Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 43

The series finale of War of the Worlds is titled The Obelisk.  The Morthren, reduced to a mere forty members, are in dire straits.  The Eternal demands that Malzor steps down, but he successfully begs for his life on the strength of a desperate plan.  Using a sacred Morthren artifact, an Obelisk containing two crystals, he embarks on a mission to finally eradicate all life on Earth, or maybe just all life in the city.  Seeto, the alien child who forged a connection with Debi, won't allow this to happen.  He absconds with the Obelisk and seeks out the Blackwood team.  They learn the truth (?) of things, about how Malzor is pretty much solely responsible for the Morthren threat, and help Mana stage a coup.  Malzor objects, violently, and winds up shooting Seeto, prompting Debi to shoot him.  Thus is the way for peace paved between Morthren and human, and the team walks off into the sunrise. 

The Good: This is a decidedly mixed episode, with some really interesting elements but some really glaring flaws.  Starting off with the former, we have the acting, especially on the part of the late, great Denis Forest.  So many great scenes, Malzor has.  His desperate pleading with the eternal, his escalating confrontations with Mana, his insane rantings at the end.  This is someone who is slowly losing everything in his world.  "There are forty of us left.  DO WE ALL HAVE TO DIE IN THIS FORSAKEN PLACE?!?"  I could watch him perform all day.  He tries so desperately to keep his calm over the course of the episode, though eventually he descends into a complete emotional breakdown.

Mana's tension with Malzor reaches a boiling point, the culmination in a season of slow simmering buildup.  Her outrage at his plan, leaving them with a dead planet, was well done.  (But see below.) The scene where Malzor backhands her is particularly powerful.  I also liked her defending Malzor's policies, even though it is clear that she didn't believe in them, to Seeto.  She also has a lovely slight incredulity when she asks Malzor if consulting the Obelisk is the will of the Eternal and he informs her that it is.  She doesn't QUITE trust him, but the time for open rebellion hasn't come yet.

Oh, and on the subject of trust, Kincaid never really trusts Mana.  After all, in his words, "the bitch killed my brother!"  That was one of the best scenes in the episode, and a nice bit of continuity. Also nice continuity that Seeto and Debi meet back at the theater, and that Malzor is clever enough to figure that out. (But see below.)

I'm glad that we get to see the aliens in their natural form one last time, during Malzor's flashback.  It's interesting to see those monstrous forms used with tender music and directing. 

I like that Seeto, when he steals the Obelisk, uses a weapon set to stun.  After all, there are so few aliens left, that they shouldn't start killing each other.  (But see below.)

There is some nice symmetry in allowing Debi to avenge the death of Seeto.  Malzor is set up as the ultimate villain in this episode, manipulating his own people into a course of action they wouldn't normally take.  That a human youth avenges this wrong perpetrated on both their peoples feels right.

I enjoyed seeing the visual of Morthrai.   I was also glad to see Ardix, Bayda, and Seeto one last time.  I suppose Kemo wouldn't have fit in this episode, though Adam would have been a nice addition, even if just in the background.

Finally, the final scene of the team walking into the sunrise strikes a nice level of optimism, especially with the symbolism of Debi's plant.  Yes, the future isn't set and yes, there will still be challenges ahead.  The human race seems to face the same demons that literally destroyed Morthrai, but perhaps with remnants of that planet Harrison and co can help save this one.  After all, saving the planet was always what Harrison wanted, much more so than revenge.  With only 35 aliens left, (plus perhaps a few stragglers like Quinn & Kemo) the Morthrai will need Harrison's protection and advocacy, but I think he's pragmatic enough to do that.  Perhaps humanity, like Debi's plant, will flourish.

The Bad: I'll bet you thought I'd start with continuity.  Well, no, but I'll get to that.  This is a very weak story in its own right, though it's not a terrible series finale.  Huge swaths of the episode are devoted to expository flashbacks.  Is now, the climax of the series, really the best time for that?  There is a needless subplot of Kincaid running around apart from the team, meeting up with them later, but it serves no dramatic purpose except to eat up time.  We really shouldn't be killing time in the series finale.

Malzor bearing the entire brunt of the guilt for everything that happened is really cheap on the part of the writers.  He staged a coup and launched an expedition for revenge, tricking his race into going along with him. I don't like the lack of culpability for everyone else, even though time and again we've seen them commit atrocities without a second thought.

The obelisk.   It's awfully late in the series to be introducing a Deus Ex Machina like this.  Not only that, but it really serves little purpose.  It gives everyone flashbacks, which I don't think was really necessary, and it points Malzor towards the spores.  Wouldn't it have been better if he came up with the plan himself, rather than have it suggested by a crystal?  Hell, if for some reason the writers really wanted this to be an external idea, what's wrong with The Eternal?

For a show that's really about the Blackwood Project, the final episode sure was Malzor's tale.  Now, ok, I get it, he's probably the most interesting character in the show at this point.  Still, it's the series finale.  I can't help but feel that it should have been more about Harrison and his journey. 

Continuity.  Ugh.  Yeah, it's pretty bad.  Not the worst thing about the episode, but it's in the top five.  Normally I give continuity flubs a pass, but this episode makes itself, for no real reason, all about the origin of the conflict, which opens the door for this kind of dissection.  At the risk of being a petty nerd, here goes: 
  • Starting at the beginning, apparently it WAS the atomic bombings of Japan that lured the aliens to Earth, as Harrison speculated back in Choirs of Angels.  We see the aliens setting off on a peaceful expedition, but the events of the movie CLEARLY depict an aggressive species that initiated hostility and rejected multiple overtures of peace.
  • Moving on to the first season, the Morthren were the only life form in their galaxy... but we've seen that the Synths of Qar'to, introduced in Angel of Death, were from the same solar system.
  • We also learned that the aliens had visited us multiple times in the past, PRIOR to the atomic bombings, in the episodes An Eye for an Eye and The Raising of Lazarus.
  • For that matter, Malzor states that before now it was not in their best interest to eradicate all human life.  Ummm... that was their stated goal since almost the beginning of the series.  I guess that, with only 40 or so of them left, it makes sense to just subtly take over and let humanity do all the legwork for them, but I've always got the sense that they were working towards complete extermination.
  • Ok, MAYBE it's forgivable to have blatant contradictions between season one and season two, since this was done by a new bunch of creative folks, but what about Seft of Emon?  Clearly the Morthrai encountered Seft's people before they learned about humanity, and that was just this season.  And don't try to retcon it away by saying that the Morthren visited the Emon after the humans, since the Morthren are using crystal-based tech in the flashbacks.
  • Finally, a contradiction WITHIN THE EPISODE ITSELF.  Mana seems horrified to be using the Talesian Spores, since lifeforms like those are what wiped out life on Morthrai.  That could be beautiful symmetry, but later on in the same episode we find out that it was sending two expeditions to Earth that destroyed Morthrai.  Boo! 
The setting for the initial test of the spores, and the people they kill, doesn't feel very Almost Tomorrow at all.  I mean, really, it looks like a normal modern metropolis, with no hint of decay or despair.

Mana, unlike Seeto, does not set her weapon to stun and kills at least two of her people.  That's 5% of her ENTIRE RACE.  It's not like the weapons don't have a stun setting.  We JUST saw Seeto use it!

The producers, during the destruction of Morthrai, have Malzor inform Mana that she must pick the few of their race to travel to Earth, and that they'd abandon their history, memory, culture.  They'd become a new race.  This is a very clumsy attempt to, I assume, bridge some of the gap between S1 and S2.  By this point, no one still watching really cares.  The time to do this was somewhere from episode 1 to episode 4 of this season.  Add in all of the many contradictions with S1 that I noted above and it's a very strange exchange that serves no real purpose. 

A nitpick or two.  Why did Kincaid grab a walkie-talkie but then not use it until after he walks into a Morthren ambush?  I mean, there were ample opportunities for action, but that sequence felt forced. Also, is it REALLY plausible that atomic bombs would draw aliens from another GALAXY?  Little fission bombs?  I mean, there are supernovas happening ALL THE TIME with many, many orders of magnitude more power in them. 

The Ugly: The series has always been good for some grotesque imagery, and the series finale doesn't disappoint.  This time it's the death of Malzor.  I rather enjoy the drawn-out nature of his expiration. After all, like some kind of space Nazi Jesus, he's dying to absolve his race of sin.

And there you have it, the final episode of War of the Worlds, the series.  There are some high points, mostly emotional.  There are some low points, mostly around the logic, structure of the plot, and pacing of the episode.  At least we got a satisfactory resolution.  The team gets a happy ending, and the aliens get a shot to live in peace with humanity.  They have to cheat, a lot, to get to that ending, though, which undercuts it greatly.  Still, it could have been worse.  We could have ended on some random episode, or on an open-ended plot point as in Angel of Death.

So, what about season two?  Well... it's no season one.  I think, on the whole, it was a more ambitious and serious undertaking.  Season one was always marred by a tonal dissonance.  On the one hand, there were all these moments of goofy levity, but on the other you had these horrible monsters who seemed to enjoy the acts of torture and mutilation.  So much of the plot made little sense, most especially the frequent references to the events of the 1953 invasion and yet the complete lack of knowledge on the part of the general public about aliens.

Season two corrected many of those problems, crafting an overall more serious and more socially conscious show.  There were more attempts to look at real social problems, and an environment conducive to doing so.  However, to get to that point much of what made season one special was butchered.  I don't just mean the continuity disconnect, either.  Season one, at its best, was about FRIENDS striving against adversity to SAVE the world.  In season two, it's about COMRADES fighting for survival AGAINST a hostile world.  That's a pretty big change.

The second season also suffered from a serious structural problem.  In season one, with the resources of the US government, the team could reasonably be expected to discover alien activity and combat it.  In season two, even though the scope of the problem is localized to a single city, the team is an underground band of rebels.  They have no reliable way to find out about alien activity, and thus perhaps half of the episodes have some horrible contrivance to get things started. 

An aspect where season two did excel was their villains.  As much as I loved The Advocacy, Malzor and Mana were better villains.  You never get to know the Advocacy; they're such ciphers. Sure, watching them complain about humanity was fun, but it was a guilty pleasure. Seeing Forest and Disher every week (and Richings every other week or so) allowed the aliens to grow and change as characters, as impacted by the war as our heroes were.

On the whole, season two benefited from its ambitious premise and managed to tell some great stories. Getting past the abrupt changes from S1 to S2 takes effort, but in my view it's effort worth spending.  I'd rather S2 have been a brand new show, rather than a continuation of S1, but the S2 we got did manage to get some emotional payoffs from the set-up of S1, mostly in terms of the first couple of episodes of the season.  I don't think having S2 diminishes S1; if it REALLY bothers you that much, you can just stop watching at Angel of Death and pretend that that's the end of the series.  Aside from the S1/S2 transition, S2 really is quite a decent little science fiction show.  I dare say that if S2 was its own entity, it would probably have been the better remembered and more influential of the two. 

But what of the series in toto?  Well, sadly, there IS the reality of the S1/S2 tonal and premise shift.  That's a huge structural weakness in the show.  There is almost no synergy between the two seasons; the strengths of one are not the strengths of another.  S1 is fun, enjoyable, light-hearted despite the monsters.  It's almost like a fairy tale, with horrible monsters but at least you always knew your heroes would win in the end.  S2 has so much higher emotional stakes, even though the actual scope of the show was much narrower.  It felt like anyone could die, even the heroes.

Thus, there's little to recommend the series AS A SERIES.  As two separate series, with a strange relationship between them, I'd say yes, it's probably worth watching if you're into that sort of thing.  Black humor and cheesy sci-fi your thing?  Watch S1.  Do you like dystopian tales?  Give S2 a whirl.  That said, I don't regret watching it and analyzing it as thoroughly as I have.  Sure, it has myriad flaws, but both seasons have a ton of heart.  Just about every episode had something that I found praiseworthy, and it was a fun trip down memory lane for me.  I have fond memories of staying up late with my brother and sister and watching this show in the basement on a Friday night, drinking root beer and eating snacks.  I get the show on a whole 'nother level now, but it still works as a frightening story where monsters can be anywhere, anyone, just waiting to grab you.

War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season and War of the Worlds: The Final Season are both available on DVD for your viewing pleasure, easily affordable at  Next week, I turn the Thursday/Friday TV review slot over to my buddy Bish, who has agreed to review all 22 episodes of Space: Above and Beyond.  I hope you're as excited by that prospect as I am.

Finally, and I do mean finally, I hope you enjoyed these 44 reviews, and to my regular commentors I want to say 'thank you.'  I didn't know if ANYONE else remembered the show, and was heartened to find out that so many of you did, and moreover enjoyed reading what I had to say about it.  You guys made this whole endeavor worth it to me.


dysamoria said...

thank you for taking time to give this series an honest, fair review, episode by episode. as you said, i thought mostly no one remembered this series. finding your reviews really made me happy about my memory of the show (and time/brainpower spent on it over the years). i really appreciate your overall impression/recommendations on the series as a whole. you've managed to strike a balance between subjective fandom and objectivity.

i agree that the series is worth watching as two separate (but weirdly connected) sets of series.

maybe your reviews and the DVDs will provide some very late exposure to what good work was done by both creative teams. i think it would be nice to be able to interview the Strangis duo, writers, actors, etc., but i have no idea how to go about doing that (if you have any ideas, or even plan to do something like that, i'd be glued to your blog!). it'd be nice to show the show's creators that it wasn't forgotten (though maybe some wish it was!).

i like everything you said about this finale episode. you summed-up most (if not all) my complaints and added some good positives, too.

i like that you noted the issue of Mana killing her own people (especially when there were so few left) as well as the demonizing of Malzor to the extent that we're supposed to just be "okay" with the atrocities carried out by Mana and the rest. i felt that the conflict between Malzor and Mana was forced, especially in light of how tender Malzor was toward Mana when she was sick in "The Deadliest Disease." true indeed there was always rivalry between them, but this conflict was definitely a way of (clumsily) making Mana accessible to the audience as a sympathetic character. take a season to do that, please. hah... as if..

one bit of ?correction? is that i did not get the impression that the Telesian spores were used on Morthrai (at least, not causing the destruction of Morthrai). this is what i remember (i don't have it here to rewatch):

Mana: There is still some beauty here...
Bayda: Not for long. The humans are self destructive.
Mana: As were we.
Bayda: (?)You not speak of(?) Morthri!!

1. i assumed the comment about the Morthren being self-destructive was in relation to what i read in the WOTW: The Resurrection novelization (industry/technology was responsible for poisoning Mor-Tax, something Xana hoped would be avoided on Earth after they took over and the colonists arrived). i don't believe the flashbacks of Malzor's war plan on Morthrai had happened here yet. After that did happen, i assumed this was what Mana referred to, not to the stuff from the novel or S1.

2. Bayda's line confuses me. i don't know if i have heard it wrong (repeatedly) or if the actor simply choose to say it strangely (or it's a mistake that was kept), especially with her pronunciation of their original home planet... maybe she said "Do not speak of..." as a command.

(this is actually one of the two episodes i remember the most clearly because it is one of only two that i had taped on VHS during original broadcast. so i re-watched them over the years)

... but i did like how she seemed to be chastising Mana for some kind of verbal heresy in referencing Morthrai's destruction (and comparing them to humans). it links with Malzor's "welcome" dialog to an unnamed female Morthren in The Second Wave, as she emerges from the cocoon of the (un-stated in the episode as broadcast) conversion from native form to human form.

i also hadn't gotten the impression that the Eternal was calling for Malzor to step down from leadership, but i honestly cannot remember that scene well. one-way dialog also makes that pretty open to interpretation.

my comment turned out too long, so i'll post this and continue (sorry!)

dysamoria said...

actually, this brings me to a pretty big issue i WILL address, in continuity and concept:

The Eternal Spirit of Morthrai... was rather hands-off this episode. the Eternal was also rather... dethroned as a god. he's rather non-dietic, in his leadership. the Morthren established that the Eternal is their god. Ceeto said "He is everything to us." "The Second Wave" also suggested that it was the Eternal who "cast out" the Mor-Taxans (based on dialog between Malzor and Mana). Keemo is cast out for his "imperfection." Malzor stated "the Eternal demands perfection." So... who's in charge? Malzor? the Eternal? based on the events in this episode, it seems the Eternal is not all-seeing or omnipotent because Malzor had (by this episode's back-pedaling) deceived his people for a very long time after murdering Tallek and destroying Morthrai to send their people to war against Earth (since the "expedition" had already damaged their planet, as seen in flashbacks)... etc. Wow, that's a lot of "self determination" leeway offered by a diety that otherwise appears to be guiding its flock and determining the rules they live by...

there were theories (by fans?) that the Eternal was planned to eventually be revealed as a false god, manipulating the Morthren.. i would love to know if this was indeed the plan. i felt a bit wary of the Eternal since his introduction and reading this suggestion as to his goals/origins felt very right.

interestingly, Bill Sturgeon, who was credited as "Alien Prosthetics By" in S1 and (by Starlog magazine) as creating the aliens native form, is credited in The Second Wave for creation of the Eternal ("The Eternal by Bill Sturgeon"). he's seemingly absent from the rest of the series, so i assume that's why the native form of the aliens in S2 only looks good in that first story. the second sight of the native form in S2 was reused from The Second Wave and the appearance of them in Time to Reap and The Obelisk are very poorly done (suggesting to me that the FX person involved was NOT an animatronics expert, and/or did not have access to the animatronic used in S1 and The Second Wave). i don't know if he's credited for the Eternal in any other episodes where the Eternal appears. blah blah, whatever...

ok, enough nitpicking from me...

the release of WOTW S1 was probably the absolute best thing to have come from the modern WOTW movie (which i still have not seen, though i want to). i actually haven't completely re-watched all of it, but i surely will. i especially will be using those DVDs as visual reference for my 3D modeling experiments... i'm trying to model a Mor-Taxian/Morthren. the fact that season two actually was released on DVD... that's just a mind-bendingly unexpected bonus. it's on my Amazon wish list for (hopefully) imminent purchase by me ;-)

your reviews are greatly appreciated! cheers!

dysamoria said...

PS: i'm very excited to read reviews of Space: Above and Beyond. i only just watched the whole series on DVD late last year. it'll be very interesting to read an episode-by-episode review of the series!

this blog ROCKS!

Jimtron said...

Thanks for your detailed feedback.

What I was referring to when I called a continuity flub about the destruction of Morthrai was the dialogue between Seeto and Mana. Seeto objects to the use of the spores, saying "It was organisms like these that killed our own people. The spore use has always been forbidden." Given what we know of their history, I thought the implication pretty clear that the spores, or something like them, destroyed Morthrai. Later on, though, we learn it was over-industrialization to mount two intergalactic expeditions.

The Eternal... yeah, it's an odd duck. They use him a bit in the beginning, then we don't get to see too much of him.

Actually, I have a private theory/interpretation that resolves some of the continuity flubs here. It's kinda fanwanky, and doesn't belong in the review proper, but...

We're told that the crystal of the obelisk shows the 'truth,' and yet what it shows contradicts much of what we've seen. What if The Eternal decided that the only course of action left was surrender? And yet, after all the Morthren/Mor-Tax have done, would humanity be inclined to treat his flock charitably? Surely not. So, Malzor gets set up to take the fall.

The Obelisk concocts a story designed to turn Malzor's people against him, and warm the Blackwood team up to the aliens. Perhaps it even involves a bit of mind control / rewiring. It works, Malzor takes the blame for everything and Mana can lead what's left of her people into peace with honor.

I don't think that's actually the intent of the producers, mind you, it's just a private little theory/interpretation that I enjoy. It's rather along the same lines as my 'Quinn was inoculated by Malzor in the past' notion.

The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

I feel a bit crestfallen that this is the last episode of War of the Worlds that you will be reviewing. I've thoroughly enjoyed the reviews and you've raised points about the series that I never even considered previously.

Regarding the episode, I do enjoy the acting of Denis Forest and Catherine Disher. And it was great watching Forest come undone in the episode was he remained icy and controlled for the entire season.

The acting aside, there are plenty of problems with this episode. I have a major issue with the severe continuity issues which even for this season, really retconned everything that came before it.

It was established in season one that the aliens have visited Earth for the past 2,000 years. So, the re-writing it where the aliens first notice Earth due to the atomic bomb really made my eyes roll. Also, the fact that they were the only intelligent life in their solar system was also annoying when we know that they are not.

Mana saying Ceto was her son was also troubling. The aliens recognized parenthood? In "My Soul to Keep", the aliens used an ice house to mass incubate their eggs.

I really don't like the fact that the aliens fell due to their own politics (and Debi's gun). Everything that was established in the H.G. Wells novel disappeared completely. It was a very flat ending in my opinion.

There was not enough emotional impact for Harrison as well. These aliens were responsible for killing his parents and now, the remainder of the aliens just kind of shrug their shoulders and say, "Oops. Our fault", and saunter off? Not to mention that the invasion fleet were dubbed an expedition/scientific force in this episode? Horrible continuity.

I loathed the flashback scenes on Morthrai just because of the schmaltzy love story with Tila and Malzor. It was pretty done. I also agree that Bill Sturgeon's alien design was missing in this season as the design has gotten worse and worse in season 2.

In regards to the series as a whole, I can appreciate aspects of season 2. In fact, I've been more forgiving throughout the years. I think the budget and directing were far better in season 2- and I did enjoy some of the episodes. However, my problem with season 2 (of many problems) was the need to make the aliens act like humans. I remember Mancuso saying the aliens in season one were "too alien".

What the hell is "too alien"?

I really liked Catherine Disher as Mana and Julian Richings was great as Ardix, but I never was a big fan of the Morthren. I thought they were weak villains. The Advocacy were formidable foes- and when they had to get their hands dirty, they definitely could be deadly. I always felt Malzor was a wimp after that scene in "The Defector" with Kemo easily defeating him. That would have never happened with the aliens of season one.

I prefer aliens that act well...alien. I loved the strange culture and mannerisms of the Advocacy and the Mor-Tax lot. While the Morthren were far more serious, they were nothing more than Space Nazis to me.

I have loved reading your reviews and look forward to your reviews of Space: Above and Beyond (a favorite of mine). May I recommend you review Millennium one of these days? Very underrated series.

dysamoria said...

Jim, i like your fanwank idea about the Eternal ;-) very interesting idea!

i have to agree with Sultan about (everything, heh) how un-alien the Morthren were. ESPECIALLY at the end. in fact, my original intent was to comment thusly about The Obelisk: "Well, that completes Mancuso's plan to make the aliens into just another set of humans with all the exact same failings..." but i actually forgot once the time came ;-)

i've greatly enjoyed reading all the comments here, too. i feel kind of silly with my bizarre dedication to the series, so it's nice to see other people at least thought about it and it stuck with them in later years (my goodness... later years...!!).

if you're looking for more things to review (heh heh, i'm sure you're quite busy), i especially like the idea of a similar style of reviewing other somewhat lost tv series. the first one that comes to mind is the wonderful Earth 2. i would also find it amusing to see a set of reviews of Earth: Final Conflict, but, beyond the excellent season one (finally out on DVD), and a few other rarely decent episodes after that, i wouldn't want to inflict that show on anyone. i still have yet to finish season 5. i just want to know the end of the story, basically, but i'm a completist... so i can't just look it up or watch the last episode (though, what's left in S5 of EFC to really care about now that i've seen both desperate ratings ploys that were the cheesy return of Boone?).

i'll definitely be hanging around here some more, either way.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Sultan about the series finale, and definitely feel the Mortheren were wimps compared to the Mor-tax of season 1. Malzor and company didn't even try to locate any more of the ships left behind from the original invasion like the Advocacy did. At least the Advocacy knew if they got hold of even one of those ships the balance of power would change dramatically on Earth. I also agree with Jim, but I wanted to bring up one thing you touched upon only briefly. Basically, it was kind of ridiculous to make Malzor the fall guy and the cause of all the "ills" of the aliens. At one point Malzor orders Ardix to release the rest of the spores, and he doesn't. Now, this is what really bothers me. We've seen in the past plenty of times when Ardix relished and enjoyed being a tormentor of humans. For him to just simply relinquish so quickly seemed completely out of character. At many points in this season, I felt that Ardix showed even more malice than Malzor did. One of the reasons why I liked him was because he was just dripping with evil, and Richings played this to the hilt. Yet all of a sudden, in a split second, he's going to give up all his work and try to become a "good" alien? I just didn't buy it. If anything, Ardix should've been killed along with Malzor. I just don't see him switching sides that easily.

Oh, and yeah, didn't you know that all peaceful scientific explorations start out with incinerating the first three guys that come upon you with a white flag? And, back on Morthrai, Malzor says something about the fools who "went before us."'d think he would be a little more respectful toward his dead (which they really weren't) wife since she led the "fools" who went before them! And if he meant the Advocacy, well, once again we must remember that these are the same soldiers from the original invasion!

One final note. I didn't buy the "love scene" between Malzor and his wife at all when they were in their true form. These creatures are hideous, and were created in such a way on purpose, and you're going to show them in a tender moment?? It looked so bizarre, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, forgot something. Another thing you touched upon, the whole Seft of Emon thing. Seeto must be really brainwashed or just completely naiive, because as we saw earlier this season the Morthren invaded her home world purely for the purpose of conquest, and no hint of Malzor loosing a loved one to set it off. If Seeto's people are as peaceful as he claims, why invade and conquer other worlds?

Anonymous said...

in answer to the closing question - yes I am looking forward to reading the reviews of Space:above and beyond. It was another show that at its best was thoroughly enjoyable, and at its worst riddled with continuity nit picks.

Jimtron said...

Sultan, you're spot-on about how human Malzor/Mana were. While I think that they were better VILLAINS than the Advocacy, they were certainly less interesting ALIENS than the Advocacy. One of the S1 strengths was how much the show delved into the alien culture. Sadly, that all gets tossed out the window in S2.

As for the various suggestions for what to review next, Bish thinks that Millennium might possibly be in the cards in the future, though after Space: Above & Beyond, I'll be tackling Max Headroom. I'm not familiar with Earth 2, though. I enjoyed Earth: Final Conflict season one, but just reviewing s1 seems like a cheat and I don't have any desire to watch S2-5. We'll see what shows come up. Space Precinct and Alien Nation are other contenders.

Sinvey said...

Thanks for the great review!

Something to add: I always thought that the line "it was organisms like these that killed our people" was actually referring to the bacteria on Earth killing off the expedition.

The place where they released the spores might also just look less grimdark because it's quadrant 4 and not 7 - society seems to be drastically different depending on where you live (at least this was the impression I got from the episode where the aliens tried to frame the Blackwood team for a bank robbery).

And lastly, as for Mana and Malzor acting too human at the end, I kind of thought this was an ongoing character development that started with the 1st episode of this season; something connected to their exposure to mankind and its culture. They kept on talking about how silly and pitiful humans are, but in the end they didn't even notice how they slowly slipped closer and closer to them with emotions they tried to suppress, first feeling attachment (Malzor curing Mana with the medcell) and then fear (Malzor almost getting killed in the attempt to apprehend the team). Perhaps all of this left some kind of lasting impression, even if the Morthren tried to dismiss it as a weakness.
Ceeto was, of course, part of this development as well, only that it happened even faster for him because he was a child and thus more easily impressionable and less adept (or willing) to hide his feelings/doubts.

For all their individual failings, I still love every season of this great show. They don't have much in common in terms of style, but they all were very fun to watch in their own respective ways.

Joanna Magnolia said...

Hi, JimTron :)

(Looks like I'm a little bit of a latecomer in commenting on this... sorry!)

I second what everyone else has said, and especially about how great it is to see other fans of this show, who, like me, liked it and remember parts of it fondly!

Thank you for doing Season Two (isn't it great that the DVD's came out in time for it?), Your reviews really helped me to be forgiving toward it. After such a 'traumatic' experience at seven-years-old of seeing my fave show get mutated, I think I'm finally at peace with Season Two. I mean, I'll always like the first Harrison better and things like that, but at least I can now enjoy THIS season for its OWN merits. You pointed out a bunch of Good's about the eps that I had never noticed, so that was nice. And just like I was telling you that I appreciated on your reviews of Season One, you kept the reviews full of fan devotion but also made sure to 'tell it like it is' - the combination/balance was absolutely right and made the reviews very pleasant to read. As opposed to the fan-ranting or overly-critical type we're usually subjected to online, lol!

I'm looking forward now to reading your Max Headroom ones. I've been trying to get around to re-watching that series - now I'll have further incentive. It'll be great to watch an ep, read a review, watch the next ep, read the next review... It'll be fun!

Jimtron said...

It's never too late, ThirdBass. I hope that fans of the series like yourself pop in from time to time and share their thoughts. This is kind of my repository of thoughts on the show, and perhaps a place where WotW fans can come together and share their memories and experiences of the show. Glad that I helped you see S2 in a new light.

Ernest Dempsey said...

Saw this show in 1990 when I was 14 and loved it. Bought the first season on DVD. Second season was more dark and more cyberpunk kind. All characters were awesome.

Scott J. Larson said...

Jimtron, thanks so much for doing these reviews. They were great!

Considering all they stuck into this (clearly put together quickly) episode, it was not as bad as it could have been. In 45 minutes they: showed the Morthern homeward (for the first time), gave a reason for the invasion ( "exploration"), showed the 1953 invasion, showed the reason for the planets destruction, referenced the first season ( "I want this tabled at council", "35 Earth years later" and "They fools who came before us") gave equal time to each of the characters, ended the war as satisfactualy as possible, and still managed to have a shock ending, with Debi killing Malzor. Thats a LOT. Personally, I hated this episode. It was really weak ( especially in light of what proceeded it) and spotlighted everything that was wrong with S2: careless continuity for the sake of story.

As a whole I loved the entire series - both seasons for very different reasons S1 for the characters, and S2 for the excitement. I think it's interesting that the strength of one season was the other season's weakness. S1 was fun and the first half of it was absolutely fantastic. Basically everything from The Resurrection to The Second Seal, was pure gold ( Multitude of Idols was my all time favorite). After that, I felt it became more sporadic. Things like Aliens robbing banks was dumb and at the end, the characterizations between Harrison, Ironhorse, Suzanne, and Norton was the only reason to tune in. That being said, I think that S! of WOTW was better put together and more entertaining than the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation ( which I find boring and unwatchable, although I like the series as a whole).

Scott J. Larson said...


I don't think Frank Mancuso JR was the wrong person to take on this series. A lot of his instincts were dead on. However, I think he was a little too ambitious and should have dialed back a bit more. My sense was he felt there was too much talking in the first season and overcompensated for it by explaining little to nothing. If they had taken the "Almost Tomorrow" aspect of it and developed it during the season - starting the Second Wave as more normal and slowly having the environment change as the episodes went on, it probably would have worked better. Instead, we got a completely different looking show. It was too much all at once. They tried very hard to make us love Kincaid, but losing both Ironhorse and Norton really changed the dynamic of the characterizations, which took away the biggest strength of S! ( I personally believe the show would have suffered in this respect even if Norton was the only character to go).Debbies expanded role was great and added to the series. The Aliens were better too. One thing I'd like to point out. Mancuso never said the Aliens in S! were "too alien". He said that watching them was "too distancing for the audience" because none of them had faces or names, they weren't seen and spoke in subtitles. He had a point. Quite frankly, the Morthren were far more "alien" with their organic technology that all related to life. It was weird and goopy. Very interesting to look at and a far cry from a three fingered hand typing on a keyboard ( like in the pilot).

Having a consistent continuity between the seasons would have helped. Changing the name of the planet just opened up a can of worms that didn't need to be opened ( just like no one remembering the 1953 invasion). The name was close enough, just a difference of a couple of letters, but it made the audience question something they didn't need to. The Aliens still could have been called "Morthern" had the planet been called "Mor-tax". It was pure foolishness to change it. For that matter they should have kept the name "Immortal" instead of "Eternal". Again, a foolish move that made a difference to the viewers that was completely needless. It distracted from what was supposed to be the most important thing - an exciting story, which they achieved more often then not.

There are 3 things I would have liked to have seen from this series: A second season with the original production team, A second season the way Mancuso originally envisioned it, with Quinn the main villain, and a season 3 moving forward from the season 2 we got, only without "The Obelisk" as a finale. Any of these would be fun to watch.

J said...

Here in 2023—having begun with the novelization of the pilot when I was a little kid, here I've just finished watching the whole War of the Worlds TV series on DVD and reading every review I could find. What can I say but this: much of it was bad, some of it was good, more of it was batsh*t crazy, and all of it was late-80s to the Nth degree. I'll be thinking about some of its bizarre decisions for a long time. Here's to a strange duck of a TV series, and everyone who worked on it.

J said...

To reply to Sultan of Sarcasm, a few thoughts:

"It was established in season one that the aliens have visited Earth for the past 2,000 years. So, the re-writing it where the aliens first notice Earth due to the atomic bomb really made my eyes roll. Also, the fact that they were the only intelligent life in their solar system was also annoying when we know that they are not.

Mana saying Ceto was her son was also troubling. The aliens recognized parenthood? In "My Soul to Keep", the aliens used an ice house to mass incubate their eggs."

Since the physical aliens of seasons 1 and 2 were basically the same, the series only makes sense if you interpret the Mor-Tax and Morthrai groups to be different factions, nations, ethnic groups, or whatever from the same species. They may have had different languages and different degrees of knowledge about Earth and humankind, possibly even variant motives.

As for them being the only intelligent life in their system, the only way to make sense of this is to figure their definition of life doesn't include whatever a "synth" is. We are left to wonder if they created it and it is a rogue version of an alien experiment or computer.

As for Mana acknowledging Ceeto as her son—to a human, no less—well, it's not so much that she couldn't know this, as they had advanced insight into genetics and so on. It is rather that we expect them not to care. But the aliens told us they didn't care much about that...the same way the alien leader who told us his people are superior because of their emotionless logic is later shown shrieking in rage until covered with sweat. In fact, the aliens in human-like bodies in Season 2 seem to be more and more influenced by their human forms and environment all the time; there are countless examples of them not behaving precisely as ordered or expected. I don't think this is an error; I think it's a major implied premise of Season 2. By abandoning who they were to try to destroy humanity, they have become more like it than they ever intended. Mana is caring about her child, who himself cared about Debi. Malzor wants to use a bioweapon to wipe out humanity when the aliens previously presented themselves as environmentalists angry with how humans were polluting their world...and in the end we are told this is because of his emotions too!

The series is crazy, but some clues to make sense of all this were in there, too, if one is so inclined.

J said...

Oh, and an additional thought to rationalize the alien scout from the past as a continuity problem in the finale:

1. The aliens were later shown to have time travel, so you can explain a lot that way if desired.
2. I don't recall any evidence that this frozen alien had ever been able to report back to his people. He may never even have been intended to end up on Earth.

The 1938 batch of aliens are a little more difficult to explain, but some of the same ideas might apply. Their tech was semi-active and the Advocacy was able to read it and make explanations or plans regarding its presence. This might not have applied to the frozen scout, or escapee/refugee or whatever it was.

While I do subscribe to the idea that the "visions" of the past in the series finale "The Obelisk" were not accurate to the in-universe reality [in fact, they are both overtly manipulative—"translated" for our benefit—and produced *for believers* by a religious artifact!], I am just offering some ways how those elements seemingly problematic in continuity could coexist with what was shown *for the aliens*, at least to the degree that it could paper over some of the actions of the past as from a now-extinct previous alien faction and allow a degree of peace that would let the 40 or so survivors from the "new" faction get by on the imperiled Earth.