To Life Immortal!

Flashback: 1988.  I
think it was Alan Dean Foster who wrote this terrific comeback novel for the War of the Worlds Martians, under orders
of the wicked television producers of course.
In the lonely sci-fi world of the 80’s, before fat people and ugly women
everywhere fully embraced The Next Generation, there was quite a buzz about
something…new.  TNG hit in 87 and, much
to everyone’s surprise, it was a success.
The cyclical world of TV sci-fi was coming into a new phase.  How much more daring can you get than to produce
a religious-oriented TV series based on the 1953 version of War of the Worlds? Foster’s novel hit
about six months before the series and pitiful geeks like me sucked it off the
shelves and ran screaming over to the jellybean and 78 ounce coca-cola store to
read the thing before moving on to the latest Grue comic. Weird commercials
with hands bursting out of shadows and the woo-woo-woo hum of the Martian
battleships and the suckered alien hand enveloping the earth had started to
crop up here and there.  The invasion
begins in 1,965 days.  Oh, countdown
commercials!  They went on for
months.  The invasion begins in X days…
Down, down, down until (and, by then, we’d all read the cool book), the
invasion begins…tonight!  Fuckers!

The book rocked.  All
of the alien corpses from the 1953 George Pal invasion were stuffed in barrels
and hidden away at various nuclear waste dumps.
Their battle machines, a mystery to the government, were broken up and put
in Raiders of the Lost Ark-style warehouses, along with various other sci-fi
equipment recovered from the invasion.

Then , one fine day in 1988,
a group of terrorists head out to a nuke dump with the idea of retrieving
the waste and using it to terrorize US cities with what I guess would be dirty
bombs (not very 1988, is it?).  In the
ensuing gun battle with the guards, a few of the waste barrels get machine
gunned.  This is all the Martians need to
revive themselves and escape.

Turns out that the nuclear waste has destroyed the germs
that killed them, see?  So as long as
they keep themselves fully irradiated, the Martians will be able to
survive.  This means that they need to
constantly smear themselves with horrible goo.

Using another clever trick, they are also able to crawl
inside the skin of the dying human terrorists and use them to escape back to
civilization where they begin a new mission — freeing the other Martians
scattered around the world, retrieving their battle machines and getting back
into the invasion business.  (The pilot
episode enjoys scantily clad, mousy terrorist girls and, best of all, a Martian
battle machine rising from a buried bunker and zapping the fuck out of
everything until our heroes figure out that it can be destroyed with spitballs
and tin cans.  Drat, foiled again by
those pesky humans!)

Headed by a triumvirate called “The Advocacy,” the
Martians establish contact with Mars and get new orders from the super-duper
Martian leader.  In the book, Foster goes
into detail about the social status of the surviving Martians and builds some
storylines undeveloped in the series where the warrior class, which answers to
the scientist class, are pretty goddamned pissed off about the failed invasion
and want to go rogue.  The Advocacy, in
the book, are under fire from within and without, their power seemingly usurped
by a shadow-Advocacy of Martian army officers.

In the series, they’re all just standard bad guy aliens who
hatch a plan and fail in every episode.

Representing the Human race is Clayton Forrester, played by
Jared Martin.  Forrester is the nephew of
the main girl in the 53 film and remains
scarred by the invasion, which he witnessed as a child. Ann Robinson reprises
her movie role as the now-crazy Sylvia van Buren.  Can you do better than that?  Set up a TV series and get as many of the
surviving stars from the 1953 film as possible?

Forrester, living with this broken past, is a top astrophysicist
at poopy-pants university.  Thanks to
this show, I entered high school with plans to become an astrophysicist and
took really hard math classes, which broke my soul and ruined my life forever. Forrester
is recruited by a Cherokee colonel in the employ of the secrety secret US
government.  So we get our space
scientist, our tough guy Indian, a super computer hacker and bombshell
biologist Brunette Boobs together at a big mansion that’s sort of like the
M.A.S.K. headquarters.  A secret battle
between this crack team of Martian hunters and the evil aliens rages on while
you and you and you go about your daily lives, unaware that a second terrible
invasion is coming.

Inexplicably, the populace has forgotten that the cities
were all destroyed in 1953.  That would
be okay if the series was something of a reboot, but they do go ahead and admit
that the 1953 invasion nearly wiped us out.
So…okay.  I’ll accept these idiot
fucking flaws in the poorly constructed scripts that were written by a team of
gerbils on PCP with pens stuck up their asses because, still, it’s a pretty fun
series.  At first.

Season two.  Let’s
call this the Rape of a Somewhat Promising Series.  All of a sudden, we flash forward 10 years to
the apocalypse, kill half the cast (without showing how they died!), replace
the Martians with Star Wars bad guys in tight grey jumpsuits and…I don’t
know.  Not a single scene in all of
season two is memorable in the least.

So while I was sitting there thinking, oh, god I just missed
nine seasons, I’m blown out of my chair when the new Martians take the beloved
comic relief of the Advocacy, burn them alive, and then turn to the camera like
in a really bad street performance and say, “We are the new rullaaarz!”  Right, then.
Okay.  No, wait – what?

Space: 1999 did the same thing.  Season two:
All of the main characters are dead, and we’ll just act natural.  Keep going, don’t mention anything.  Martin Landau’s still there, right?  No problem. Oh, and we fired every script
editor and replaced them with…nine year old children.  Angry yet?
We’ll cool you down with a scantily clad alien that can change into
animals to save the day.  Except she
changes into mice and sparrows and gets in even more trouble than the person
she’s trying to save.  Roll film! I won’t
even mention Galactica: 1980.  What’s with low budget sci-fi shows and their
second seasons?  Hey guys, you got a
second season because we liked the first season.  We would actually want more of that, not a plotline
set 60 years in the future starring puppet versions of your daughter’s My
Little Ponies.

The Advocacy walked around in these wild radiation suits,
issuing shrill orders to clumsy soldiers who inhabited the bodies of bikers and
bums and evil Wall Street brokers, the radiation eating away at the skin and
slime pouring out of the holes.  Fierce
devotees of the “Morthern Deity,” the head boss on Mars, they’d throw
themselves into battle against our clever heroes, fail miserably, get blown up
by A-Team like gadgets pieced together by Jared Martin, and yell out “To
Life Immortal!” as their greeting (always a giveaway that the guy with the
rotting flesh and questionable agenda sitting next to you at the bar may not be
what he seems).

The second season aliens killed them all within about 90
seconds.  Cut to our heroes and it’s just
Jared Martin and Brunette Boobs who have survived…something that isn’t being
explained.  Roll film!  Seriously, can we, at least, get a little
narration telling us what happened?

The show was what we call a “gateway drug.”  I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have
ever watched Highlander: The Series if not for War of the Worlds.  Philip Akin (he’s our token black man) also
played the token black man in Highlander.  Adrian Paul, who helped to ruin the second
season as a replacement for our Cherokee tough guy, went on to become the Highlander
himself.

Then there was Forever Knight.  Any young teenager watching Catherine Disher
slink around in her polyester jumpsuit in season two just had to go on to that
show where she played the kindly doctor helping Nick Knight recover from
vampirism.

With season one due on DVD in November, I can brush off my
loose-fitting radiation suit.  Then I’ll
set up jerry-rigged, retro-fitted Martian technology in an old LA warehouse,
summon the Morthern Deity, and scream “To Life Immortal!” whenever it tells me
I must defeat the small group of poor actors selected by the US government to
fight against my superior force of highly irradiated Martian soldiers with
their small cache of laser guns and their fierce, suicidal devotion to my
orders.  I’ll watch my boys get fucked
over by an egghead and a washed-up Indian armed with a jar of ammonia, a pistol
and a really fast jeep.

Wait, says the Morthern Deity.  We leveled the cities in 1953.  What’s the matter?  Do we need to have an all-staff meeting and
review some bullet points here?

———-
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