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Music: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one, he said
The chances of anything coming from Mars

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is a 1978 concept album by Jeff Wayne, retelling the story of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. It was IMMENSELY popular around the world, selling millions of records (and still doing so today) and spawned multiple versions of the album, a computer game, a DVD, and a 30th anniversary live tour including Alexis James, Rhydian from The X Factor, Jason Donovan, and Jennifer Ellison in the cast. There's also a large amount of merchandise available at the website.

The latest addition is the 2012 Updated Re-release subtitled "The New Generation", with new versions of the songs, some new dialogue, and a new All-Star Cast. This too was accompanied by a live tour.


The album provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The Journalist's wife and the Curate (parson in the musical) both gain names (Carrie and Nathaniel respectively). The latter also gains a wife.
  • Adaptation Induced Plot Hole - The poisonous Black Smoke is mentioned once or twice, but the part where its nature and threat is explained was cut for time. This probably created some confusion for any listener unfamiliar with the original novel.
  • As You Know / Captain Obvious:
    Parson Nathaniel: Dear God! A cylinder's landed on the house, and we're underneath it, in the pit!
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Martian attacks are usually accompanied by The Fighting Machine, which includes the best guitar solo on the album. The Heat Ray, in which the Martians first show that they mean business, is also an example.
    • The New Generation takes this even further, adding a rather cool distortion riff to the Fighting Machine chorus.
  • Award Bait Song: The bittersweet Forever Autumn, sung by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, made it into the top 40.
  • Canon Foreigner: Beth, the parson's wife.
  • Composite Character: The experiences of the protagonist and his brother are combined in the character of "the Journalist".
  • Cultural Translation: The Parson is definitely based on more recent American evangelical variants of Christianity, rather than the kind of stern Evangelical Christianity you'd expect to find in Victorian England, though it's hard to see his fire-and-brimstone proclamations working as hammishly well with an English character. Further justified in the fact that he's, well, been driven completely insane by the Martian invasion, and his fire-and-brimstone ravings are intended as a symptom of his madness; his wife notes with despair at one point that he was once a kindly, well-loved man more in keeping with the typically Victorian stern-but-fair image of the clergyman.
  • Dark Reprise: Brave New World relates the utopian dreams of The Artilleryman, who thinks the alien invasion is a opportunity to throw away the hated modern world and build an underground utopia. The music is a heart-rousing soundtrack to revolution. The Journalist punctures this in deadpan narration: The Artilleryman has a tunnel ten feet long and outside tripods are moving. The song is reprised, with a maudlin tone that now belies the words, and the discordant interpretation of the music gives the impression of a drunken, foolish dreamer, sitting in a cellar singing to himself as the world goes to hell outside.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: The Epilogue. See The End... Or Is It? below.
  • Death Song: "Thunder Child", in which "the voice of humanity" sings the praises of the eponymous ship as it takes down a fighting machine and gets very thoroughly melted and sunk for its efforts.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: Poor Beth.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Epilogue. A NASA observer watching a probe to Mars notices some odd flares and dust clouds coming from the planet, shortly before contact with the probe is lost. And then, one by one, much to his confusion and frustration he loses contact with the other observers around the globe...
    • The "New Generation" tour ends the same way, with the added bonus of a NASA scientist on stage losing contact. The martian fighting machine on stage suddenly starts up again, an ominous voice says, "The only problem is the humans...", and the scientist disappears behind the heat ray.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's a musical interpretation of The War of the Worlds. By Jeff Wayne.
  • Grief Song: Forever Autumn
  • Hope Spot: Standing firm between them...there lay Thunder Child!
    Sensing victory was near them
    Thinking fortune must have smiled
    People started cheering
    "Come on Thunder Child!"
    • There's also a very brief moment where it seems like the shock of his wife's death has managed to snap Parson Nathaniel out of his madness — unfortunately, he ends up spiralling further into derangement as a result of it.
  • Large Ham: Phil Lynott as Parson Nathaniel spends most of his time eating any scenery which isn't nailed down ("A SIGN! I have been given a SIGN!") and is easily the biggest ham in the entire piece — impressive, when considering he's up against Richard Burton (no slouch in the hamminess stakes himself when he felt like it). David Essex as The Artilleryman deserves a mention too; he may be relatively tame in his first appearance, but becomes deliciously unhinged in the Sanity Slippage Song "Brave New World" ("YES, AND WE! WILL HAVE TO BE! THE CHOSEN FEEEEEEEEEEW!")
  • Leitmotif: Quite a few:
  • Million to One Chance: The Journalist quotes Ogilvy the astronomer as saying exactly this in The Eve Of The War, both in the narration and the sung thoughts. The latter is probably the best-known line on the album.
    The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one - but still they come!
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Nathaniel and Beth, who get the epic duet "The Spirit of Man".
  • Monumental Damage: The Martians demolish several famous London bridges on their way upriver. The Journalist ominously notes that a tripod has appeared above Big Ben at one point.
  • Mythology Gag: According to the official website's making-of book, the sound of the cylinder opening was created in exactly the same way as it was in the Orson Welles radio version: a saucepan being scraped along the rim of a toilet bowl.
  • Narrator: The Journalist, in two parts. The spoken half played by Richard Burton no less.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Despite there being several pieces of artwork based on the musical, several of which depict the machines, not one provides a clear image of the Martians (the closest we get is one image depicting the fall of the Martians, in which birds can be seen tearing what appears to be flesh out of the cockpits of the machines). Their strange and otherworldly appearance is left entirely up to the listener's imagination, which might be for the better considering the films had a tendency to turn them into Humanoid Aliens.
  • Oh, Crap: "Look! There they are! What did I tell you!?"
  • Religion Rant Song: "The Spirit of Man", though it's the spoken parts of the Parson's performance that are most heavily religious (and ranting):
    And just how much protection is truth against all Satan's might?
  • Sanity Slippage Song / BSOD Song: All the big songs in the second half of the musical - "Earth Under The Martians" - are this to an extent:
    • "Spirit of Man": Parson Nathaniel believes the Martians are demons, and is so far gone that he even believes his own wife Beth is a devil.
    • "Brave New World": The Artilleryman has a plan! It's a shame he's so deluded that he thinks the tiny tunnel it took him a week to dig will be enough to save humanity, and his prophetic shouts about being "the chosen few" don't help either.
    • "Dead London": The narrator wanders around the deserted streets of London, driven mad by the solitude and the distorted "ULLA"s of the dying Martians, and decides to kill himself by running out in plain sight of a fighting machine. Luckily for him, the Martians inside are dead.
  • Sidekick Song: Arguably "Brave New World" for the Artilleryman.
  • The Song Before The Storm: The Eve of War, obviously, and arguably the Horsell Common section of Horsell Common and the Heat Ray.
  • Take Our Word for It: How the Martians suck the blood of their victims is kept intentionally vague, probably with good reason.
  • War Was Beginning: Eve of The War.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Unlike the novel (in which he is killed by the Martians early on), Ogilvy disappears from the story completely after "Eve of the War", leaving his fate ambiguous.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The first disc is "The Coming Of The Martians", the second is "The Earth Under The Martians". The break comes when the Martian domination is complete.
    The Journalist: But the Thunder Child had vanished forever, taking with her man's last hope of victory. The leaden sky was lit with flashes, cylinder following cylinder, and no-one and nothing was left to stop them. The Earth belonged to the Martians.
    Martians: ULLA!
  • You Shall Not Pass: The Thunderchild holding off the fighting machines while the civilian ships escaped. Albeit they do escape safely, and the Thunderchild manages to take down one of the tripods, the poor ironclad is completely obliterated, leaving mankind completely defenseless. Cue "The Earth Under The Martians".


The stage show also provides examples of:

  • Aliens Are Bastards: Made more ambiguous by the CGI Martian prologue (which, incidentally, also brings back some of Wells' colonial allegory that gets lost in most other adaptations). It is made clear that the invasion is a tactic of last resort in the face of imminent extinction.
  • Animation Bump: Parts of the CGI film that runs on the background screen were refined for The New Generation. Most notably, they managed to make the Martians look even creepier.
  • Canon Foreigner: Two additional ones in The New Generation - the stargazers Vera and Will, who discuss the likelihood of life on Mars in a brief prologue. Vera makes some fairly accurate predictions about the impending extinction that leads to the invasion in the first place, which Will dismisses as "feminine fancy" right before the first cylinder lands.
  • Canon Immigrant: The Martian campaign intro from the game is integrated into the prologue (verbatim in the original, re-recorded with new lines in The New Generation), and the game's model of the Flying Machine appears at several points.
  • Death from Above: On cue, a 40 ft tall fighting machine descends onto the stage, remaining there for the rest of the first act. It returns for the end of the second act, before slowly collapsing.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: During The Fighting Machine, some of the soldiers in the background film try shooting at the Martians with their rifles. Most get vapourised, and one suffers Vertical Kidnapping.
  • Gun Twirling: The heat ray, to comical effect.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Quite a few over the course of the show's run, including Marti Pellow, Jason Donovan, Rhydian Roberts, Liz McClamon and Kerry Ellis.
  • Incendiary Exponent: The animatronic fighting machine in the "New Generation" stage show sports a fully-functional flamethrower (the most notable use of which is coming back to life during the epilogue and blowing up the NASA control station), and various bits of the stage "catch fire" during the performance.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When the fighting machines appear in their eponymous song, the Artilleryman runs down off the stage and takes cover in the audience, shouting "Quick, down here! They'll never find us!"
  • Monumental Damage: When the Journalist describes a fighting machine appearing above Big Ben, the tripod in the accompanying film knocks a chunk out of the clocktower.
  • Mythology Gag: Naturally, during Thunderchild there is a shot in the background film that almost perfectly emulates the album cover.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Both the soldiers in The Fighting Machine and the Thunderchild in its titular song wait for the Martians to get ridiculously close before opening fire (although, to be fair, the Thunderchild deliberately held its fire in the book as well).
  • The Power of Rock: One of the transitions on the 2006 tour's DVD menu involves a fighting machine firing its heat ray, with the sound of a guitar screech, as per the leitmotif of the album.
  • Sighted Guns Are Low Tech: Averted, sort of. During Horsell Common the camera in the background film zooms in to look down the barrel of the heat ray as it tracks around.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The artillery officer in The Fighting Machine, who reacts to all his men getting blown away by calmly pulling out a pistol and firing up at the nearest tripod until he too is vaporised.
  • Up to Eleven: Parson Nathaniel and the Artilleryman are even more hamtastic on stage.


THE PROBLEM IS, OF COURSE, THE HUMANS.
The WallRock Operas    
Scott WalkerMusic of the 1970sJesus Christ Superstar
Jeff WayneAlbums IndexAndrew Lloyd Webber

alternative title(s): Jeff Waynes Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
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