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Series / The War of the Worlds

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Note: this is about the 2019 adaptation. For the 1988 series, see War of the Worlds (1988). It should not be confused with an Anglo-French series set in the modern day, called War of the Worlds (no "The"), also premiering in October 2019 (possibly Dueling Shows).

A 2019 three-part British drama miniseries produced for the BBC. The series is an Edwardian period adaptation of the H.G. Wells' 1898 novel of the same name, and is the first British television adaptation of the Martian invasion novel. The series premiered on Canada on 6 October 2019, and on the BBC in November 2019.

The War of the Worlds provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: The Martians in the novel were at least assumed to have motivations similar to mankind, with the aim of a Vichy Earth rather than to Kill All Humans. Here, humanity and all terrestrial life are being eliminated altogether.
  • After the End: The series frequently jumps forward to "the Red World" several years after the Martian invasion. The Earth's natural biosphere is all but gone due to the red weed choking the land and clogging the ocean, and the surviving humans in the apocalyptic ruins of London are farming only scraps of food, with the local preacher's Propaganda Machine keeping the village going. Oh, and Darwinism never took off as accepted fact because of the apocalypse's timing.
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  • Alien Invasion: The original All-Out Attack.
  • Alien Kudzu: The red weed, as in most iterations. Unlike in most iterations however, the weed successfully overwhelms the planet's natural biosphere after the Martians have died off. Like in the original story, it's only suggested rather than outright confirmed that the Martians brought the weed to Earth deliberately for Hostile Terraforming, with Word of God further supporting this.
  • Alien Sky: Due to the red weed's effects.
  • Alternate History: Earth is invaded by Martians in the first decade of the 20th century, and the red weed afterwards has choked the planet's biosphere to near-extinction and devastated human civilization.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Amy and Ogilvy's typhoid cultivations have successfully both killed off the surrounding red weed and enabled a green plant to sprout once more, but what next? The preacher was blatantly dismissive when they showed him the dead weed, and Amy furthermore destroyed the cloches protecting the cultivations. Will Amy, or Ogilvy, get word out of their discovery? Will they be believed? Will the life of Amy's son, who's growing sicker, be saved or is it too late for him?
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  • Apocalypse How: After the End, the human race has suffered Planetary Societal Collapse, and the Earth's biosphere at large has seemingly suffered Species Extinction of most complex multi-cellular organisms bordering on extinction of all multicellular life.
  • Ascended Extra: The narrator's wife (here named Amy) and Ogilvy both play a much larger role in the story than they did in the novel.
  • Bad Black Barf: A symptom of anyone who is touched by the black smoke, notably Minister Chamberlain.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: A battle between a British battlefleet and Martian war machines is shown from the POV of fleeing survivors who are too busy running for their lives to take in much. Unfortunately the Thunderchild does not make a cameo.
  • The Beforetimes: Towards the end, Amy tells her son about these, and about what the world once looked like before the invasion and how beautiful it was.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The aliens have featureless but malleable faces. According to the DVD extras, they can mould their faces into virtually anything. We only see them mould them into a proboscis to drink blood with, so they could presumably mould them into arms as well. It's also likely that since they appear to be blind, they navigate via echolocation given the loud clicking sounds they make.
  • Childless Dystopia: No new children are being born in a devastated Britain. For all anyone knows, George Jr. may be the last child of the human race.
  • Cold Equation: This comes up several times with people faced with the choice between saving their lives at the expense of others. George eventually gives his own life so Amy and their child can live, letting the Martian feed on him so a pregnant Amy can escape. She lives with Survivor Guilt as a result.
  • Cyber Cyclops: This version of the Martian fighting-machine has a single glowing blue eye in the middle of its' body, implied to be the projector for the heat-ray.
  • Deadly Gas: Unlike other adaptations (but like the book), this one has the "black smoke".
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • George, the narrator stand-in, and his brother are both killed by the Martians while they survive in the novel.
    • In the book the Artilleryman survives his run-in with the tripods and later bumps into the Narrator in Martian-occupied London. In this series George leaves him to die during the battle at Byfleet.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In order to make its point about the evil of imperialism, the series shows just how widely popular this was, with British government officials publicly touting it early on.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Martians may seem like aggressive expansionists hellbent on destroying human civilization, however in Episode 3 we see one of them standing over the corpse of another one of its kind, making mournful groaning noises and nuzzling the body. So perhaps while they have no regard for human life, they still genuinely seem to care about each other and do indeed get upset when one of them dies.
  • Failure-to-Save Murder: Subverted with Frederick, who is clearly getting ready to pin all the blame for George's seeming death on Amy after she escapes Woking without him, until she reveals that she's pregnant with George's child and Frederick's nephling.
  • From a Certain Point of View: This is rejected by the priest who resists the idea that faith in God and Country didn't defeat the Martians, but "decay and rot". When this is pitched as humanity building up a resistance to disease through the sacrifice of generations, he just dismisses this as spouting Darwinism.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Frederick dies trying to help George and Amy escape one of the Martians.
    • A delirious George effectively sacrifices himself by going outside to draw the Martian's attention in an attempt to reason with it, which enables Amy to escape while the Martian kills him. It's implied he knew he was dying and deliberately chose to die this way.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Ogilvy firmly replies that he doesn't believe in God when Amy asks him. She doesn't appear to be entirely comfortable with this, but it's overall averted. Ogilvy is not only a kind man and brilliant scientist, he likely saved humanity through figuring out how to kill the red weed.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: In an act of despair, Amy smashes the cloches protecting the typhoid cultivation that kills off the red weed, only to find a green Earth plant growing there. Cue the Sun.
  • Hostile Terraforming: After the End, the red weed introduced by the Martians has turned Earth into a Mars-like world with an Alien Sky and Alien Landmass (called "the Red World" by Word of God), while completely choking the land and oceans' terrestrial ecosystems which has in turn put the resource-scarce survivors on the brink of extinction.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frederick, a close-minded modernist imperialist political speaker who makes his family's survival a top priority during the crisis.
  • Just Think of the Potential: The Minister when he sees a Martian war machine up close. Until he starts coughing up black bile, that is.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Martian spheres and tripod walkers have the ability to make people burst into flame from a distance via rays, similar to the original incarnation.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Amy when she pulls a Titanic move in the beach scene. Zig-Zagged, as that ultimately saved her from going up in flames.
  • Man on Fire: The fate of anyone hit by the Martian heat rays, if they are not disintegrated outright. Notably, this is what happens to the Artilleryman.
  • Mini Series: Each entry is an Extra-Long Episode, to boot.
  • The Mistress: Amy starts out this way, as George is revealed to have a wife already. He never gets formally divorced, though he later says Amy is his wife. She later expresses guilt about their affair. His wife thinks he did this because she can't give him a child, and so he's moved on to a woman who can, though he insists it's because Amy is his soulmate. True of his motive or not, Amy does give birth to their baby later.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Frederick makes up some with lamp oil, but he's only got two matches to light them. It makes no difference as while he scores a direct hit on a Martian, the flames have little immediate effect. The Martian succumbs from its wounds, but only later.
  • Monster Delay: At first, we barely see more than vague glimpses of the Martians which are outside of their tripods, but bit by bit more of what they look like is revealed to the viewer.
  • Mythology Gag: As mentioned in From a Certain Point of View, at one point the original book's line about how mankind had earned its place on Earth by the grace of God allowing it to develop immunity to bacteria is mentioned In-Universe and dismissed by an actual priest as not only propaganda BS from the Government, but he also rages against the obviously Darwinistic bent of the line.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Averted; a major part of the series depicts what happens after the Martian invaders have died off.
  • Not So Different: George explicitly compares the Martians with the British spreading their empire across the world, though his brother (who earlier publicly supported imperialism) dismisses the idea.
  • Period Piece: The first major production of the work to be set in its original era. Close to it, at least. The action is moved from "the last years of the 19th century" to "the first years of the 20th century". George refers to 1906 as in the past at one point. The 1904 Dogger Bank Incident is explicitly mentioned in the first episode.
  • Pet the Dog: In Episode 3, we see a Martian standing over the corpse of another one of its kind, making mournful groaning noises and nuzzling the body. So perhaps while they have no regard for human life, they still genuinely seem to care about each other and do indeed get upset when one of them dies.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Frederick is an imperialist and modernist, described as having an orthodox Victorian mindset.
  • Propaganda Machine: The British people are told that the Martians were defeated by their Army and Navy, and that convoys of food are coming from the United States and the rest of the Empire. The truth is the devastation is worldwide.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Humanity may have inherited the Earth whilst the Martian invasion force died off, but with the red weed still choking away the planet's biosphere, humanity looks doomed to go extinct within a generation (until the miniseries' final scene). Ultimately Played With, as the Propaganda Machine is telling survivors After the End that the Martians were defeated by military might, when it was actually Earth's microbes which killed them off.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: George and Frederick. One is somewhat anti-imperialist and open-minded, whereas the other is the opposite, and they've grown somewhat distant at the series' start due to George's relationship with Amy. They tragically can't settle their differences with each other before Frederick's death.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Amy is caught stealing a tin of beans by a soldier, and it's implied that she had sex with him in exchange for letting her take the food so she could feed her son.
  • Sole Survivor: Amy alone escapes the mansion while the rest of the group are killed by the Martians one-by-one.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Sometime after the invasion, Amy gives birth to her and George's son, named George Jr, after George has been killed protecting them.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Unlike the novel, Ogilvy and Henderson aren't killed by the Martians at Horsell Common. Ogilvy escapes offscreen and Henderson isn't present at the site.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Martians look like three-legged spiders with virtually no facial features comparable to humans or animals.
  • Tempting Fate: In Episode 2, Minister of War Chamberlain gives a propaganda heavy speech to the people of London about the Martian arrival, noting that the Martians are few in number and will be no match for Britain's military might, and there's no need to panic or worry about them. This speech is intercut with the soldiers being wiped out by a tripod at Byfleet, more tripods appearing on the horizon, and a shot of many more spheres approaching Earth from space.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The soldier who attempts to chastise a tripod for standing on British soil.
    • The Martians themselves keep trying to chase down and eat as many humans as they can even when they're growing increasingly sick from it.
  • Villainous Legacy: The Martians die off just like in the source material, but unlike in the source material, their Alien Kudzu still spreads and Hostilely Terraforms the Earth after their deaths, leaving an apocalyptic wasteland where the surviving humans are struggling to survive.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The tripod at Woking vaporizes a crying baby (offscreen, thankfully) before George can save it.


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