When it comes to naming the father of all modern sci-fi, the name Herbert George Wells immediately springs to mind.
As a writer decades ahead of his time, Wells’ talent lay in his ability to conceive futuristic ideas as a commentary on his modern day. Wells, therefore, is rightfully remembered as a master of his craft. But what happens when you try to translate a story as renowned as The War of the Worlds to another medium? Well, now we have the long-awaited Big Finish adaptation – The Martian Invasion of Earth – with which to find out.
Nick Briggs has the dual-role of writer and director for this version, his first dramatision of a Wells story for Big Finish. Briggs has made no secret of the fact that this was a passion project he’d been anticipating for a while. That appreciation for the source material comes through beautifully in the script. Subplots that are often underserved or outright cut from other versions are preserved and given their due. However, Briggs has worked in some original elements. Specifically, the narrator’s wife – who barely features in the original story – is now a active and potent force in driving the plot forwards. Lucy Briggs-Owen gives a very striking performance as Amy and it gives listeners familiar with this story a fresh take.
It goes without saying that Big Finish is somewhat experienced at realising alien life forms in audio. But there had to be some trepidation in the sound design going up against recent cinematic renderings of the Martians. Iain Meadows understands that, with prodding from a good sound design, the imagination can rival any Hollywood CG horror. The huge alien war machines rampaging with their formidable weapons could have been handled in an all-too-terrestrial way – explosions and zaps and screams. But Meadows has really played with his resources and the vocal stylings of Briggs to make for an unnerving listen. This rendition of the Martians is a primal gut punch straight to the subconscious.
Richard Armitage of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Robin Hood’ fame takes on the role of Herbert – the narrator, protagonist and second time one of Wells’ anonymous main characters has been named for his creator. Armitage’s distinctive baritone is perfectly suited for the often panic-stricken Herbert. There’s definitely an edge to Armitage’s voice that suggests he’s teetering on the edge of a breakdown. This is nicely contrasted by Briggs-Owen’s performance as plain-spoken Amy and makes their dynamic fun to listen to.
Concluding a year of H.G. Wells adaptations from Big Finish, it’s fair to say they went out on a high. The Martian Invasion of Earth keeps the spirit of the original but isn’t afraid to play with the story. As a result, we get one of Lucy Briggs-Owen’s best audio performances to date in a role often underused. The story runs at a lively pace though the first half drags a little. But the sound design is what really makes this release into essential listening. The experimental approach Big Finish has taken to realising the Martians in audio is perfectly unsetting in the best possible way. It turns a simple alien invasion story to an attack by monsters and adds a horror element that enhances the story immensely.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
This title was released in February 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until March 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.
‘No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s…’
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: HG Wells, dramatised by Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Richard Armitage (Herbert), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Amy), Hywel Morgan (Curate), Ewan Bailey (Daniel), Richard Derrington (Ogilvy), Helen Goldwyn (Agatha), Christopher Weeks (Edward), Benedict Briggs (Boy), Nicholas Briggs (Martians / First Officer). Other parts played by members of the cast.