Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 5

Episode 5 of War of the Worlds, the series is titled An Eye for and Eye. In it, our heroes go to Grover's Mill, site of the Martian invasion in Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938. It seems that the radio broadcast was a government coverup of an alien scouting party, and the team wants to interview the veterans on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion. Purely by coincidence, the aliens send a large force of bikers to Grover's Mill to secure the remains of the scout craft.

The four surviving veterans of the Grover's Mill militia are more than happy to talk to the team, though the one with the reputation for embellishment happens to observe some of the bikers eating his prize rosebuds (Welles and rosebuds, get it?), just like the Martians did way back when. The team investigates and sees the aliens mounting the heat ray of the scout ship on an automobile. They try to call in for reinforcements but "the birds are grounded and the infantry is at least four hours away." The team then builds a parabolic program and a mirror, and lure the aliens to a prepared area. There, the heat ray is reflected back at the aliens, destroying them all.

The Good: Incorporating the Orson Welles broadcast is a clever touch. In fact, the legendary performer is clearly beloved by the staff. Not only is his name whispered in reverent tones many times, but at the carnival of the broadcast they briefly feature a contest of Welles lookalikes.

Ironhorse's deep respect for the forgotten veterans of the battle of '38. Since Richard Chaves was a bona fide Vietnam vet, I expect that his performance here drew from those experiences. Speaking of which ...

Jeff Corey does a great job as Flannery, the main veteran of '38. He doesn't over-sell the part, but has a gentle and affable quality about him that works well. His grief for his friend, who gets inhabited by an alien, is also quite poignent.

The friend, by the way, played by John Ireland, is suitably nasty as an enemy once discovered. When Blackwood tries to open a dialogue, he responds that there can be no dialogue with fungus.

The heat beam mounted on the hearse (the aliens used a funeral as cover for digging up the graveyard where the ship was buried) was an interesting visual. Heck, the weird-ass vacuum cleaner / lawnmower machine they used to find it was kind of a hoot too.

Biker aliens worked well. Aliens can look like anyone, and the show was constantly looking for new sorts of people for the aliens to inhabit.

The Bad: For the first time, but certainly not the last, the aliens and the Blackwood Team converge on the same location within a few hours of each other, purely by happenstance. Also, neither team really had any reason to be in town exactly on the 50th anniversary of the broadcast, which adds in a third layer of coincidence.

"The birds are grounded." Excuse me? I guess it's nice that the writers are at least paying lip service to the idea that this is an official team, but it's hard to imagine an actual army ignoring an enemy getting their tentacles on a capital ship a mere 40 miles from New York City.

The show also employs the old sci-fi cliche of asking how long it will take Norton to build a parabola program, getting a response of a few weeks, then informing him that he has an hour. Ugh. Speaking of which, if mirrors can reflect heat beams, why didn't we just put mirrors on our tanks? Finally, and this is me being very pedantic, the beam fires, bounces around the mirror (very slowly), then bounces out at a different angle ... and hits the heat beam dead on. It'd have looked a lot better if it hit the car a little lower.

Finally, there were at least two dozen biker/aliens milling about. That seems like an awful lot for the purpose of digging out a buried scout craft. It seemed like the writers didn't have much for them to do besides mill around (ha ha!) and then get disintegrated. Also, since when does the heat ray spread? All those bikers obliterated in one shot? It was a bit much, and easily solved by just having a half a dozen of them.

The Ugly: We only got one alien death that left a body, a shotgun blast that for some reason blew John Ireland's character to pieces, but the final shot of the episode was a mauled alien biker driving away.

Overall, a very weak execution on a fairly weak plot. The best part of the episode was the love given to the 1938 broadcast, but that only goes so far.


Jimtron said...

Friend of the blog To Life Immortal has sent me some extra info on this episode - some trivia. The bikers were played by the Canadian rock band Platinum Blonde.

Anonymous said...

Really wish they had more episodes dealing with the ships from the movie...after all, the war machines are what made the movie great, and they're what people think about the most when they think about War of the Worlds. It was also great to see Jeff Corey, who was a fine actor, acting coach/teacher, and director.

Xasheron23 said...

I liked this one a bit more than you did, but my biggest complaint is the absolute bogusness of the science employed.

Like you said, how can a simple mirror reflect the death ray? How can a rigged-up parabola reflect the ray directly back at the device?

also, I always wondered what they planned on doing with just the raygun. Without the shields that made the war machines invincible, the hearse would have been blown up in about 10 minutes.