War of the Worlds is a television program that ran for two seasons, from 1988 to 1990. The series is an extension of the original 1953 film The War of the Worlds, using the same War Machine, often incorporating aspects from the film, radio adaptation, and original novel into its mythology.
Though the original film's producer, George Pal, conceived of a TV series from the same film sometime in the seventies, it was not until the late eighties that a series was finally realized, this time by television producer Greg Strangis. The show was a part of the boom of first run syndicated television series being produced at the time. It was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel. The series was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
According to the series, rather than being killed outright by germs at the end of the 1953 film, the aliens had all slipped into a state of suspended animation. Their bodies were stored away in toxic waste drums and shipped to various disposal sites within the United States (ten such sites are known to exist in the country), and a widespread government cover-up combined with a condition dubbed “selective amnesia” has convinced most people that the invasion had never happened.
Since the concept of vastly intelligent life on Mars had lost its plausibility by the time of the series, the aliens are revealed to actually be from Mor-Tax--a garden planet 40 light-years away in the Taurus constellationorbiting a dying sun.
Thirty-five years later, in 1988 (modern day when the series began), a terrorist group calling itself the People's Liberation Party accidentally irradiates the drums containing the aliens while raiding dumpsite Fort Jericho. The radiation destroys the bacteria that are keeping the aliens unconscious. Once free, the aliens take possession of the bodies of the six terrorists who overran the site. From there they use a series of human bodies and crudely-adapted Earth technology to find means of appropriating the planet, both in purging the plague that is humanity and developing a permanent means to inoculate themselves against the planet's indigenous bacteria. Their attempt to successfully make Earth into their new homeworld is imperative for in roughly five years, three million colonists from Mor-Tax are expected to arrive.
Along with other sci-fi/horror series that ran in syndication in the late 1980s (such as Friday the 13th: The Series and Freddy's Nightmares), War of the Worlds constantly pushed the “acceptable content” envelope, regularly featuring violence on par with the R-rated horror movies of the time. Gore is commonplace in the first season: dead aliens and their tossed-away hosts’ bodies melt in a grotesque puddle and the malicious Mor-Taxans have no compunctions about mutilating any person who gets in their way. One of their trademark methods of murder would be gouged-out eyes courtesy of the third arm that would often burst out from their chest.
During the first season, the aliens are led by a triumvirate known as the Advocacy. They are a part of their society's ruling class, overseeing the invasion force on Earth while their leaders, the invisible and never heard Council, remain back on Mor-Tax. Outfitted throughout most of the season in contamination suits that pump coolant to counteract the killing heat of the radiation they need, they stay in their base of operation: a cavern in the Nevada desert, which is perfect due to the ambient radiation from atomic bomb tests. Due to the risks to their lives, they rarely venture into the outside world because without the Advocacy the lower classes would have no guidance and be useless.
Their goal is to pick up where they left off in 1953 by making way on Earth for the three million colonists heading in exodus from their dying world. Their major objective in order to accomplish this terraforming is to remove humanity from the planet. The aliens’ hatred of human beings goes beyond simple prejudice. Having come from a planet that can be compared to the Garden of Eden based on its description, the aliens see that humans do nothing but desecrate what they would call a paradise, and most importantly, a new home.
Without humans in the way, they can restore the vegetation, and better replicate the conditions of their deceased world. To carry out a successful war, they seek out weapons (some of which are their own left behind from previous visitations), help amass their army, and engage in infiltration and all sorts of acts of warfare. But to make things more problematic, they must also find immunity against the germs that befell them in 1953.
The simplicity of the alien invasion storyline is countered in the first season by the addition of anomalous entities whose motives are only partially explained:
A number of recurring allies are presented for the Blackwood team. Sylvia Van Buren (a character from the George Pal film reprised by the original actress, Ann Robinson), who was a colleague of Dr. Forrester, has since the end of the war developed the ability to sense the aliens and is prone to fairly accurate precognitive visions. The aliens’ scientific arsenal has little power over the supernatural powers of shaman Joseph Lonetree (whose presence is seemingly foreshadowed in the first episode). The team even makes friends with the remaining Grover's Mill militia of 1938 who had their own run-in with the aliens.
A recurring element in the series is the number three. This is an extension of the film, wherein the aliens’ physiology, technology and society are rooted in multiples of three: from their caste system (ruling class, soldiers, and scientists) to their bodies (three arms with three fingers), weaponry (in “The Resurrection”, they make bolas with three weighted ends), and even their mating cycle is every nine years (three times three years). The appearance of the number in some form is sprinkled throughout the season in reference to the aliens.
The episodes all had (often ironic) Biblical titles, such as "The Walls of Jericho", "To Heal the Leper", and "Among the Philistines".
“To Life Immortal” (too doe nakotae as it would be said in the aliens’ native tongue), a phrase by which the aliens seem to sum up their belief system, is a common exchange between aliens, as a pledge to their shared goal or as a battle cry before honorable self-sacrifice. It later became a popular catchphrase among the show's fans.
Season 2 :
Although the ratings for the first season were among the highest Paramount had of its syndicated series that year, the creative team of Season 1 was replaced, bringing in Frank Mancuso, Jr., who was also busy producing Friday the 13th: The Series. Many aspects of the show were retooled, such as removing the black humor and Biblical references.
The modern-day setting of the first season shifted to a not-too-distant future of “Almost Tomorrow” where the world has since spiraled into a dismal state with its economy, environment, and government all beaten down. Of the few characters that return for the second season, most are killed off in the season premiere, including fan favorites Norton and Ironhorse. The aliens of the first season are replaced by the Morthren, from Mothrai, who have an unexplained connection to the first season aliens from Mor-Tax. The show is inconsistent in revealing whether or not the Morthren are indeed a new race of aliens, a sub-culture of the season one aliens, or something else altogether.
Whereas bacteria and radiation are constant problems for the Mor-Tax, the Morthren have quickly found a cure-all means for this by transmutating into human bodies. With this, they forwent the ability to possess human bodies, retaining only one human body. Their equivalent of body-swapping is a cloning machine that makes exact copies of someone, only differing in that the duplicates would be loyal to the Morthren cause and their existence tied to the original.
Ironically, as sores are the telltale signs of alien possession in the first season, a lack of scars or any physical flaw was a telltale sign of a clone, as the Morthren are fixated with perfection. While the Eternal is their god, the Morthren are led by Malzor (played by Denis Forest, who had a large part in the Season 1 episode “Vengeance Is Mine”). Just under him was the scientist Mana (Catherine Disher, whose husband also played a major role in a Season 1 episode) with Ardix (Julian Richings who appeared briefly in “He Feedeth Among the Lillies”) as her assistant.
Meanwhile, with General Wilson missing, the Cottage destroyed, and two team members lost in battle, the remnants of the team, with mercenary John Kincaid (Adrian Paul), seek shelter. They take up base in an underground hideout in the sewers. Some of the characters experience shifts, such as Harrison carrying a gun. The friction between the militaristic Ironhorse and the other team members was not transferred with Kincaid, who got along well with everyone, who themselves became more militaristic in season 2. The show's theme of warfare between two races, and all the issues that come with it, was replaced by a theme of a bleak life on a desolate world.
While the changes were often claimed by the producers to be for the better of the show, they also disappointed the show's regular viewers. One producer said that had he known about Ironhorse's popularity, he would not have killed the character off. Ultimately, the series was canceled for low ratings just two episodes shy of a full season.
The story ends with the final episode of the second season. In desperation, Malzor makes a final attempt to eliminate all life forms native to Earth. Fearing for his human friend Debi, the young alien boy named Ceeto attempts to interfere. Blackwood and his team are introduced to a faction of aliens willing to make peace with the human race. Together, they use a device that stores the history of the aliens' homeworld.
In that history, Malzor is shown to be a scientist who creates crystals needed to power starships. The crystals provide a wealth of energy but require much energy to produce. Studying other planets, they discover on Earth the signs of an engineered nuclear explosion, suggesting the existence of a burgeoning technological society on Earth. The leader of the Mothren - Malzor's father-in-law - orders a major expedition to Earth, to be led by Malzor's wife and powered by large quantities of Malzor's crystal.
Malzor is reluctant, not only because he fears for his wife, but also because he knows the dire consequences posed by large-scale production of the crystal. His fears are realized on both counts. The expedition is a failure - the Mothren are shown dying in large numbers, their ships failing. Worse, in mass-producing and empowering the crystals, the Mothren have severely altered their own planet's ecological and meteorological systems. Enraged by the Mothren leader's insistence on the expedition, Malzor murders him and usurps his position. Obsessed with Earth, and resigned to the destruction of Mothrai, Malzor accelerates crystal production needed to power a second invasion. The history comes to an end with Malzor preparing a last-minute escape from the doomed world.
Learning the truth, the aliens turn on Malzor. Ceeto is killed by Malzor, further alienating Mothrai. When the Blackwood group finds the aliens, Debi shoots Malzor dead, preventing his plans from reaching fruition. With this, the Morthren call off the war, and the heroes walk out into a suddenly sunny world.
Many facts concerning the Morthren past revealed in the episode contradict various aspects of the mythology established both in previous second season episodes, and especially those from the first season. Mothren are shown observing the catastrophic end of their expedition of 1953 from the safety of their homeworld - but the images they observe are taken from the last few minutes of the 1953 film, suggesting that it had been the Mothren all along who had invaded the Earth, and not the Mor-Taxians. Many fans have also pointed out the contradiction posed by the finale - in which the clearly warlike behavior of the aliens in 1953 grew out of what had been a mission of exploration.
As far as I know, this tv show only been released on DVD in North America, not yet in Europe. Both seasons have been released in North America.