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Featured TV on DVD Review: War of the Worlds: The Final Season

November 4th, 2010

War of the Worlds: The Final Season - Buy from Amazon

War of the Worlds began as an H.G.Wells novel in 1898 and over the years it has a been a radio drama, several movies, and a TV show. (The TV ran for two seasons and can best be seen as a follow-up to the 1953 film.) It has been five years since the first season came out on DVD, so I think a lot of fans were wondering if the studio had abandoned plans to release the second season of the show on DVD. Although considering how much changed between the two seasons, it is almost better to consider them two different shows.

The Show

For those who haven't seen the movie or the first season...

Aliens invade in 1953, as depicted in the movie, but while they are lightyears ahead of us in terms of technology, they are stopped by common bacteria. That's stopped, not killed. Despite what we see in the movie, the aliens are merely put into a coma and the bodies are stored in oil drums in various locations around the country for reasons that some government official probably thought was a good idea at the time. 35 years later, a terrorist group accidentally awakens the aliens after exposing them to radiation, which kills the bacteria that put them into a coma, but doesn't harm them. To move around humans, and to keep the budget low, they are able to assume human form for for a while, till the radiation destroys the body.

For some reasons that was never adequately explained, most of the population had forgotten about the alien invasion that took place in 1953. One of the few who didn't forget was Dr. Blackwood, whose parents were killed in the attack and who was raised by Dr. Forrester, the guy from the 1953 film, and not the character from MST3K, although that would be awesome. He, along with his team, find enough evidence that the aliens are back to convince the military to put them in charge of stopping them, but not enough evidence to really blow the cover. So the good guys had to deal with skeptical military brass and a completely unaware population. Fortunately for them, the aliens were not in a better situation, as they were mostly cutoff from their homeworld and have extremely limited resources. A lot of the first season was spent with the aliens looking for some alien artifact that that could give them an advantage in war, while the humans tried to thwart them. (Sometimes vice versa.) This repetitiveness did hurt, but the show's biggest burden for the first season was the budget, which was low compared to most shows, and miniscule compared to the number of effects shots a show like this would need.

As a result, the show never found much in the way of ratings success, so the studio decided to shake things up at the start of season two. We learn through the opening prologue that rioting has broken out and society has basically collapsed. There has been no alien activity since the events of the season one finale, but Dr. Blackwood's people are not celebrating victory and instead grow more concerned with finding their enemy. Fortunately, they don't have to wait long. Unfortunately for them, the enemy appears to have changed and grown stronger. (Or perhaps its a new enemy, or maybe a different faction of the old enemy.) And in the initial encounter, the humans suffer a great setback, including the deaths of half their team and the military cuts them off entirely.

The season premiere does setup season two very well as a season of change. Not only is the tone completely different going from a realistic portrayal of today (or today in the mid 1980s) to a grim post-apocalyptic near future. They also had a major shakeup in the cast killing off two major characters and bringing in a new one (Adrian Paul, who later rose to fame on the Highlander TV show). Unfortunately, the one thing they couldn't change was the budget, which remained tragically low. Also, a lot of the changes were poorly explained and / or quality neutral. Setting the TV show in the time of "Almost Tomorrow" doesn't make it a better show, while trying to explain the changes just gives sci-fi fans plenty of opportunity to complain about continuity errors it might set up.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD. There are subtitles, proper chapter placements, but no play all buttons.

The Verdict

War of the Worlds started off as a pretty good show, given its budget limitations, but the studio wasn't happy with its ratings, so in an effort to boost them, they decided to mix things up. The addition of Adrian Paul helped, but that was the only change that I think worked and overall season two suffers. Even if you are a fan of season one, start with a rental here. Maybe you will like the changes, but there's a good chance you won't.

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