Writer Peter Harness discusses his new TV take on The War Of The Worlds
Martian war machines will be striding across Surrey again in a new three-part, period-setting TV version of HG Wells’s 1897 classic The War Of The Worlds. It’s currently being written by Peter Harness, who’s penned Doctor Who episodes like “The Zygon Invasion”.
Revisiting the book, Harness was struck by how brutal it is. “It doesn’t pull any punches! You’re on the ground with a bunch of people getting burnt to death. That’s what I’d like to do with it: not make it cosy or charming, but really go over the shoulder of people and tell it from a ground-level point of view.”
Harness promises he’ll be retaining key plot elements, plus characters like the Artilleryman and the Curate. He’s also looking to the book for moments not previously dramatised.
“There’s a lot of incidental detail. Wells talks about experiments on the machines which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. It’s about keeping the narrative that’s there but also looking at the little throwaways and seeing how you could use those.”
The writer also notes that staying faithful to Wells – a committed socialist – means this will be an SF drama with political undertones.
“I don’t think you can do Wells without acknowledging that he was an extremely political writer,” Harness says. “The War Of The Worlds, at its base, is an allegory of imperialism, and what it must be like to be decimated by futuristic weapons totally beyond your capacity to understand. Those echoes are going to come out, because they’re part of the fabric of it... But there’ll be plenty of things blowing up, tentacled monsters and shit like that too!”
The War Of The Worlds begins filming in 2018. and will air on BBC One.
HG Wells’s famous Martian invasion is getting back to its Victorian roots.