If so, it’s presumably divine. The spectre of God hangs vaguely over proceedings, despite Ogilvy being a man of science and the first one to take seriously Amy’s theory that maybe it is microscopic life forms that are killing off the three-legged, flesh-eating Martians – and they really are well-realised monsters – rather than any human efforts.
That comes straight from Wells, of course. “There are no bacteria in Mars,” he wrote, “and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow.”
In the eight-part French-Anglo co-production on SBS, God is nowhere to be seen – except, perhaps, in Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, a song beamed into space and enticing enough to lure the intelligent life forms we’ve long sought to come down and wipe us out. “I don’t believe in an interventionist God,” croons the son of a preacher man. But looking at the mechanical dogs of war sent to destroy us, you wonder if he should.
By episode five, which is as far as I have been able to watch, the motivation of these invaders remains obscure but their MO is slowly being revealed. The robotic creatures that roam the streets mopping up stray survivors of the electro-magnetic pulse that wiped out most humans are in fact partly organic. But as Gabriel Byrne’s neuroscientist Bill Ward wryly notes, “They’re the monkeys, not the organ grinder.” We’re still waiting to see who or what is pulling the strings, and to what end.
This present-day War of the Worlds flips back and forth between a deserted London, streets strewn with corpses and abandoned cars, and the French Alps, where astronomer Catherine (Lea Drucker) is the first to detect the signal emanating from space that announces the imminent arrival of our alien overlords.
Regardless of where it is, though, the vibe is very much The Walking Dead, with small groups of survivors attempting to comprehend the disaster that has befallen them, to work out the rules of this new world and to stay alive long enough to forge some kind of viable resistance.
And like The Walking Dead, you suspect it could go on for a while; a season two was planned before COVID-19 invaded our real world.
Normal People‘s Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Emily, a young woman whose blindness appears to put her on the same audio wavelength as the invaders. Understanding, though, remains elusive. The psychically disturbed French teen Sacha (Mathieu Torloting) appears to have some connection too.
Just our luck that the fate of humanity should rest with a couple of surly teenagers. Still, given our luck with viruses lately, perhaps it’s for the best.
War of the Worlds is on SBS from July 9 at 8.30pm; The War of the Worlds is on Foxtel on demand.