HG Wells did not hold back from demonstrating violence and despair in his ‘War Of The Worlds’ if the words and this new audio version follows its lead. ‘The Martian Invasion Of Earth’ uses every resource to demonstrate the gruesome reality of war, whoever the protagonists are.
This new audio takes Wells’ hellish vision of mechanised war and thrusts it directly into our consciousness. Published in 1897, this tale is prescient of the two global conflicts which inflicted so much suffering on soldiers and civilians. A preview of man’s inhumanity to man.
Herbert (Richard Armitage) and Amy (Lucy Briggs-Owen) live near Horsham Common and, when the cylinders start falling and are witnesses to the first deaths inflicted by the Martian invaders. The astronomer Ogilvy (Richard Derrington) is foolish enough to think he can save the man inside the capsule and so it begins. Soon humanity is on the run, only death is waiting. Together, they endure the worst, directly seeing what might await them if captured by the Martians.
Edward (Christopher Weeks) meets Agatha (Helen Goldwyn) on the road. After helping her escape, their fates become entwined as they try to make it to the coast. Their grim experiences are lifted by the dialogue between them, highlighting the hope they share for a happier ending.
It’s very hard for any version of ‘War Of The Worlds’ to escape the memory of the Jeff Wayne concept album but this subtle and sensitive sound design by Iain Meadows and music by Jamie Robertson washes away the discordance of those Martians to bring out the variety of emotion which runs through the whole drama.
Much as the music and sound inject the story with fresh energy, the commentary often necessary in an audio makes itself, as far as possible, part of the unfolding story. Taking the cue from the other Welles, Orson, the comments and description vary from breathless and hushed to military, emotional and despairing. It all fills us with the sense of being on the spot with these people, intimately connected.
The ending, different to the Wells in some respects, works really well. Shocking as it is, the final coda from Herbert Wells is one of the saddest parts of the audio. Poignant, dripping with meaning it is a beautiful few moments of quiet and reflection.
Once again, bravo to the writer and director Nicholas Briggs who adapted the novel and has thought carefully how to make this drama relevant to the modern world. This is a fitting update of Wells with a great awareness that this is no simple war story.
(pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 146 minute story. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78703-067-1)
cast: Richard Armitage, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Hywel Morgan, Ewan Bailey, Richard Derrington, Helen Goldwyn, Christopher Weeks, Benedict Briggs andNicholas Briggs
check out website: www.bigfinish.com