This October, it will be seventy-five years since Orson Welles’s ground-breaking production of The War of the Worlds sent credulous listeners scurrying for the hills. To commemorate this legendary radio landmark, Aural Stage Studios, CONvergence, Radio Drama Revival and iZotope have organised a competition inviting audio producers to pay homage to what is undoubtedly the most infamous radio production of all time. The competition parameters are as follows: the maximum length for submissions is fifteen minutes, and must include arrival inside a meteorite, tripods used for locomotion, massive destruction and a natural biological solution. Needless to say, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
As a Surrey boy, I grew up in the part of the country most ravaged by Wells’s Martian invaders. They only landed a short drive from me, not far outside Woking at the sandpits of Horsell Common, and went on to quickly heat-ray and black-smoke their merciless, three-legged way towards London. So it was then, on Saturday 20th April 2013, that a small and enthusiastic cast and crew led by director George Maddocks made its way to the spot where the first cylinder landed back in 1898. The area is still a Mecca for a certain kind of sci-fi fan, and we were all incredibly excited by the idea of staging our on-location recording right there where it all happened. Okay, so maybe the microphones wouldn’t pick it up, but hopefully some of the magic would rub off on us.
At the tail-end of the 19th century, of course, the British Empire ruled the waves and it made complete sense for an alien invasion force to land in the commuter-belt and from there strike at London, the Earth capital. By 1938, New York was very much the obvious target if you wanted to take over the world. Interestingly in Welles’s version, the story is set in a ‘not-so-distant future’ in which the tensions across the pond in Europe did not in the end lead to the start of World War Two. In 2013, however, it’s fair to assume that the Martians would attempt a simultaneous strike across the globe in order the crush all human military resistance. The Martian modus operandi necessarily changes with our own, and its probable to assume that in this day and age ‘shock and awe’ would be their strategy. They are us at our worst, after all, and I think that this is the true secret of the story’s power. The War of the Worlds is a cautionary tale in which invaders from Mars give the Earth’s reigning superpower a taste of its own brutal medicine, and in which we are reminded that mankind’s dominance of the planet is an illusion. By the time Orson came to do his version of the story, H.G. already considered it badly dated, but time has shown that while media may change and the baton of global dominance may pass between nations, the lessons of the novel are as important as ever.
DEAD LONDON: WAR OF THE WORLDS by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine, is premièring at The Lost Theatre as part of the Wireless Theatre Company’s Sci-Fi Month Showcase on 4th May, 2013 at The LOST Theatre, London. Tickets on sale HERE – only £5!