Big Finish Productions conclude their run of 6 adaptations of the novels of HG Wells with a final, dramatic adaptation of what was published with the more familiar title of The War Of The Worlds (the title has been changed to avoid copyright restrictions with the title). Wells’ 1897 novel has been adapted many times in the ensuing years since its initial publication, the most famous being Orson Welles’ radio version which famously spooked the US in the late 1930s, the 1978 musical by Jeff Wayne, and the many film versions (such as Spielberg’s abysmal 2005 version with Tom Cruise).
For the uninitiated, The Martian Invasion Of Earth tells the story of Herbert Wells and his wife Amy as they witness an attempted takeover of humanity by strange beings in metal machines from the planet Mars. Meanwhile, Herbert’s brother, Edward, finds himself fleeing the Martians in a different place where he meets Agatha and together they try to survive the onslaught. There seems little hope for humanity as the best weapons that Victorian England can muster are nothing compared to powerful heat ray and smoke that the Martians possess. Along the way, both couples encounter a humanity trying to come to terms with the fact that they are about to be wiped out. Like all of Wells’ novels, it is firmly rooted in the actual science of the day and asks uncomfortable questions of humanity and where it is headed.
This particular version is clearly a labour of love for writer and director Nicholas Briggs who stays remarkably faithful to the original novel. Herbert (Richard Armitage) and Edward (Christopher Weeks) are both meticulously cast. Armitage is totally on point in his performance, bringing to life the sense of disbelief and horror that the character has as the events unfold. Weeks keeps the stiff upper lip of Edward strongly as he tries to make sense of what is happening around him.
Herbert’s wife, Amy, is played with remarkable depth and skill by Lucy Briggs-Owen while Edward shares his time with Agatha, portrayed with enthusiasm and relish by Helen Goldwyn. Along the way they are joined by other top notch actors including Hywel Morgan (Curate), Ewan Bailey (Daniel) and Richard Derrington (Ogilvy). Special mention must be given to Morgan’s brain-addled Curate who elicits both sympathy and frustration from the listener.
Big Finish have also excelled themselves with an outstanding sound design by Iain Meadows and music by Jamie Robertson.
The running time for the whole production is a touch under two and a half hours which means the usual behind the scenes extras (or music extras) are not present which is a disappointment. While Briggs’ script is certainly faithful it could have done with some tightening around certain lengthy scenes such as the initial discovery of the pods on Horsell Common, but this is a small point given the excellence of the overall production.
This series of adaptations has been much praised, and deservedly so. The Martian Invasion of Earth is a tribute to the skill of Big Finish Productions and the wonders of the novels of HG Wells that should delight with repeated listens.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: February 2018
RRP: $27 (CD) $13 (Download)