The British Broadcasting Corporation, like many television networks, has been on a roll lately, thanks to shows like Line of Duty, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock, and the indomitable Doctor Who. Yesterday, it announced a hefty slate of new limited-series dramas to continue and accelerate that roll:
- A new adaptation of Little Women;
- A new version of nuns-in-Nepal novel Black Narcissus, most famous in film circles for its Powell/Pressburger adaptation;
- A three-part drama called A Very English Scandal, written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, based on the sex scandal and murder trial surrounding former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe;
- A new adaptation of The War of the Worlds by Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell writer Peter Harness;
- The first-ever adaptation of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, one of the longest novels ever published in English;
- A series entitled The Wilsons that will see Ruth Wilson play her own grandmother in a strange, true story involving MI6 agents and undisclosed marriages;
- New original dramas entitled Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame), Informer, Come Home, Summer of Rockets, and Overshadowed.
Of most interest to readers of this site will undoubtedly be The War of the Worlds. Not a huge amount is known about this particular take, but what we do know is promising. It will be told in three parts; it will begin filming in early 2018; it will be set in the book’s original location of Dorking, Surrey, England; and it will take place its original Victorian time period. Says writer Peter Harness:
I'm feeling phenomenally lucky to be writing The War Of The Worlds, and blowing up gigantic swathes of the home counties at the dawn of the 20th Century. Wells' book is ground zero for all modern science fiction, and like all the best sci-fi, manages to sneak in some pretty astonishing comments on what it is to be a human being too. I'm hoping to follow in the great man's footsteps by making a terrifying, Martian-packed series which manages to be emotional, characterful, and - deep breath, dare I say it - even political at the same time.
Most adaptations of War of the Worlds, of course, have been set in the present day (at the time of production). Most have been set outside the United Kingdom (in the country of production). Those adaptations have met with varying results, with Steven Spielberg’s probably the most successful in capturing the unique anxieties of its transplanted setting, but few been “faithful” to the 1897 original. Even Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation, which is set in Victorian England, contains prog-rock music that is wholly inappropriate to the era. Shame on you, Jeff Wayne.
Keen for another roll in the red weed with some Tripods - in Victoria's England, this time? Has the story been played out too many times, or is a return to its roots a paradoxically fresh way to do it? What say you?