The War of the Worlds, episode 2 review - more soppy domestic drama than sci-fi thriller

Anita Singh
Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) and Frederick (Rupert Graves) look aghast at the Martian threat - 2
Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) and Frederick (Rupert Graves) look aghast at the Martian threat - 2

By a quirk of scheduling, the same actor appears in both The War of the Worlds and His Dark Materials on BBC One tonight. In the latter, Harry Melling played an official running the port of Trollesund. In the former he was a soldier who wore the haunted expression both of a man who had just seen his comrades eviscerated by Martians, and one who had realised he was stuck in this BBC stinker.

“Based on the novel by HG Wells”,  it said in the credits, but Wells never wrote the soppy domestic drama between George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) that this adaptation seems to think is much more important than the alien invasion. You might have expected the Secretary to the Minister for War (Rupert Graves) to be preoccupied by the giant Martian tripods decimating London. Instead, as those tripods loomed over him, he stopped to give Amy a lecture on the fact she was pregnant out of wedlock, while she wailed: “Is this the wages of our sin?”

George spent the episode deploying his full range of emotions: looking slightly miserable, quite miserable and a bit upset. He dodged some low-budget heat rays, legged it from the scene of trouble, and picked up a random child on his travels who wisely decided to ignore him.

George (Rafe Spall) looked rather lost - Credit: Matt Squire/Mammoth Screen
George (Rafe Spall) looked rather lost Credit: Matt Squire/Mammoth Screen

Amy, despite not being able to vote, was attending Cabinet meetings and telling the ministers what was what. The anti-British Empire message was repeatedly driven home. Instead of being frightened by the invasion, the Minister for War saw it as an opportunity for expansion: “Our object has been to take as much of the world as possible, but if we can go up there – an Empire beyond the Earth!”

Then we had all those flash-forwards to an Earth consumed by red dust. Amy couldn’t have seen a bottle of shampoo for some time but her hair still looked delightful. Her little boy avidly read a comic which someone had found the time to make despite the collapse of human civilisation. It’s hard to know what would be more torturous – surviving in a post-apocalyptic landscape or slogging through another episode of this.