Last Updated on June 11, 2023

The Edwardian era aliens are coming!

The BBC adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is the first version to reflect the book’s period setting in England: though the English author wrote, and set, his science fiction novel about a Martian attack on England in the last years of the nineteenth century, previous screen and television adaptations have shifted the scene to contemporary America.

The War of the Worlds, courtesy Mammoth Screen

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Here’s what we know about the new British period drama series. Watch the trailer below.

Update: At the time of this writing, “The War of the Worlds” (2019) is now available to stream for free with ads. See the bottom of the page and use the “AVAILABLE to STREAM” link to start watching.

The three-part television mini-series will star Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall (Desperate Romantics), Robert Carlyle (Angela’s Ashes) and Rupert Graves (The Forsyte Saga).

In what BBC commissioning editor Tommy Bulfin calls a “faithful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ legendary story,” Tomlinson plays Amy, a woman trying to start a life with George (Spall) despite societal prejudice against the bond. “The War of the Worlds” tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.

The British adaptation of “The War of the Worlds” is being directed by Craig Viveiros (And Then There Were None). Eleanor Tomlinson said she’s long been a fan of his work, and because of that “creating this world with him at the helm is very exciting.”

George’s elder brother Frederick is played by Rupert Graves, and Carlyle is cast in the role of astronomer-scientist Ogilvy. In 2016, Graves starred as entomologist Dr. Hapley in “The Moth,” part of The Nightmare Worlds of H.G. Wells, a collection of the lessor known short stories written by the sci-fi author.

Peter Harness (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) who wrote the screenplay said: “The version of ‘The War of the Worlds’ that I wanted to make is one that’s faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book, but which also feels contemporary, surprising and full of shocks: a collision of sci-fi, period drama and horror. There is nothing cozy or predictable about Wells’ novel, and that’s what I want to capture in the show. We have an incredible cast, a brilliant director and a wonderful crew – and I can’t wait for them to explode the terrifying story of the first alien invasion on to our screens.” It’s not clear why Harness chose to move the action from the Victorian era to the Edwardian. 

Period drama fans can expect the highest production values from “The War of the Worlds”: the cinematographer is James Friend BSC (Victoria, Endeavour), and the award-winning design team includes production designer Pat Campbell (Rillington Place, The Living and the Dead, Wolf Hall, The Mill, The Making of a Lady and PBS Masterpiece’s The Turn of the Screw). The costume designer is Howard Burden (Poldark, Home Fires, The War Bride) and the make-up designer is Vickie Lang (Lark Rise to Candleford). That’s quite the team!

H.G. Wells is considered one of the greatest science fiction minds of modern literature, and his convincing story caused panic across America in 1938 when The Mercury Theater company updated The War of the Worlds for national radio. It is estimated that millions of listeners thought an actual Martian invasion of Earth was underway (though those numbers have recently fallen into question).

“The War of the Worlds” is AVAILABLE to STREAM

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out The Period Films List. You’ll especially like the Best Period Dramas: Edwardian Era List. Also see Mammoth Screen is Producing Pride and Prejudice