The War of the Worlds (1967)

Starring: Paul Daneman, Isabel Rennie, Martin Jarvis and Harold Kasket
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4056 7705 9
ISBN-10: 1 40567 705 8

Available 08 January 2007

When a Martian spacecraft lands on Woking Common, mankind is terrorised by aliens in tall, armoured capsules which stalk the countryside on three legs. The machines wreak havoc on London and the Southern Counties, and survivors are driven underground. Scientist John Nicholson tells how he was plunged into a paralysing nightmare of stark terror, savage madness and utter destruction...

This recording from the 1967 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is well worth picking up if you are a lover of classic sci-fi. Starring Paul Daneman (as John Nicholson), Isabel Rennie (as Dora Nicholson) and Martin Jarvis (as Ogilvy), this radio recording is as fresh today as it was back in 1967. Peter Sallis and Anthony Jackson also feature in this thrilling six-part dramatisation of HG Wells's book.

The drama is relayed in flashback, with Nicholson recounting the events that have happened to him starting from the night of the meteor landings. Then we are transported back to that first night as Nicholson and his assistant, Ogilvy, are gazing into the heavens trying to work out why activity seems to be coming from Mars. Nicholson believes that the planet may well be capable of harbouring life.

These opening scenes work well to prepare the way for the alien invasion. I loved the way that the producers used just the one sound effect in this segment - a ticking clock in Nicholson's study. This is used wonderfully to heighten the tension - as though it's ticking down to something important that is about to happen.

The build up to the events is incredibly slow. That's not a complaint, though. If anything, this slow unfolding of the plot helps to build the tension to a point where I was on the edge of my seat. Even though I know the original story inside out, I couldn't help but be captivated all over again by this recording.

The only real let down for me was the annoying screechy music (for want of a better word) that opens and closes each episode. It's difficult to describe how truly awful this is unless you've experienced it, but for those of you who hate fingernails being scratched across a blackboard, this music will make you clap your hands over your ears in the same way.

There was one scene which I had to relisten to. I was sure I heard a swear word that would not have been allowed on the BBC in 1967. There is a scene where Ogilvy exclaims: "A meteorite has landed! A f*cking great meteorite!" I've listened and relistened and still I can't make out what he's supposed to have really said.

If you are a lover of classic sci-fi, then you'll need to add this to your collection. This is still a series that I'd recommend to a younger generation that have never read any H.G. Wells. Another slice of classic radio from the BBC.

Pete Boomer

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