The aliens are phoning home, and by that, we mean our home…
By Laura Rutkowski, Staff Writer
The latest adaptation of HG Wells’ 1898 novel begins with astronomers discovering signs of extraterrestrial life. There’s a noise – it’s subtle at first, but then it grows louder, ear-achingly so. The pulsating, undulating, whirring sound indicates something not of this Earth. It’s something entirely… alien. What happens next? An attack.
The pattern of events repeats in the BBC’s period-accurate drama from last year, Steven Spielberg’s big-budget movie from 2005 and Orson Welles’ radio play from 1938. No matter the decade, we continue to be fascinated by the idea of malevolent alien forces wiping out humanity. But FOX’s interpretation of War Of The Worlds focuses on the people who manage to survive through quite miraculous circumstances.
In a story set across London and Paris, the international cast includes: Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary) as neuroscientist Bill Ward, who is trying to figure out what the aliens want; Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) as his ex-wife Helen Brown; Léa Drucker (Custody) as French astronomer Catherine Durand; and Bayo Gbadamosi (Doctor Who) as former child soldier and refugee Kariem Gat Wich Machar.
We had a close encounter with the actors who play the Greshams, a family split between the two cities when the aliens strike, and they told us everything you need to know about the new eight-part series…
It’s a modern-day adaptation on a global scale
Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonathan Gresham): For it to be a credible adaptation, to be watching it and think, “How would I be in this situation or how would I feel in this situation?”, it has to be brought right up to date.
Doesn’t Jonathan know standing next to a window usually isn’t the safest option?
Natasha Little (Sarah Gresham): It’s that unknown enemy that is terrifying. There’s this threat to the whole of humanity and no one is immune. It’s fantastic that it’s set in two different countries, because it’s a world problem.
Because you’re looking at a lot of different characters who have been stripped of their possessions, their homes and their social status, you see the core of people.
Alien invasion? Sarah and Helen are OVER IT.
Daisy Edgar-Jones (Emily Gresham): Once you take away all those things, we’re defined by the choices we make and the kindness, or lack thereof, that we give to others. That’s what [the show] exposes.
NL: At the heart of it, it’s a human drama about how these people cope in this situation. It’s the human part of a story that keeps you engaged.
Emily Gresham is blind
DEJ: I wanted to do it justice and to be sensitive to it, so I worked with a lovely lady for a week and we explored lots of different aspects of it. We were keen to make sure Emily wasn’t hindered by her visual impairment, but that it was something she embraced and it made her who she was.
Ironically, Emily is the only one who can truly see what’s going on.
In the scenario of the aliens invading, it meant that she has this ability to trust very quickly and to rely on others. She has a greater, heightened sense of sound and she navigates the world in a very different way. As the story goes on, she has a connection with the aliens that nobody understands, including herself.
This is Ty Tennant’s first major television role
Ty Tennant (Tom Gresham): I’m a massive sci-fi fan. I grew up with my father [David Tennant] watching sci-fi on the telly, not just Doctor Who, but anything really. I’m a fan of comic books, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, anything that fantasises the idea of having superpowers. To get this as my first proper series is really special to me.
To escape the aliens, Sarah, Emily and Tom have to head underground.
Some of the aliens look like technology that already exists
TT: Before I got the job, I remember looking at the actual robot dogs [created by Boston Dynamics], which look exactly like them.
SCM: Are they just being used to keep old people company or…?
TT: They can open doors, they can actually do a lot. If you try to push and kick them over, they’ll get up and [still] do it [the task].
SCM: They’re not that dissimilar then, because there’s a kind of inevitability about our aliens.
TT: They will do anything to get the job done.
SCM: The contact with them early on is very immediate and you meet what seems to be an unopposable force – they’re utterly simple and basic and murderous. The characters obviously don’t know why the aliens are there. They’re a force, like an angry god. All they know is that, ultimately, they are in danger and if they come too close, they’re going to get destroyed.
This is Charlie Brooker’s take on robot dogs in the Black Mirror episode “Metalhead”, and he was actually inspired by Boston Dynamics’ creations. Terrifying.
I love the idea of taking the world to its nth degree and seeing where we’ll arrive. That’s why Black Mirror and all those things are so utterly fascinating, because we’re still humans, but we’re suddenly living in this world which is taken to its logical, darkest conclusion.
The cast members believe in aliens (to a degree)
TT: We are such a small cog in such a massive system. The universe is ever expanding and ever growing, and to think that we’re the only ones in that whole massive system is a little bit arrogant.
DEJ: There’s so much we don’t know, so I wouldn’t be too shocked if somewhere there’s something else.
NL: I believed in the aliens in War Of The Worlds, even though at times it was just a man holding a tennis ball on the end of a stick.
When is FOX’s War Of The Worlds on TV?
War Of The Worlds airs on FOX/HD (CH 157/199) on Thursdays at 9pm. It is also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > FOX.
The eight-part series will subsequently air every week until Thursday 23rd April.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.
Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
Interviews: Any opinions expressed in interviews are those of the interview subject and not those of Virgin Media.
Image credits: War Of The Worlds © Urban Myth Films