A certain jungle-based reality show might be returning to our screens on Sunday, but the BBC’s big-budget, reimagined version of the H.G. Wells classic The War Of The Worlds goes up against it, and is not to be missed.
Here’s everything we can tell you about the new show...
It’s based on the classic H.G. Wells sci-fi novel of the same name
The book, first serialised in 1897, is set in southern England in 1905 and is one of the first stories about a conflict between mankind and extraterrestrial life, when a mysterious capsule lands on Earth.
However, this is no inanimate object, but a transport for a living organism from outer space. And so begins a terrifying ordeal as more capsules land in Victorian era Britain and release murderous Martian tripods, which stalk England exterminating and consuming everything in their wake.
Writer and executive producer Peter Harness describes the tale as “an unflinching portrayal of terror, war, danger and panic”. He’s not wrong.
This is the latest in a long series of adaptations
There have already been half a dozen feature films (including Spielberg’s 2005 update starring Tom Cruise), another TV series, various comic book adaptations and several radio series.
The tale is so popular that a simultaneous French-American production – La Guerre Des Mondes - starring Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern – began airing in France last month.
Meanwhile, a 1938 radio dramatisation was so realistic that it caused public panic among listeners who did not know the Martian invasion was fictional.
Jeff Wayne’s 1978 concept album based on the book also remains a best seller, having sold 15 million copies worldwide.
Speaking about the iconic album (and album cover), the new show’s writer and executive producer Peter Harness says: “For a lot of people my age I think the first experience of The War Of The Worlds would have been Jeff Wayne’s musical version, which everybody had in 1978.
“I still think it is a very cool album and recall the pictures that accompanied the album being particularly striking. I remember the people fleeing from the tripods, specifically a terrified woman in an Edwardian dress screaming. I found it very exciting.”
The BBC adaptation introduces new characters
In the original novel, the narrator, his wife and brother are not named, but have been characterised for the BBC’s adaptation, which presented a unique set of challenges for writer Peter Harness.
“The book is more like a piece of reportage similar to a piece of journalism,” Peter explains. “The original text touches on the mental state of the characters but it doesn’t really go very deep into them. So the challenge was to build the architecture of a character drama underneath the larger set pieces and big moments within the story but to make it about the characters.”
It has a stellar cast
“I would say that Amy is pretty groundbreaking for her time,” Eleanor says. “She is a very modern woman compared to her acquaintances.
“She is strong and independent and her life force is captivating, which is refreshing for me playing her.”
“I’ll tell you a secret... I did the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 2017 and the face that you do for a Martian invasion is exactly the same as the face that you make for a dinosaur!” he says
Robert explains: “One of those trades is astronomy. He has an observatory and it is Ogilvy and Amy who first see that there is something unusual going on with Mars. Ogilvy is very much ahead of his time. The first showing of this is that his assistant is a woman. Back in 1905 that was pretty much unheard of.”
He plays George’s older brother, Frederick, who works at the Admiralty in London as the Secretary to the Minister for War. Frederick is an upstanding servant of the British Empire and, despite his strained relationship with George, a caring brother.
The production team eschewed relying entirely on digital effects in favour of several huge sets
Sets were built for the alien capsule crash site, “red world” and Ogilvy’s observatory. Production designer Pat Campbell explains it was important for the actors to interact and walk around physical objects, such as the alien capsule site.
“Of course this could have been created digitally,” Pat explains. “But it would have made it prohibitively more expensive in post-production. [We] wanted this physical object that had landed in the forest to look bizarre and strange and for the cast to be surprised by the scale.
“The location manager found a forest. This was a nature reserve protecting red squirrels and the last thing we wanted to do was damage any wildlife so we were incredibly careful. They gave permission for us to work there provided that we didn’t damage any of the nature within the woodland.”
The trailer shows you just how big-budget it is...
The War Of The Worlds airs on BBC One, Sundays at 9pm.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.