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

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The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one, he said
The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one...
But still, they come!

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, a 30th anniversary live tour including Alexis James, Rhydian from The X Factor, Jason Donovan, and Jennifer Ellison in the cast, and a 40th anniversary tour with Adam Garcia, Nathan James and Jason Donovan reprising his role as Nathaniel. 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 Coming of the Martians

Side One
  1. "The Eve of the War" (9:06)
  2. "Horsell Common and The Heat Ray" (11:36)

Side Two

  1. "The Artilleryman and The Fighting Machine" (10:36)
  2. "Forever Autumn" (7:43)
  3. "Thunder Child" (6:10)

The Earth Under the Martians

Side Three
  1. "The Red Weed (Part 1)" (5:55)
  2. "Parson Nathaniel" (1:45)
  3. "The Spirit of Man" (9:52)
  4. "The Red Weed (Part 2)" (6:51)

Side Four

  1. "Brave New World" (12:13)
  2. "Dead London" (8:37)
  3. "Epilogue (Part 1)" (2:42)
  4. "Epilogue (Part 2)" (2:02)

The Eve of the Tropes:

  • 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.
    • In the novel humans are drained of their blood in the open pit. In the musical, they're drained inside the Handling Machine. So how is it possible for the Journalist and the Parson to witness this?
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the book, the British artillery batteries constantly harass the Martians as they advance on London, and although hopelessly outgunned they are effective enough to force the Martians to use their black smoke against them. Here it seems like 6 guns is all England has to defend itself.
  • As You Know: Justified as it's a radio play, but would be a strange thing to say in real life:
    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.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The narrator describes the Martians as being composed entirely of brain without any actual body. They'd build mechanical bodies according to the needs of the moment instead. This doesn't gel with his earlier description of them when they first emerge from the Horsall Common cylinder, which includes luminous eyes and tentacles.
    • Though it's quite probable he was being metaphorical when he described the Martians as being composed entirely of brain. He's essentially musing on the fact that they appear to be infinitely more intelligent and logical than humanity without seeming to be driven by things like hunger or sexual desire, which he settles on as a reason for their ease of taking over.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: In the expanded narration of The New Generation, the Journalist notes that among their many inhuman characteristics the Martians have no gender and so do not experience love.
  • 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.
  • Darkest Hour: The first disc is "The Coming Of The Martians", the second is "The Earth Under The Martians" (which was also how Wells divided his novel). The break comes when the battleship Thunder Child, the mightiest weapon humans have created, is destroyed in battle by the Martians.
    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.
    [rising cresendo...]
    Martians: ULLA!
  • Dark Reprise: Brave New World relates the utopian dreams of The Artilleryman, who thinks the alien invasion is a opportunity to throw away everything that's wrong with the modern world and start over, building an underground utopia. The music is a heart-rousing soundtrack to revolution. The Journalist punctures this in deadpan narration: The Artilleryman has a tunnel all of 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 problem is, of course, the humans…", and the scientist disappears behind the heat ray.
  • Epic Rocking: Most of the tracks are between six and 12 minutes long.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's a musical interpretation of The War of the Worlds. By Jeff Wayne.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The Martian Handling machine is described as "a squat, metallic spider with huge, articulated claws", and is large enough to carry an unspecified number of humans in a giant basket upon its back.
  • Grief Song: "Forever Autumn".
  • Here We Go Again!: The second epilogue, in which NASA lose contact with a craft landing on Mars...and see an eerie green mist emanating from Mars...
  • 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), and doubly so considering the lack of scenery to begin with. 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:
  • Melancholy Musical Number: The Journalist fights his way to the home of his love, Carrie, taking three days only to find her and her father have left the house to escape the Martian attack, this segues into the song "Forever Autumn". The song itself contrasts two Autumn seasons, the previous when the singer and his love were together and the current where they are apart, and how his life will be "forever autumn" as he can't move on from the memory.
  • 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!
    • And the motif comes back at the end of "Dead London" once the journalist realises that the Martians have been killed. While this reprise is without vocal accompaniment, it can represent the million to one chance that the Martians lost.
  • 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. There is a sparse description (below) of their physical characteristics when they first emerge from the Horsell Common cylinder, and the narrator notes later that they are "composed entirely of brain", making bodies as they need.
    Two luminous disk-like eyes appeared above the rim. A huge rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly, glistening like wet leather. Its lipless mouth quivered and slathered, and snakelike tentacles writhed as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated...
    • The Journalist finds the sudden silence that descends when the Martians start to die off so unsettling that it's the thing that pushes him over the brink of insanity.
      The Journalist: Abruptly, the sound ceased. Suddenly the desolation, the solitude, became unendurable. While that voice sounded London still seemed alive. now suddenly there was a change, the passing of something, and all that remained was this gaunt quiet.
  • Oh, Crap!: "Look! There they are! What did I tell you!?"
  • Pokémon Speak: The Martians communicate exclusively with "ULLAAAA!"
  • 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. Adam Garcia's rendition in the 40th anniversary tour gets increasingly manic as the song goes on, until he's screaming the word 'again' with every repetition of "We'll start all over again!"
    • "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.
  • Shout-Out: The "Parson Nathaniel" painting in the CD booklet is a (mirror-flipped) visual reference to Salvador Dalí's painting The Temptation of St. Anthony (probably NSFW), with Parson Nathaniel taking the role of St. Anthony and the tripods standing in for the monstrous horse and elephants.
  • 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.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The album has narration read by actor Richard Burton. The re-recording features Liam Neeson in place of the late Burton.
  • Take Our Word for It: How the Martians suck the blood of their victims is kept intentionally vague.
  • Uncommon Time: The verses to "Thunder Child" are in 7/4, and the motifs spawning from "The Eve of the War" contain some 6/4 and 5/4 (the latter can be found the easiest with the line "but still...they come"). The two parts of "The Red Weed" are also built around a phrase in 10/4.
  • 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 Shall Not Pass!: The Thunder Child holding off the fighting machines while the civilian ships escaped. Albeit they do escape safely, and the Thunder Child 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:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Carrie gets more screen time, and a few lines (and, in the Final Arena Tour, a part in the finishing ensemble song).
  • 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.
    • Yet again for the Final Arena Tour, where they refined some existing scenes such as adding crew to the Thunder Child and having the ship trade more shots with the Martians (notably it now takes down two machines, as per the original book). They also added additional scenes for Carrie and "H.G. Wells".
  • Book Ends: The Final Arena Tour features H.G. Wells appearing at the start and end of the piece to expand on the book's anti-war / Humans Are the Real Monsters theme.
    • Arc Words: He ends each narration with "Listen! Can you hear it drawing near?"
  • 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.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Jason Donovan (as parson Nathaniel) spends a lot of time furiously crossing himself.
  • 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.
    • Also in-universe — flying machines are added to the Fighting Machine battle sequence (but, oddly, not to Thunderchild, where they did appear in the book).
  • Ethereal White Dress: Beth, briefly reappearing as a ghost at the end of Spirit Of Man.
  • 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.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: The captain of the Thunderchild in its eponymous song does this to mark his targets, which is probably more dramatic than technically necessary, but fits the heroic tone of the song.
  • Gun Twirling: The heat ray.
  • 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!"
  • Memento MacGuffin: During The Fighting Machine, Carrie and her father step outside to see the Martian attack in progress, and promptly decide to leave. Carrie drops a locket in the ensuing Crowd Panic, which is found by the Journalist in the next scene.
  • 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: Quite a few...
    • Naturally, during Thunder Child, there is a shot in the background film that almost perfectly emulates the album cover.
    • Still shots emulating the album artwork (with Beth photoshopped into the Spirit of Man piece) also feature.
    • The journalist gets named in the stage show as George Herbert, which is a reversal of H.G Wells' first names.
    • Right before the heat-ray fires in Horsell Common, there is a Reflective Glasses shot almost identical to the one used in an equivalent cutscene from the PC game.
    • H.G. Wells briefly references the Constrictor, Bombarding Machine and Xeno Telepath (also from the PC game) in one of the interludes.
    • Outside Carrie's house, there is a sign for "Jeff's Music Emporium".
  • 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).
    • Funnily enough this comes back to bite them, as the machine that gets blown apart in The Fighting Machine actually crashes on top of one of the gun teams.
  • 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.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Thunderchild is shown mowing down one of the fighting machines in its eponymous song (as well as destroying another with gunfire in the second verse).
  • Rule of Cool: When "the ghostly, terrible heat-ray (strikes) the town", the background film shows it doing so with the force of a small nuke. The background film also adds extra drama to the battle scenes in both The Fighting Machine and Thunderchild with flying machines, additional human Red Shirts and (occasionally) whole ranks of fighting machines.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In The Red Weed, with the titular weed slowly enveloping dead bodies, and growing over a church window so that the stained glass figure appears to be crying Tears of Blood.
  • Scenery Gorn: Mostly during Dead London.
  • 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 unceremoniously stepped on.
  • The Stoic: Carrie's father. He never speaks, and doesn't deviate much from a stern / concerned frown throughout the musical.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Martians' opening shot in The Fighting Machine is to annihilate Weybridge in an absolutely massive explosion.
  • Sword Pointing: The artillery officer (complete with dramatic zoom in) when shouting at his men to open fire during The Fighting Machine.
  • Take My Hand!: Carrie's father, when she gets knocked down by a panicking crowd.
  • Trampled Underfoot: Fighting machines in the background film occasionally do this to trees, buildings and people.
  • Truer to the Text: This is one of only two adaptations to retain the Victorian setting, and so far the only one to contain the signature Last Stand of the Thunderchild. It's also the only adaptation to showcase the novel's Handling Machine, a crab-like mech used to process humans before they are harvested for blood.


Alternative Title(s): The War Of The Worlds, War Of The Worlds, Jeff Waynes Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds The New Generation