The Good: Continuity. There are several nods to continuity in this episode, including the return of the magnetic pulse that disabled watches and clocks WAAAAY back in the 1953 movie. (The stopped watches also allows for a rather neat transition from our heroes to our villains, by focusing in on Malzor's watch as he prepares for his journey.) There are also nods to Norton's line of "thunder and lightning, but never any rain," from The Second Wave, the second season premier. Finally, appropriately, Dr. Forrester looms large in the story, though he never makes an appearance.
I like the creepy imagery inside the carnival, where the time travel apparatus is set up.
An old chestnut is trotted out to quickly let Kincaid and Harrison know where (when) they are after they follow Malzor through the portal; a newspaper! However, rather than just leave it at that, the scene also introduces us to the reporter, Miranda Watson, who becomes their companion in the past, as well as nodding to the changed premise from the movie to the tv series with the headline "Were Invaders Really From Mars?"
There are some nice character moments, mostly involving Harrison. He and Debi bond while discussing the past, setting up the episode thematically. Kincaid bemoans them driving towards the epicenter of the magnetic disturbance, correctly noting that they are a guerrilla outfit and not equipped to deal with an invasion. Harrison also has a conversation with his younger self, but that one somehow made me feel like they were trying a bit too hard. It's not a bad, exactly, but it didn't quite work for me.
Structurally, tying the ability to time travel to astrological phenomena is shrewd. It explains why they don't just go back and try again. They should have made up their minds, though, about if it was a supernova causing it, or a rare planetary alignment.
The Bad: Continuity. Sylvia Forester? She'd been in several episodes of the first season as Sylvia van Buren. Besides, how long after the movie IS this episode? It can't be too long, there are still aliens moving about. Did they run to Vegas, get married, adopt a kid, and then come back home? It just doesn't make sense.
Still on continuity; before the aliens go back in time, they steal blood and manage to create a vaccine for the microbes that laid low the original invasion force. This makes little sense; obviously they've already handled this problem, since the current batch of aliens are walking around without dying. Alternatively, if it's only their new bodies that make them immune, it seems that Malzor's bunch achieves in a few hours, days tops, what the entire Mor-Tax contingent of S1 failed to do over the course of a year or two. Either way, it's most clumsy.
I find the black and white distracting as a way to inform the viewers of the transition to the past. I'm a fan of Friday the Thirteenth, The Series, another Frank Mancuso Jr. show, and they did the same thing there. It just seems lazy to me.
Still on time travel, it seems that time is a closed loop. Harrison has a marble that comforts him, and gives it to his younger self. (Where did it originally come from then, eh? But I won't be pedantic.) More importantly, Miranda is waiting for the crew at the carnival EVEN BEFORE THEY GO BACK, and gives Kincaid back a handkerchief that he used to gag her. Therefor, there was never really any chance of failure--they'd already succeeded. Given that, one would think the Eternal would know how the mechanics of time travel work, and wouldn't' bother to send Malzor on this fool's errand. They certainly lost enough soldiers along the way.
After their capture, Kincaid tells Mann about their 12 hour time limit. Malzor was warned several times that he had only 12 hours, but how did Kincaid know? Also, how did Miranda know where to go to meet back up with Harrison and Kincaid? The script doesn't seem fully thought out.
So, an ambitious episode, but one that doesn't really live up to its promise. It's nice to see the 1953 setting, but it could have been a much starker contrast to Almost Tomorrow than it wound up being. I like that the aliens seem to be getting more desperate, though. Time travel has to be a risky proposition, even for the Eternal. On the whole, though, everything seems a little too easy for our heroes.
One notion I do enjoy is that this inoculation explains why Quinn is running around. It always bothered me that the ONE alien who was immune was so high ranked. However, if Malzor had a vaccine, wouldn't he go straight for the command crew? It's not supported directly by the canon, but it's a notion I enjoy.
War of the Worlds: The Final Season, is available for preorder now and will be out on DVD this October, if you'd care to watch it for yourself. You can