'm pretty sure they'll be at least partially converted to the wonderful, cinematic world of audio.
Haven't started yet, but wow is it long! Part 1 is 73 minutes and 2 is 72. Is it in the running for Big Finish's longest 2-disc release? Top few stories closest to the 80-minute per-disc maximum? (Somehow averaging for different numbers of discs.)
Its good to listen to an adaptation of this story, that stays true to the original time and location. So many past versions have been set in a modern era, and have even moved countries.
I love the whole Victorianess(If there is such a word?)of this,captured to perfection by a brilliant script, wonderful acting,and as usual stupendous soundscape.
The sheer terror,the awestruck disbelief,at being confronted by a technology light years in advance,all hope lost,but saved by a miracle! This story has full impact when set in the age in which it was written!!! Another Big Finish winner!!
A quick word of thanks/praise for the isolated musical soundtrack, offered as an extra in the downloads. I've been playing it whilst going about my business (alright, cleaning my flat!), and it really is excellent.
I have not listened to this title, as I was rather hoping to hear the Sherwood Sound's version first. Although I scarcely remember it now, this is one of the few HGW books I've actually read. And like yourself I have been heavily influenced by that Wayne dude. But as something of a Sound Designer myself, and also something of a hater of "Loudness Wars" audio compression, I've liked I think everything I've heard that Martin has to say... I usually totally agree with. And although I certainly won't discount the BF release, (okay, they did rather misfire on Oz...), still, I wanted to hear Martin's version first.
The Martian Invasion of Earth will prove to be one of my favourite BF releases of 2018 - maybe even the best. That may seem a rash statement given it's only February, but for the sheer listening impact this story made on me, I rate it with the likes of 'PHP Vol 1', 'The War Master' and 'The Emerald Tiger'. It is outstanding; later releases in 2018 may match it for quality, but I'd guess the chances of anything better from BF this year are - well, a million to one...
Richard Armitage and Lucy Briggs-Owen are superb as Herbert and Amy, the couple at the heart of the drama, forced from their safe, comfortable world into a battle for survival. The guest cast all impress, many in multiple roles as the varied late-Victorians fighting and mostly falling under the onslaught from Mars. And it all sounds incredibly good: Jamie Robertson's music is suitably epic and it's great that BF have also provided this as a separate download - and Iain Meadows' sound design is detailed and magnificent, from the chink of cups on a breakfast table to the horrific 'heat-ray' and the most thunderous and spine-tingling of battle scenes.
So the production quality is all excellent, even better than I expected, but everything rests on Nick Briggs' adaptation. And it's a masterpiece, true to Wells' novel in plot and events - and many small details too - but with one major and some more minor changes (all beneficial imo) and a complete transformation in style.
Wells' novel is long on narrative prose and short - often very short - on dialogue, with his unnamed narrator giving a bleak and sometimes remote account of his solitary view of the war and its horrors. It's a wonderful, absorbing read but (perhaps mindful of his late-Victorian readers) tends to keeps the full gory impact at a safe distance. This brilliant adaptation does the complete reverse, dispensing with narration except for three brief sections at the very beginning, end and middle of the story and giving us instead a dialogue-rich, intensely human drama packed with in-your-face tension, heroism, emotion - and gruesome horror; these Martians are yet more evil and genocidal than Wells imagined them in his age of more innocent wars, and very little is left to the imagination as the heat-ray sears, the Black Smoke rolls and the Martians feed...
The key, brilliant change is that the narrator (named Herbert here - and why not?!) does not evacuate his wife to nearby Leatherhead (only to later presume her dead in a Martian attack and then find her miraculously alive in what feels like a token 'happy ending' to the book.) Instead she (here named Amy) is with him through thick and thin, right from the early, mysterious encounter with the 'cylinder' on Horsall Common as the complacent people of England go about their respectable lives, gossiping about the new 'curiosity'. Then when the storm breaks and the fighting machines stride forth, she's courageous on every step of their nail-biting journey of desperate survival. Their dynamic and dialogue is what makes this adaptation such a vital, energetic story - a true Companion that any science-fiction hero would be proud of!
The secondary viewpoint is that of Herbert's brother Edward (in London) and he too finds a companion, rather nearer to events in the novel. But again the adaptation skilfully alters a character so that Mrs. Elphinstone gains the resolute character of the novel's Miss Elphinstone (and then some!) and their journey literally takes off - not in the novel's cart, but in a balloon! This is the most inventive section of the adaptation and was, I assume, inspired by a passage at that point in the novel where Wells speculates on what one might have seen of the invasion from a balloon. It's a very dramatic section, culminating in that epic battle where the Martian machines encounter HMS Thunder Child - and in keeping with the rest of the story, we are placed on the navy ship right in the heart of the gripping action.
Every science-fiction fan - especially every 'Doctor Who' fan - should hear this superb audio, 'The War of the Worlds' retold with all the energy and immediacy of later alien incursions. For where Wells' Martians first stalked the path of invasion in their terrifying three-legged fighting machines, other aliens would later glide and tread directly in their literary footsteps, and the people of Earth would need to find an extraterrestrial hero to ever feel truly safe again...