War of the Worlds
Starring Leonard Nimoy, Jerry Hardin, Gates McFadden, Dwight Schultz, Armin Shimerman, Brent Spiner, and Wil Wheaton
Adapted by Howard Koch; Directed by John de Lancie
Duration: 1 cassette, 70 minutes
Producer: LA Theatre Works
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien invasion / H.G. Wells / Civilization’s End /
In 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air frightened the American public with its realistic radio version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Authentic sounding radio shows were interrupted by authentic sounding news casts which reported the landing and subsequent chaos caused by several angry aliens in Grover’s Mill, NJ. The story after the broadcast was the chaos caused by folks who thought the fictitious events were really happening, despite the occasional disclaimer. Orson Welles proved to us all, once and for all, that you can’t always believe what you hear.
In 1995, LA Theatre Works recreated this performance, live, directed by John de Lancie. The same script originally used by Welles, written by Howard Koch, is used here. This is not a remake, but a re-creation. The same script, same words, and the same cues are all here, just delivered by different actors.
The idea to gather Star Trek alumni and do this live radio show was John de Lancie’s. While listening, it is interesting to pick out who is who in the show. The production quality is excellent. But, as a fan of the original Welles production, only the performance of Brent Spiner as a crazed survivor stands out as a reason to give this one a listen. The original, imbued with its history and its great performances, is still the one to get.
This re-creation spawned several fine dramatic science fiction recordings led by John de Lancie and Leonard Nimoy under the name Alien Voices, and for that I’m grateful.