Eleanor Tomlinson as Amy and Rafe Spall as George in a scene from The War of the Worlds.
Eleanor Tomlinson as Amy and Rafe Spall as George in a scene from The War of the Worlds. Matt Squire

Mini-series puts new spin on classic sci-fi tale

THE threat of an alien invasion is one of film and television's most well-worn tropes.

From malevolent forces to shape-shifting beings and curious visitors, the idea that we are not alone in the universe is both intriguing and terrifying.

English author H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds is one of the earliest books to tell the story of a conflict between mankind and an extra-terrestrial race. First published in 1897, the story follows an unnamed man in Surrey and of his younger brother in London as southern England is invaded by Martians.

The story has gone through many adaptations including Orson Welles' infamous 1938 radio broadcast, which some listeners reportedly mistook for reports of a real alien invasion, and, more recently, Steven Spielberg's 2005 big-screen blockbuster starring Tom Cruise.

A looming alien war? The plot of War of the Worlds is plausible for conspiracy theorists.
A looming alien war? The plot of War of the Worlds is plausible for conspiracy theorists.

But surprisingly, a new mini-series produced by Mammoth Screen for the BBC, airing over two consecutive nights in movie-length episodes, is the first to be set as a British period drama.

"HG Wells' seminal novel has been adapted for the screen many times, but it's always had a contemporary (and American) setting," director Craig Viveiros says. "This is the first version to be set in London and (its environs) during the Edwardian period."

When a strange object lands in the heart of England and hatches, the inhabitants of Earth find themselves under attack from ruthless aliens armed with heat rays and poisonous smoke.

Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson and Rafe Spall (The Big Short) star as George and Amy - a new addition to the story. The handsome couple is defying the prejudices of society as they attempt to start a life together, all the while swerving the ongoing chaos of an alien invasion.

"It was fun to do something that was kind of high action," Tomlinson told Metro.co.uk of her latest TV role. "I just loved it, can't wait to see it."

Robert Carlyle also stars as astronomer and scientist Ogilvy. Rupert Graves plays George's older brother Frederick, who is disapproving of George and Amy's relationship.

Common to all iterations of the story, including this most recent retelling, are Wells' long-legged Martian tripods - towering fighting machines which destroy everything in their path.

Flashes forward in time reveal the toll taken by the great war against the invaders and how it has changed the planet.

"The version of The War of the Worlds that I wanted to make is one that's faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book, but which also feels contemporary, surprising and full of shocks - a collision of sci-fi, period drama and horror," writer Peter Harness says.

The War of the Worlds premieres tonight at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW on Foxtel's Fox One channel.