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Canberra Today 1°/5° | Monday, October 25, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

More Martians land on Planet Streaming

“War of the Worlds”… bringing it to a contemporary audience, set in modern Europe.

The world of streaming seems to be awash with Martians and streaming columnist NICK OVERALL has his eye on all of them… 

IN the same month that in the real world we’re seeing three missions to Mars in search of evidence of life, another adaptation of “The War of the Worlds”, perhaps the most famous Martian invasion tale ever, just touched down on Planet Streaming.

Now available on SBS On Demand, this eight-part series based on the well-known story is looking to bring it to a contemporary audience, set in modern Europe.

The original book, written by HG Wells in 1897, is one of my personal favourites, and I’ve got quite the interest in its slew of adaptations and their attempt to capture its frightening and relevant premise.

Perhaps the most famous of these is Orson Welles’ notorious radio broadcast of 1938. It’s widely believed to have sparked panic across America in the belief that the alien invasion of the fictional broadcast was actually happening. 

Although now a little more contested how much hysteria it truly did whip up (there were even suggestions of suicides), the controversy certainly pushed the story to the fore of popular culture.

Interestingly though, “The War of the Worlds” continues to capture the imagination with contemporary versions maintaining a significant presence in the world of streaming.

Let’s list ’em off:

  • Apple TV+ has a documentary investigating the production and impact of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast. 
  • On Netflix, Steven Spielberg’s 2005 blockbuster version with Tom Cruise is available for viewing. 
  • Last year, the BBC had a crack at the story with a three-part period mini-series which can be streamed on Foxtel Binge. 
  • Now, this newest series produced by Fox and Studio Canal is on SBS On Demand, and for me at least: ding ding ding we have the winner.

In terms of character and story, this latest production only very loosely follows the original plot of the novel, however where it steps above the rest is how it captures the all-important tone of the terrifying tale penned 123 years ago.

An alien species, with technology far beyond our own, frightened audiences of the late 19th century by showing them things they hadn’t yet imagined. The iconic sci fi “heat ray” that Wells created has been done time and again since its inception, in both adaptations of his story and across science fiction more widely. This new series though, spins a brilliant, modern twist I won’t go anywhere near spoiling.

If it sounds of interest, SBS On Demand is releasing two episodes a week on Thursday nights.

The series has also cleverly borrowed bits and pieces of other hit streaming sci-fi, such as “Black Mirror” to deliver a cleverly subversive, yet still faithful retelling of the original.

If you don’t know about “Black Mirror” think of it as “The Twilight Zone” for the modern age. It’s a British anthology series that features a new story in each episode about our relationship with technology, and the dangers of where it could take us. 

Nobody is doing anything like what is being seen in “Black Mirror”. 

To give an example of how much of the fourth wall this show is breaking, in 2018 an episode called “Bandersnatch” was the first to let its audience interact with the plot. You, the viewer, get to make the decisions of the character by using your remote, and the episode will subsequently follow the actions chosen as you want them to happen.

All five seasons of “Black Mirror” are available on Netflix to watch in any order you like, and season six is already confirmed and on its way. Strap yourself in though, this show doesn’t pull any punches.

It is fascinating how much of modern science fiction continues to be preoccupied with fear of technology that far surpasses what we currently have. Oh, the horror then, to imagine how many streaming services Martians may well be overwhelmed with in choosing where they put their space bucks.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

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