The War of the Worlds' to Holst's 'Mars, the Bringer of War - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The War of the Worlds' to Holst's 'Mars, the Bringer of War

Alexander Wallace combines two mediums.
There have been a number of adaptations of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds to audiovisual media. There have been movies and television shows and video games. These have had a variety of musical scores to them, none hugely memorable in my experience. This puzzles me; there is a piece of classical music from the early twentieth century that is just so obviously apropos for The War of the Worlds, but it has never been used in an adaptation thereof. It’s honestly a travesty.

I, of course, refer to the first movement of Gustav Holst’s Planets suite, Mars, the Bringer of War.

Even the title makes it clear. The book is about martians bringing war! It’s obvious!

Like so:

I like this recording by the Vienna Philharmonic the best of any recording I’ve listened to. This particular interpretation has the sheer scale that such a title implies. This is no skirmish; this is total war.

Enough with the pleasantries. Put on that recording and read how I would storyboard such a sequence. It’d be only the first seven or so minutes of the film; the rest would follow your unnamed narrator at Horsell Common onward.

0:00 We start at a space-scape, with the distant stars providing the only light. It is peaceful, perhaps too peaceful, for what it presages. The camera pans down, and a red haze fills the screen. Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, comes into frame.

0:30 You come closer and closer to the Martian landscape. You see the canals that Percival Lowell saw. They flow with water.

0:53 You see in the distance little vertical lines that grow taller and taller and taller. You see them as crystal spires, the monuments of a haughty empire. You see teeming cities abuzz with Martians scampering about like ants in their colonies.

1:23 From massive holes in the ground are launched large cylinders. They are shot into the sky with great violence. The camera enters one of these holes to look at a massive conveyor belt of canisters. Near the back of the line, they are open, and the lumbering tripedal war machines enter them. Were these Martians British, they would wear pith helmets. Were they French, they would wear kepis. They enter their walkers and their pods with the cocksureness of an empire on the march, set on a mision cilivizatrice. They have sent the best they have bred on a mission they believe to be noble and just.

2:14 The cylinders leave the crimson Martian atmosphere. From the skies, when you cannot see the city, they are graceful in the precision of their course. Their paths are elegantly straight lines as they course through the pink sky and then the black void. For the briefest of moments, you forget they are harbingers of doom.

2:49 The camera pans away from them and reveals the destination of this convoy. The blue pearl that is Earth comes into view, and the canisters - now but specks - dot the light of the human homeworld.
3:16 The blue of Earth turns to black. You then see the light of a small fire in a forest. Parents and their children, all in Edwardian costume, gather around in the night, gazing up at the night sky. The children are in awe of the vastness of space, and how all that twinkling like took aeons to get to Earth. For them, the sky is a kind and fascinating place. Then, they see the meteor shower.

3:33 The screen shifts to an observatory. Anxious men crowd around a telescope’s eyepiece. They hold papers filled with calculations. They are all arguing about the meteor shower, which now is filled with shooting stars. They continue to argue until the entirety of Great Britain begins to quake.

4:16 As brass begins to roar, you see the shooting stars ram into Britain. You see London being bombarded by a canister. The screen is filled with smoke as citizens flee. A wide swathe of this crowd is reduced to ashes by a red beam that comes from the smoke cloud. From that cloud emerges one leg, which grips the ground and hauls the tripod’s central component into view. You cut to a whole line of tripods on the hunt, burning anything that moves. It is all the viciousness baked into imperialism being inflicted upon its most brash proponent, done with heat ray and gas. You begin to think that all the pomp of yesteryear will be one with Nineveh and Tyre. As the music begins to shift, you see a passenger ship in the water filled to the brim with people fleeing the devastation. It is beset by three tripods.
5:04 One of the tripods is hit by a projectile. It stumbles. A Royal Navy ship, with the white ensign proudly flying, enters the scene. The camera pans along its hull - it reads Thunder Child. The guns on the Thunder Child keep firing, knocking one tripod into the sea. The tripods respond with gas, which does nothing. The camera cuts to the inside of the ship. These are freemen, not slaves. As they are thrown into this convulsion, it is not theirs to reason why, theirs not to make reply. It is theirs but to do or die!

5:45 Another tripod falls. Thunder Child makes her thrust. The camera cuts away for a bit to show other Britons in their resistance. Artillery guns fire, infantry charge, and tripods stumble. For about half a minute, you feel like there is hope of human victory.

6:10 A beam grazes Thunder Child. It looks like the ship will sink. Before the inevitable, the captain makes his final decision. Thunder Child rams the last tripod, leaving both to sink. The refugee ship makes its escape, leaving only sinking wreckage.

I hope that was enjoyable. I think this would be an interesting way to start a properly faithful film adaptation of the book, particularly one with Thunder Child.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

Images by Henrique Alvim Correa sourced from public domain.

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