Category Archives: War of the Worlds

Review and analysis of adaptations of HG Wells’s “The War of the Worlds”

Deep Ice: I thought you’d surely burned (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 2)

Previously on A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

I mean, the first half of War of the Worlds happened. You know the drill. There’s a very minor reordering of events so that the Curate can tell George about the Thunderchild incident. The curate is another kinda freaky character model, looking like he’s about one third Peter Lorre.

George has been incapacitated for days since the attack at Weybridge, and there’s a detail here which I’ve never seen in any other adaptation, though it’s implied in the book: after his near-scalding in the river, George’s face is badly burnt, and he’s pocked with blisters for the rest of the comic, even having what I think are visible scars in the epilogue.

The Curate’s breakdown isn’t as profound as in some versions, though he does go all gloom and doom, referencing Sodom and Gomorrah. Edginton retains that wonderful line where the narrator admonishes him as, “What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?”

Also kinda looks like Hyrule’s nerdiest Goron

It is from the Curate that George hears about the black smoke, before a sadly abbreviated version of the Thunderchild incident, told as just four or five red-tinted panels showing Thunderchild “smiting” one fighting machine before the “inevitable” outcome.

Ahem, it’s, “Standing firm between them,” thank you very much.

After being trapped in the collapsed house and witnessing the Martians feed, when the Curate decides he has to go “witness” to the Martians, George incapacitates him with a broken piece of lath rather than the flat of a knife, but the scene plays out otherwise the same as always. 

This is possibly the only adaptation I can think of that includes — and more, gives us a look at — the embankment machine, and even leaves in a note explaining that the machine is unpiloted.

One decision I find kinda odd is that they never actually say anything about the red weed. It’s there, as a kind of thick spaghetti ground cover, but the dialogue never brings it up.

Also, maybe just the tiniest bit phallic. George wanders through the depopulated town, lucking into finding some edible root vegetables in someone’s abandoned garden.  I really dig his self-satisfied look as he walks on with an armload of tubers.

I get a bit of a Don Quixote vibe from the windmill in the background.

The artilleryman is okay in this version. Not too distinctive. I don’t really get the sense that George is ever taken in by his “strange charisma” in this version, and is just going along with him out of desperation. Like, when the Artillerman tells the story of the people left behind in London partying in the streets the night before the Martians took the city, it occurs to George to question how he could know about it. Also, like George, the Artilleryman has gained a prominent scar, though given that his is from a cut, I wonder that it might have been from a human adversary over custody of that sword.

The Artilleryman tells George about the Martians developing a flying machine, but also adds in the idea that the Martians are building themselves an entire city, which I assume is to set something up for Scarlet Traces.

Nice visual homage to the Al Nozaki war machine, though in more of a Robinson Crusoe on Mars configuration.

One of the places where Edginton and D’Israeli get to expand on the original novel without changing anything is the way that they illustrate the Artilleryman’s thoughts. Like, there’s two panels illustrating the Artilleryman’s contempt toward what a modern telling would have him call “sheeple” in the form of a ersatz clone army.

“And then one particular cloning machine got badly out of sync with itself. Asked to produce six copies of a wonderfully talented and attractive girl called Lintilla for a Brantisvogon escort agency, whilst another machine was busy creating five hundred lonely business executives in order to keep the laws of supply and demand operating profitably, the machine went to work…” — The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


And this wonderful vision of the Artilleryman’s underground city, which is just about the most Victorian thing I’ve ever seen.

The underground city is really cool. It’s not just simple steampunk, but reminds me a lot of images of imagined super-highways-of-the-future from 1950s futurism, but with a more Victorian flavor that calls to mind, say, the Burlington Arcade.

But the jewel of this collection is the illustration of a fighting machine operated by, “Men who’ve learnt the way how!”

We’ve seen human-made tripods before, of course. But I guess it never really occurred to me that this would be what the Artilleryman was talking about, rather than humans simply stealing Martian Tripods.

Who’s a good doggie?

George slips out while the Artilleryman is asleep and makes his way into Dead London proper. There’s a few very evocative panels of the dead or dying, including a woman who, I assume, reminds George of his wife, prompting his suicidal charge at the Martians. But there’s also a number of panels that try to convey the scope of the human tragedy by just piling the streets with vaguely-sketched gray corpses, ash-covered victims of a smoke attack.

When the Martian tripod refuses to oblige George by killing him, he discovers the occupant dead, and as he runs off in his joy, he suddenly crests the edge of a crater — the geography gets a little sketchy here, since he’s presumably at a cylinder impact site in the middle of London, but we can’t actually see any London in the background — and finds the half-built Martian city.

He also gets to see the partially-built flying machine. I’m guessing the Martian city and flying machine are relevant to Scarlet Traces, since we dwell on it more than I think any other adaptation has.

Edginton has the narrator work out the Martians’ cause of death right on the spot, rather than it being presented as the best guess of scientists after the fact. It helps with the pacing some. I just love George’s goofy look of joy here. He becomes hysterical at the idea and eventually blacks out from it, awakening days later in the home of some locals who’ve taken him in. I think the family is meant to be Jewish — the man looks like he’s wearing payot and and kippah, but he’s drawn small and in dark panels so I’m not sure. I’m curious whether this family turns up in Scarlet Traces.

George takes the news of the destruction of Leatherhead oddly in stride. Upon hearing that “hardly anyone” escaped, he says only, “Ah, I see. Then I shall return home to Woking and whatever’s left there.” And indeed, he seems more sort of resigned than distraught when he returns home, pours himself a drink, and looks wistfully at a picture of his presumed-dead wife. You know, we’ve seen a few adaptations which use the protagonist’s desire to reunite with his family as the proximate motivation behind his actions. The Asylum had their George trek across Virginia to find his wife and son. Jeff Wayne’s version too has the Journalist driven by the hope of finding Carrie. But in the original novel, the narrator is almost bizarrely ambivalent about finding his wife. He spends a good chunk of the story heading for London for no clear reason, when he last saw his wife in Leatherhead and has no reason to think she’d left. I’ve got an adaptation coming up — if I can make it all the way through it — that actually makes something of that.

A young Sir Toppum Hat declares a salvaged Tripod “Very Useful”.

But George and his wife are indeed reunited and a few panels show humanity rebuilding. It says nothing specific about salvaging the Martian technology, though we do have a panel I think is meant to imply it. George mentions the possibility of man exploring space one day, though in the compressed storytelling format of the comic, this seems oddly placed, coming immediately after he speaks of his lingering emotional scars. And his scars aren’t only emotional. The final panels find George and Catherine paying a sombre visit to a tripod erected as a monument in a park. Though his burns have healed, George still bears severe scarring from them.

He also seems to have inherited his late weird-eyed neighbor’s hat.

The Dark Horse version of War of the Worlds is a very good graphical adaptation of the story. If you’re looking to just get the original novel in comic book form, it covers all the bases without really adding much of its own. But it does a good job of adapting the style and pacing of the narrative. Adapting literature to serial art isn’t necessarily a straightforward process, especially one like War of the Worlds where a lot of the drama comes in the form of long periods of fearful waiting. The art for anything Martian is fantastic. It’s otherworldly yet recognizable. And I just love the pumpkin thing the tripods have going on.

The other part I really like is the artilleryman’s musings. I’ve often said that it’s a big deal for me how the artilleryman is handled, and it’s interesting here that the narrative very straightforwardly makes the right choice of being very clear that the artillerman is kinda useless and wrong, but the matter seems largely irrelevant to the art. The art isn’t in tension with the narration here, but rather, the art is entirely focused on his dreams, while the narrative covers his abilities, and the gulf between them is left largely for the reader to discern. So we get these wonderful panels not just of the artilleryman’s brave new world, but also of these clone armies of praying priests and toiling salarymen to represent the artilleryman’s contempt for the masses.

Ordinary human characters are… Weird. In many cases, so weird that I assume it’s deliberate. The curate has this squished quality to him, and George’s neighbor looks like he was left out in the sun too long. George himself sports burn blisters for most of the story, which is a real nice touch. On the other hand, there’s so much variation in his character model that I’d have a hard time telling it was meant to be the same person if there were more than the one character who appears throughout the book. Maybe this is trying to show him becoming increasingly injured and broken by his ordeal, but it doesn’t work for me.

All the same, I really like the art. The thick lines keep the panels easy to understand even when they get crowded, and it somehow manages to seem very bright despite a palette heavy in browns and dark reds. And though there’s a minimalism to the range of colors used, the use of light and shadow really comes through well. I’d say it has a sort of cel shaded look, but I know that’s basically explaining it backwards.

I liked this, and I’m looking forward to Scarlet Traces to see how Edginton and D’Israeli use these techniques in more original material.

  • Dark Horse’s War of the Worlds is available from amazon.

Deep Ice: They don’t die pretty (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 1)

It is May 2, 2006. I’m working on building a cat condo for Leah’s cat. Louis Reukeyser, host of Wall $treet Week (How I pray that some day when she gets too old to be cool, Ke$ha discovers a hidden talent for economics and takes over that show), dies. Puerto Rico is forced to close their Department of Education due to an ongoing budget crisis, but I’m sure they’ll turn it around. Silvio Berlusconi resigns as the Prime Minister of Italy, to spend more time with, I assume, sex workers. Surely, he will never be heard from again. Bjoern Hoen, Petter Tharaldsen, and Petter Rosenvinge are sentenced to seven, eight, and four years in prison for their roles in the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna. The paintings will be recovered in August. This week also sees the Great American Boycott, also known as the “Day Without an Immigrant”, a protest by US immigrants against the broken and frequently racist immigration policies in the United States. I’m sure that’ll get sorted out soon too.

Well, this has been kind of a bummer. Let’s look to the world of entertainment… Doctor Who wins the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama this week. Saturday, it’ll air “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Steven Moffat tearjerker in which the Doctor romances Madame du Pompadour in 18th century France, but is unable to adopt her as a traveling companion because a faulty time window has him show up after her death. This past Saturday gave us “School Reuinion”, the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The episode would lead to Sladen being given her own spin-off, which would run for five seasons until… Well fuck. Every damn piece of news this week has ominous foreshadowing, and I haven’t even mentioned that this is the week 7th Heaven airs its series finale (Then goes on to get renewed anyway because we don’t yet know about Stephen Collins).

Madeline Albright is Jon Stewart’s guest tonight. Paul Reikoff is Stephen Colbert’s. We’re approaching the Police Procedural Event Horizon, with three CSIs, four Law & Orders, and the first of the NCISes. Power Rangers Mystic Force is off this week, returning next Monday with “The Gatekeeper, Part 1”, an episode in which the actual rangers themselves are tangential at best, a frequent weakness of this season, with its unusually large supporting cast. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse premiers this week, reuniting classic Disney characters in banal, toddler-friendly adventures as creepy, soulless CGI constructs, and forcing parents to learn something called the “Hot Dog Dance”. Mission Impossible III is out in theaters this week. Goodfellas comes on on HD-DVD.

Almost two thousand guitarists converge in Poland to simultaneously play Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, setting a Guiness world record. Pearl Jam releases the Avocado album. “Bad Day” is the top song on the Billboard charts.

I’m not overly literate when it comes to comics. I never really got past the fact that in terms of minutes-of-entertainment per unit cost, comics fall somewhere between hard drugs and sex workers. But I’m not disinterested. I’ve watched every episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, and studiously never bothered to read my copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

The upshot of all of this is that my knowledge and background into comics is sort of haphazard and lackadaisical. Which is how I ended up with a copy of the Dark Horse adaptation of War of the Worlds. Because, although this comic is just a very straightforward, very direct adaptation of the novel, it’s also something else: it’s a prequel to Edginton and D’Israeli’s 2002 series Scarlet Traces, about the imperialistic ambitions of an early 20th-century England, bolstered by reverse-engineered Martian technology. Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds was published a few months before Scarlet Traces‘s direct sequel, The Great Game, with a fourth series, The Cold War being published a decade later. And I will probably get to those eventually, but it turns out that I’ve got a ton of these comics to get through, and I haven’t worked out what the minimum number of things I have to buy to get the whole thing.

Oh, and remember Pendragon? The folks who put out one of the most painful adaptations I’ve tried to fight through? Well, right after this adaptation came out, they took a stab at insinuating that Dark Horse had ripped them off, putting up a poll on their website comparing art designs from their “movie” to the comic. This was eventually settled, with Pendragon posting an apology on their website for giving the impression that they thought Dark Horse had ripped them off just because they pretty much said exactly that.

So with the ringing endorsement of having been accused of looking too much like a shockingly cheap-looking film, how’s Dark Horse’s adaptation? S’okay. It sticks close to the novel, despite being deliberately positioned to lead into Scarlet Traces. If there are direct references to Scarlet Traces, they’re subtle and don’t really change anything from the book. But I think it makes an interesting contrast to the Saddleback version in how it translates the story to the less verbose style of sequential art. And I find the art style cool in a lot of places, and… interestingly weird in others. So let’s take a look…

I like the art style here. It’s kind of a medium between the oddly over-detailed look we saw in the Saddleback version and the old-timey simplified style of the retro-Superman story. There’s also something unusual about the use of color that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. It’s a limited palette with a small number of colors and exaggerated contrasts, but it doesn’t have the same harsh flatness of most comic art. Something like a pop art chiaroscuro that has a bit of an art deco quality to it.

It’s good to see the AskJeeves logo guy get work these days.

Whenever space is shown, even the night’s sky, it has this reddish nebula effect on it. It livens up panels which would otherwise have a lot of empty blackness. And if it sometimes seems a little excessive, at least it’s clear that D’Israeli has actually seen the night sky before, which gives him a leg up on both Pendragon and whoever did the covers for Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II.

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Deep Ice: Cut across their lines of magnetic force (Elseworlds: Superman vs The War of the Worlds, concluded)



Clark wakes up weeks later to find himself a Martian prisoner. He finds himself restrained inside a Martian prison camp, where Lex Luthor is conveniently present to deliver some exposition. Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt and the British royal family have all been killed by the Martians, who have completely conquered the Earth.

Predictably, Luthor has sold out, offering his services to the Martians in exchange for his life. Despite their victory, the Martians are dying. Luthor quotes Wells, but also gives their affliction the cute nickname “Earth Flu”. Of course, the logic here is a little dicey; Luthor’s agreed to serve as the Local Knowledge for the invaders, helping them cure the Earth Flu, because he reckons the human race is finished and working for the invaders is his only chance. But… He also knows that the Martians are dying. So… Wouldn’t it make more sense to just, like, not help them? You’ve got to figure that Luthor would stand more to gain by making a grab for power as humanity tries to rebuild after the Martians are defeated than he would as a Martian Quisling. Even if he’s focused on his short-term survival here, there’s no hint that he’s planning to double-cross the Martians, and he is earnestly working on the cure. The only hint we get is, admittedly, a nice one: it’s a challenging scientific problem, so perhaps it’s imply his vanity pushing him to prove he can hold his own against these otherworldly intellects.

I have an irrational love of this image of Luthor Dope-Slapping himself.

Luthor has Lois brought to them, not for any clear reason, and asks Clark about his extraterrestrial origins. Because of the golden-age setting, Clark knows nothing about it, but easily admits that, yeah, he might well be an alien, having been found as a baby in a crashed rocket. When Lois mentions that the Martians in the lab are the only ones she’s seen that aren’t afflicted by disease, Luthor realizes that Kent’s alien immune system is protecting the Martians. We get the comic’s one and only use of the word “Superman” when Luthor compares Kent to a Nietzschean ubermensch, a comparison which doesn’t actually hold water since Kent’s value system is pretty staunchly opposed to Nietzsche’s, but I don’t consider that a writing flaw since pretty much everyone badly misunderstands Nietzsche and the ubermensch.


Lois is predictably horrified by Luthor’s villainy, and rejects his amorous advances, though Luthor takes it in stride. Within a few hours, he’s isolated Kent’s antibodies and developed a cure for the Martians… Whereupon they suddenly but inevitably betray him, as he is of no further use to them. Lois saves Luthor by stabbing the attacking Martian, and Luthor, declaring himself to have been “temporarily mad” to have sided with the invaders, frees Kent just in time to beat the crap out of more Martians, telepathically summoned to assist.

Okay, I’ll take destiny into my own hands. Just so long as you don’t expect me to spell “Clark” with an “S”

Escaping the lab, Clark dispatches the Martians to whom Luthor had given the cure, hoping they haven’t yet telepathically communicating it to the others. He also frees the humans imprisoned in the camp, pausing to explain about the S on his shirt to a bystander whose most pressing concern is why he spells “Clark” with an “S”. They also pause for Luthor to reflect on the humans who refuse to flee, preferring to be “tended to” as livestock than to take control of their own fate — way closer to Nietzsche than anything to do with Clark.

When Clark tries to shepherd Lois away, she instinctively recoils from him. I like this response, and even more, I like that she owns it. “I know I shouldn’t feel that way, after all, you just saved our lives, but I can’t help it!” She qualifies her instinctive discomfort in light of the fact that, y’know, fifty percent of the alien races she’s met this month have tried to exterminate humanity, and hopes she might be able to get past it in time. She’s genuinely ashamed of herself, and Clark, though clearly hurt, clearly gets it.

Also, it’s the thirties, so technically it’s illegal for me to love an alien.

One thing that’s really interesting about this exchange to me is that while Lois is repulsed by Clark on learning he’s an alien — the exact reaction Pa Kent had cautioned young Clark about — Luthor never shows any such revulsion. He never shows any animosity toward Clark that’s greater than the general disdain he shows toward everyone else in the world. If anything, this Luthor seems oddly trusting.

A few Martians are still healthy enough to operate their tripods, and they rain heat rays on the escaping prisoners. Luthor and Lois are shocked when Clark picks up a wrecked car to defend them, Lex remarking, “The man isn’t human! But if he isn’t, then what is he?”

The answer comes in the form of a half-page spread recreating one of the most iconic images of the golden age.

“Guy in the lower left who loses his shit at the sight of Superman picking up a car” is one of the most unsung visual icons of comic book history.

Clark smashes one machine with a car and destroys a second by throwing its own black smoke rocket back at it. But when he tackles the third machine’s legs, the hood of the machine separates from them, hovering in the air. Luthor speculates that the tripod legs were akin to training wheels, assisting the vehicles while they learned to compensate for Earth’s gravity (Later, it’s implied that the tripod legs can’t even hold the machines up on their own, but are purely to assist with balance).

This is one of the few adaptations to keep the detail of the heat ray being held in the tripod’s manipulator arms rather than mounted on the fuselage. Though it kinda makes it look like Mr. Burns saying “Excellent…”

Clark takes two direct heat ray shots leaping at the flying machine, but makes a key discovery, which Luthor conveniently explains to us: when something passes between the flying machine and the ground, it interferes with their anti-gravity. Clark takes a third hit tossing one of the disabled tripods under the flying machine and it crashes to Earth. Though mortally wounded, Clark proceeds to hammer on the crashed machine, but suddenly holds back, realizing that “war fever” is taking hold of him. He collapses, and as he lays dying, he explains that he recognizes the basic similarity between himself and the Martians: that he too comes from a dead world (he’s guessing), and Lois’s reaction earlier demonstrates how easily it might be him and not the Martians that has humanity running in terror.

I like the sentiment, but maybe he’s laying it on a bit thick here? This is like all those scenes in Doctor Who where they set up this moral challenge between the Doctor and the Daleks, like, “But isn’t the Doctor on some level just as bad as they are?” Actually no, because they’re the Daleks. And here too, though the narrative does a good job of setting up the fact that it’s natural and reasonable for humans to fear Clark the same way they fear the Martians, and though the first few pages do set up the basic similarity between Krypton and Mars, only one of the alien species in this story has actually attempted genocide. Moreover, the moral arc of the narrative seems to land firmly on the side of “Humanity is right to fear the Martians, but wrong to fear Clark.” Yet it almost seems like the narrative isn’t quite clear on why. It seems at times implicit that it would be natural and entirely justified for a Kryptonian to look down on humans exactly the same way Martians do, so it’s hard to justify a message of “Fearing aliens because they’re different is wrong,” in the face of it actually being the right thing to do half the time. It’s even worse when you consider that no one acted with immediate fear and revulsion toward the Martians; they only freaked out later once the Martians had demonstrated hostility. So the good message of not rushing to judge Clark is in some sense twisted into a bad message of “Don’t learn from your mistakes.” (That’s not the only message you could take, and there’s a perfectly good “Don’t let bad past experiences lead you to misjudge someone else later,” but the comic doesn’t put in the work to take the moral the rest of the way there).

We have a… moral? I guess?

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Deep Ice: Strong men, no weak ones (Superman: War of the Worlds, Pages 19-38)


I tell you, it feels really good that they went all-in on the Golden-Age costume here. Notice, though, that there’s no bullshitting around with a secret identity. Clark doesn’t even seem to have had time to think about such a thing. It’s obvious to Lois who he is and he doesn’t deny it. There’s no time for anyone to coin his moniker either; he’s just Clark Kent for the duration. Or occasionally, “That guy in the pajamas”.

In fact, Lois and Clark meet up with the army on the next page, and Captain who greets them asks whether he’s a foreign agent or with the circus. Which is an interesting combination of possibilities, and even better, Lois vouches for him by saying he’s her photographer. I could kinda see how this might actually carry some weight, with Lois being a general’s daughter, but Sam Lane wouldn’t be introduced until 1959, and it wasn’t until the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot that he was a military man. As it is, a random woman just told an army captain that the random dude with her in a weird costume is trustworthy. You can’t even suppose that Lois has clout as a famous journalist, since they’ve established that Lois has been stuck writing the agony aunt column waiting for Taylor to give her a break.

<Montgomery Burns Voice>Excellent.</Montgomery Burns Voice>

The obligatory scene of the army not believing this “Martians” nonsense is cut short with the reveal of the tripod, eliciting a shout of “Holy Crow!” from the captain. I assume this is a golden age comics thing, but all I can think of is Bella Swan. The tripod itself is a letdown after the really creative look we got from the Saddleback version, but it’s certainly consistent with the ’30s comic aesthetic. There’s not anything wrong with it, mind, it’s just the most straightforward interpretation possible; essentially a flying saucer on stilts. In one interesting choice that is true to the novel but rarely carries to adaptations, the heat ray isn’t built into the fuselage but is instead held in the manipulator arms.

I’m thinking the captain is modeled on Les Tremayne

When the army is slow to heed Clark’s warning to back off, he throws himself into the path of the heat ray to save them. At such close range, the blast is enough to stun even Clark, causing him to experience pain for the first time in his life. He recovers in time to shove a cannon and its operator out of the way, then lifts the heavy field piece over his head and fires it like a bazooka. When this fails to affect the tripod, Clark grabs the canon by the barrel and just clubs the Martian with it, knocking it over.


He’s able to pry open the fallen tripod, extract the struggling alien, and pitches it. Not all the way back to Mars, mind you; he points out that he’s not strong enough for that.

Superman can’t throw a Martian clear to Mars. But Ralph Kramden could probably punch one to the moon.

This is one point where the writing style can get a little annoying, and the artifice can show through a bit. This is Golden Age Superman, so his powers aren’t what they’d creep up to in the silver age: he can’t fly, only “leap tall buildings in a single bound”; he’s not immune to all injury, but only strong enough to withstand “anything less than a bursting shell”. He’s not faster than the speed of light, only as fast as a speeding bullet. And this story stays true to that. But in an actual Golden Age story, they wouldn’t feel the need to remind us of it. The real Golden Age Superman would not, as this Clark Kent does, tell people, “No, I can’t fly, but I can jump really far.” He wouldn’t tell a Martian, “I’m just sorry I’m not strong enough to toss you back [to Mars].” This Clark Kent — on his very first outing in tights — seems unrealistically aware of his limitations.

It’s a similar kind of misstep to when the opening scene of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie started out inside the TARDIS and spent several minutes there before showing the Police Box: it botched “It’s bigger on the inside” by showing us “It’s smaller on the outside”. Just like here, Clark’s repeated mentions of his limitations changes the message from “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” to “Slower than a fighter jet, weaker than an atom bomb, not able to fly.”

Not bird nor plane nor even frog…

Clark arrives at Metropolis not far behind the Martians, just in time to rescue a pilot who’d managed to ditch before his plane was incinerated, but lost his parachute to another heat ray.

But even with Clark’s reassurance that he’s not flying, just jumping, the rescued airman still panics, begging the non-human Clark to keep away from him. This might seem ungrateful, but that airman has had a hell of a day, and in any case, we’re really edging in on our major theme for the piece. Presaging Man of Steel, we see that Pa Kent had been right to warn his son against displaying his powers, that, at least in the context of an alien invasion, humanity’s instinct is to fear Clark rather than idolize him.

Up And Atom!

Lois makes it back to the train station, but it’s destroyed halfway through her call-in to the office. Lex Luthor knows better than to drive into Metropolis, but offers Lois a ride as far as his laboratory on the outskirts. They have to make the last leg on foot once the roads become impassible, and at this point, Lex and Lois are separated before Lex gets clipped by the outer edge of a heat ray, and I think you know where this is going…

Brylcreem! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Clark’s luck runs out when the Martians release the black smoke. Though he can hold his breath for minutes, he’s eventually forced to make a blind leap out of the smoke and takes two heat ray hits at close range. His unconscious body is scooped up with the others harvested by the tripods.

I used to just toss my action figures loose in a big bin too. That’s how so many of them got broken.

George Taylor witnesses the Man of Steel’s defeat via telescope from his office at the Daily Star. Though the height of the building protects them from the black smoke, a heat ray catches the building. Taylor shoves Jimmy Olsen out of the way, but is killed when his office explodes.

The destruction of the Daily Star leads into a kinda mediocre two-page spread showing civilians fleeing before smoke and tripods as the Battle of Metropolis ends in utter rout…

To Be Continued…

Deep Ice: If they’re more advanced than us, they should be nearer the Creator (DC Comic’s Elseworlds: Superman: War of the Worlds, Pages 1-18)

Whatever that is off-panel to the left must be hella interesting if Supes is looking at that instead of the tripod.

It’s two weeks to Christmas and we still don’t have the tree up, so it is a minor miracle that this post is going up at all, which is why I am stretching a 64-page comic book to 3 articles.

It is 1998. Ted Kaczynski pleads guilty to the Unabomber bombings. The winter Olympics take place in Nagano. Disney opens the Animal Kingdom park. Bear Grylls climbs Everest. Matthew Shepard is mortally beaten in Wyoming, the photogenic youngster’s tragic death helping to bring about a wave of hate crime legislation. Actor Phil Hartmann is murdered by his wife. Windows 98 is released. I go briefly crazy some time in November. And, in a statement I may have to revise depending on how long it takes me to write this article, for the last time until the present day, a US President is impeached.

Titanic makes a literal billion dollars and wins a fuckton of Oscars. Saving Private Ryan comes out, and will do similar things. The Big Lebowski comes out. So does Wild Things, Lost in Space, Les Miserables (the 1998 one with Liam Neesen and no singing), the killer asteroid movies Armageddon and Deep Impact, Godzilla (the 1998 one with Matthew Broderick), The Parent Trap (the 1998 one with Lindsay Lohan), My Dinner With Andre, Bride of Chucky, The Faculty, Star Trek: Insurrection, You’ve Got Mail, and What Dreams May Come. All these things happened in the same year. Weird, right?

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 enters its final season. Star Trek Voyager… Happens. This is the last season I watched consistently. This year’s Power Rangers is Power Rangers in Space, the finale of the “Zordon Era”, and the last season to be part of an ongoing multi-season storyline until 2011’s Power Rangers Samurai. The reboot of Doctor Who starring Hugh Laurie finishes its second season and starts its third. Doctor Who is pretty much dead again, seemingly forever this time. Seinfeld airs its legendarily bad series finale. Dawson’s Creek premieres, a handy thing if you’re a college freshman who wants an excuse to hang out with all the girls on your floor in the apartment of the upperclassman with a 27″ TV. Other premiers this year include the wonderfully bizarre time travel adventure series Seven Days, the American version of Whose Line is it Anyway, seminal gay sitcom Will & Grace, supernatural craze-expander Charmed, and beloved girl-power cartoon The Powerpuff Girls.

Brandy dominates the Billboard charts all summer with “The Boy is Mine”. Armageddon and Titanic cough up chart-toppers as well with Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. R Kelly’s “I’m Your Angel” sees the year out, but somewhere mixed among all that, Barenaked Ladies become a household name south of the 49th parallel thanks to “One Week”.

The dude in the lower left who just can not handle this shit is possibly my favorite character in the history of comics.

Meanwhile, sixty years earlier, it’s 1938. I hardly need remind you that in October of 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater adapted War of the Worlds. I mean, I hardly need tell you again, since I’ve told you like a million times already. But you know what else happened a few months earlier in 1938? I mean, you’ve surely worked it out since it’s in the title of the article. But yeah, back in May, National Allied Publications released issue 1 of Action Comics, introducing audiences to a strange visitor from another world who was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

So in 1998, when a whole lot of stuff was going on in the Superman world to celebrate the Man of Steel’s sixtieth, Roy Thomas and Michael Lark put together a story for DC’s “Elseworlds” line, depicting alternate versions of their beloved characters. Superman: War of the Worlds asks us to imagine a world where the intrepid reporter that was first on the scene when a strange meteor lands in a small town near Metropolis (The name isn’t given in the text, but sharp-eyed readers will notice the train station identifies it as “Woking”) isn’t Carl Philips, but Lois Lane, and her fledgling photographer, Clark Kent.

The opening comingles the introduction of War of the Worlds with the classic Superman backstory, with direct homages to both. “No one would have believed,” we are as usual told, of the intelligences greater than man yet as mortal as his own which scrutinized the Earth in the early decades of the twentieth century, but here, it’s not only the Martians, but also the far-distant Krypton. Because this is the golden age version of the story, Krypton’s destruction is caused by it simply having reached the end of its life cycle — a more advanced case of the fate facing the Martians.

The parallel between Mars and Krypton adds a slightly sinister note to the arrival of Kal-El on Earth. Though we learn nothing concrete of Jor-El (the narrator seems to be speaking from the viewpoint of a human historian in the near-future, though even knowing the name “Krypton” is inexplicable in that case), the narrator presumes that he must have views humans “as inferior animals…. as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us.”

I am surprised that they decided to model Pa Kent on Melvyn Douglas, but I wholeheartedly endorse this decision.

Baby Kal is found by the Kents, a slight divergence from Superman’s earliest appearance; in the earliest comics, he was said to have been raised in an orphanage. The Kents aren’t given first names, consistent with mainstream Superman history, where the Kents don’t get their canonical first names until the 1950s. As he grows, the Kents discover young Clark’s abilities, which are the reduced Golden Age power set: the ability to leap an eighth of a mile rather than fly, skin that is impervious to anything short of “a bursting shell”, and the ability to outrun a train. His powers are attributed to a million years of evolution beyond that of Earth humans, rather than any particular influence of a yellow sun.

Pa Kent warns Clark to hide his powers, lest humanity be scared of him, while Ma encourages him to help humanity, “when the proper time comes”. Again, this all tracks with the various versions of Clark’s upbringing in this era. It is the death of his parents (Until the ’70s or so, the Kents were generally depicted as already elderly when they adopted Kal-El) which prompts Clark to head out to the big city to try to find a way to use his powers to benefit humanity, and by an amazing coincidence, this occurs simultaneously with “The great disillusionment”, as the Martians launch their invasion fleet.


Below the fold? Citizens Oppose Tax.

A montage of Clark taking in the splendor of Metropolis makes for some nice syncretism with the “infinite complacency” of man going “to and fro about this globe about their affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter.

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Deep Ice Addendum: More Saddleback

It’s almost Christmas, and also almost my son’s birthday, and also just past my wife’s birthday, so here’s a filler article: more fun panels from the Saddleback illustration of War of the Worlds.

Here’s the text from the back cover, by the way:

Do UFO’s really exist?
Could creatures from another planet visit Earth?
In The War of the Worlds they do exist and the visitors from the planet Mars come to Earth with not so friendly intentions—to destroy our civilization!

Greengrocer’s apostrophe theirs.

I love that this abridgement included “Dude who is mostly concerned about the insurance.”

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said there were an inordinate number of panels about horses.

I love this unnamed military guy. Very GI Joe.

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Deep Ice: Anything that would serve the image emerging onto the canvas (Saddleback’s Illustrated Classics: The War of the Worlds)

Weirdly, this is a better interpretation of the Thunderchild scene than is actually in the book.

It is 2007, a year in which many things happened. One of them is that Mauritania illegalized slavery, and it is pretty damned shocking to learn that there was a country in the world which hadn’t already done that by 2007, and even more shocking when you find out that Mississippi didn’t do it until 2013.

Or, rather, it would be shocking if I wasn’t writing this in 2017. Never mind. We’ve got songs like “1234” by Feist and “Bubbly” by Colbie Callat and “Umbrella” by Rhianna. This year gives us The Big Bang Theory, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Super Why, Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, and Flash Gordon. We say goodbye to Stargate SG-1, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, and Veronica Mars. This year’s Power Rangers is Operation Overdrive, and I’d tell you about it except that the one good thing I have to say about it is “I can’t really remember anything about it.” Except that it’s the second season to feature a ranger who had previously been one of the kids on the Kiwi Post-Apocalyptic Tween Soap Opera The Tribe. Doctor Who airs from March through July, featuring David Tennant and Freema Agyeman as the Doctor and Martha Jones. It also brought us the animated miniseries “Infinite Quest”, which, oddly, ties into an arc on The Sarah Jane Adventures a year or two later. And it gives us the minisode “Time Crash”, wherein David Tennant gets to fanboy over Peter Davison, who is, fun fact, his father-in-law. The Christmas Special is “Voyage of the Damned”, which guest stars Kylie Minogue, who I gather is actually properly famous in the UK, and not just “The chick who did the 1988 cover of “The Loco-Motion”.”

Anyway. Here in the present, it’s Thanksgiving week, and I don’t have time to do anything difficult, so instead, we’re going to cover a comic book. Well, a graphic novel. Well, something.

Saddleback Illustrated Classics is a line of graphic novel-style adaptations of classic works of literature, abridged and using simplified language, to be used as educational resources for teaching remedial English. They apparently have an accompanying audio disc reading the story, but I didn’t get one with my copy.

As abridgments go, it’s only barely serviceable. Turning a book into a comic is going to require a lot of compression in the storytelling, and what they do here is done in the service of teaching people to read way more than actually conveying Wells’s story in a faithful manner. What’s here is accurate, but a lot gets left out. What can be grating is that a whole lot of the “nothing happening” stays in, while some of my favorite parts are dropped. The prose is simple and functional, nothing exciting. No, all we are really going to care about here is the artwork. Since I had fun mocking some of the artistic choices in the two Captain Power comic books and the Captain Power Annual, I thought maybe for some lighter fare, we could take a look at the artistic choices in Saddleback’s illustrated War of the Worlds. Because these choices are… Occasionally interesting.

Our opening shot is this full-page spread of a Martian slowly and surely drawing its plans against us from this kinda “I HAVE THE POWER!” pose.

The iPhone X’s built-in projector performed better than expected, but it was still panned for being uncomfortable to stick in your pocket.

They retain Ogilvy’s “The chances of anything manlike on Mars are a million to one,” which is nice.

I feel like they were going for Vincent Price as the narrator and Rex Harrison (circa The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) as Ogilvy. But somehow they ended up with the love child of Vincent Price and Ian Marter as the narrator and the lovechild of Rex Harrison and Edward Mulhare (circa The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) as Ogilvy.

It’s also the hat. I didn’t scan a picture of it, but Ogilvy wears a Greek fisherman’s cap in a bunch of panels.

Ogilvy majored in astronomy, not geometry. That’s why he somehow has no idea what a cylinder looks like.

They spend what feels like an inordinate amount of time in the build-up between the first cylinder landing and the reveal of the Martians.

Thinking the cylinder contains friendly visitors in danger of burning to death, Ogilvy seeks the help of sad Amish Farmer Abraham Lincoln.

The Martians finally reveal themselves, and… Not bad. A very retro sci-fi look to them. Reminds me a bit of the test footage Harryhausen did when he was considering making a War of the Worlds film.

Or, y’know, the Krang. It looks a lot like the Krang.

The abridged narration doesn’t really carry over the sense of horror at the basic strangeness of the aliens. You could say that, being a graphical format, they can rely on the visuals to do that instead, only, come on; that Martian is clearly evil, but he’s not really all that scary.

And then for some reason, the zombies surrender.

There’s something about the way people are drawn in this — I’ve seen this art-style before, so maybe it’s one of the common comic art styles or something? — that sort of looks like everyone is made of wax.

The narrator narrowly escapes the attack at the pit, but once he gets home, promptly decides it wasn’t that scary after all.

Though it kinda looks like he got close enough to the heat ray that his face melted.

As they flee the approaching Martians, there’s an odd decision to illustrate the fact that on the road out of town, “The hedges on either side were sweet with roses.”

Meanwhile, in a cheap Van Gogh knockoff…

There are more panels than we really needed of the narrator’s horse being spooked by a landing cylinder.

Also, why is he dressed like a gambler in a western? He’s even got a bolo tie.

At last, almost halfway through, we get to see a tripod, and it’s not terrible. Kind of visually busy, lacking the elegant simplicity of most interpretations. The closest match is probably Goliath, though it doesn’t look nearly so good, nor does it have the allusions to a gas-masked World War I soldier. Continue reading

Deep Ice: I don’t believe in anything (Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II: Finale)

Now, where was I…

Jesus. Fucking. Christ. This was pointless and stupid. I could rattle off a long litany of all the stupid, pointless things, but we’ve lived through them these past few months and I am loathe to go back into the details.

On some level, the fact that this series has had sweet fuck all to do with the original 1938 radio play is the least of its sins. I mean, George Pal’s 1975 proposal for a TV series (Which is presumably a big part of the inspiration for War of the Worlds II) has sweet fuck all to do with the movie it’s based on, and the TV sequel that ended up actually happening doesn’t really draw all that much from it either.

If you were to ask someone — someone who knew and was into War of the Worlds, so basically me — what War of the Worlds II was about, the most normal sort of answer would be that it’s a sequel to the 1938 radio play in which humans, using salvaged Martian technology, travel to Mars in 1999, where they find out that the Martians were themselves enslaved by a bigger, badder alien race who now want to take over the Earth.

That is technically true, and it doesn’t sound necessarily like a bad concept for a series. Like I said, it’s the basic idea George Pal came up with in 1975. For that matter, it’s not too far afield from the premise of the Stargate TV franchise.

But, of course, over the course of four episodes, of something in the neighborhood of twelve hours, that makes up what, an hour of the story? At the outside. So what’s War of the Worlds II about? Well, it’s partly a James Bond-style over-the-top international intrigue about an insane evil trillionaire concocting a nonsensical plan to dominate the world, only they neglected to include the savant gentleman superspy who is the only one that can defeat him. And it’s partly a weird political farce about politicians who are hamstrung by nebulously defined “special interests” and at the mercy of comedy over-the-top radio pundits.

In this War of the Worlds sequel. Those ideas, they just have no place here. Those aren’t the sorts of plots that have any place. I mean, you could maybe squeeze them in around the edges — the Strangis’s series is heavily inflected with black comedy, it’s even got traces of that whole, “the government is willing to let aliens take over the world rather than cause a PR scandal.” But those things are around the outside. Like, there’s episodes of the series where the team has to deal with journalists. But there’s still aliens in those episodes. And the aliens are still the primary focus of the plot. But here, over and over again, you’re hoping against hope that the story on Mars will fucking get on with it, but no, it’s time for a “hilarious” argument between obvious-Rush-Limbaugh-expy and obvious-Sally-Jessy-Rafael-expy while obvious-Geraldo-expy sleezily reports on it. There’s just so many plot threads that have nothing to do with anything that might conceivably have brought you to listen to this. There’s the nonsense with DeWitt’s political maneuvering and the nonsense with the assassination attempt and the nonsense with Tosh Rimbauch and the nonsense with Ratkin and the ice sectioners and the nonsense with Nancy and Ethan and the nonsense with Ratkin’s wife and the nonsense with the Underground, and I don’t give a shit about any of it.

And there is no way they could make that many subplots turn into something coherent, but maybe they could pull off a few of them. Except that in addition to being utterly pointless, they’re also terrible. There is nothing even slightly believable about Ratkin’s machinations, or DeWitt’s unwillingness to just have Seal Team Six rub the fucker out, or the whole “special interest” nonsense. There’s no reason anyone would take Tosh Rimbauch seriously in any regard whatever. Making Ethan all twee and naive up until he suddenly goes all Artemis Fowl in his very last scene, vowing to outthink his father? Stupid, cliche, unbelievable. It’s just all so dumb, and don’t forget poorly written.

And then, of course, the big question: where are these subplots going? The answer is nowhere, because every single subplot becomes utterly irrelevant the moment the Tor announce themselves to humanity. If you think no one fucking cared about whether Ethan Allen is going to beat Ronald in the race to rescue Mrs. Rochester from Steinmetz now, exactly where is that plot going to go once the Tor start abducting billions of humans and stripping Earth of its atmosphere? It doesn’t. There is no way to continue any of the Earth-based plots the instant this second War becomes a shooting war.

That’s what’s been driving me nuts these past few months. Where could the other plots, the plots that make up about 90% of the story so far, go once the actual plot starts up? I could maybe see Ratkin continuing to try to work a deal with the Tor to be the warlord of a conquered planet if the Tor’s plan was simple conquest, but that doesn’t work at all if the Tor plan to transplant the entire human race en masse in the space of a week. Jessica Storm could maybe be salvaged. She seems right now like a character at the end of her arc, though: the traitor who realizes she’s been double-crossed and goes down in a blaze of glory that earns her partial redemption. But certainly, there’s room to rework her as the villain who’s forced to work with the heroes, while secretly trying to engineer things to get them killed in some “noble sacrifice”. The eleventh-hour introduction of The Resistance seems tailor made to be the backbone of the force that will fight against the Tor, except that nothing we’ve learned of them suggests this is in their wheelhouse or that there’s any reason to expect them to be more use to the cause than the actual military, which, remember, still exists. What about President DeWitt? Honestly, there’s nothing we’ve learned about her character that suggests she’d be of any use in an open war. It’s not simply her physical handicap — heck, the brilliant tactician who is physically handicapped is a fair enough trope all on its own. But DeWitt’s never really been depicted as having a particular skill at anything, really, other than the game of politics (at which she is, at best, just adequate). She’s a perfectly good character for a political drama, but nothing in the story implies that any of her skills would really be useful here. She can’t even give big rallying speeches, because she can barely speak unassisted. The pending plot to have DeWitt declared unfit, the Vice-President “taken care of”, and that weird Republican Kennedy-clone installed? This sounds like complete nonsense in the face of the alien invasion. And Tosh Rimbauch? Nope. Just nope.

So out of all the plot threads they started — and basically kept starting right up until the last twenty minutes — it’s only the ones involving the Orion crew that really even make sense going forward. And two of them are back on Mars, so barring a thrilling, “And then they spend four hours flying back to Mars to pick up the other two,” sequence, they’re out of the picture for the near future. Even if they were planning to set up, “Ferris and Rutherford rally the Martian slaves into revolting against the Tor,” it appears at the moment that the Tor have left Mars and the Martians don’t have any more ships, so there’s really nowhere for that plot to go.

Not that I miss them especially. Ferris has the personality of a block of wood, and Rutherford is a piece of shit who seems to exist only to make Nikki more likable by negging her. Asshole. Gloria, Talbert, Morgan and Gus are okay, I guess, though Talbert’s personality doesn’t seem to go much past, “He’s the only member of the crew who has heard of science.”

So what’s left to say in the final analysis? Not much, really. On a technical level, I guess I can give the weak praise that the audio is almost entirely intelligible. This should be a given, but I’ve seen too many low-budget productions that can’t get their audio levels right at this point in our little adventure through every War of the Worlds adaptation I could find to take it for granted. And there are clearly deliberate choices being made about how to convey these characters through their voices and tones of speaking. The major characters all have distinctive tones of voice, and there’s only a very few cases where it’s hard for me to tell them apart.

But, of course, you can’t go very far down the road of praising any element of War of the Worlds II without it leading you back to a problem. On the one hand, yes, almost everyone’s speaking voice is distinctive. But that is not the same as anyone’s voice being good. There aren’t many voice choices that I’d outright call “good”; most of them vary between “neutral”, “This was a bad idea but at least I can see where they were coming from,” and “What the hell were they thinking?” I mean, consider:

  • Jonathan Ferris: I think they’re going for “stoic” here. I have made no secret of the fact that they overshot and ended up with “inanimate object”. If their goal was to make me believe this guy was real, real dull, then congrats, but this is not necessarily a great thing to succeed at.
  • Nikki Jackson: Another very neutral voice. As her characterization shifts toward her being ruthless and driven, a less sociopathic version of Jessica Storm, her voice acting doesn’t do a great job of conveying it. The biggest flaw, of course, is that we’re asked to believe that this very obviously white upper-middle-class woman from the north east is, in fact, a black woman who pulled herself up out of poverty by her own bootstraps having been raised by her wise old Tyler Perry-portrayed grandmother in the Jim Crow south, which no. Just no.
  • Mark Rutherford: Mark Rutherford I is fine. Neutral. It’s a dubious idea to have this character based around his acerbic relationship with Nikki, the implicit, “Isn’t it adorable how he constantly negs her. They should totally date,” thing is awful, but I can believe the aspect of, “They used to be friends, and they’re professional enough to work together, but there’s still some bitterness there,” even if they never quite settle on whether they genuinely dislike each other, or just have the kind of friendship based on mutual insult. Mark Rutherford II, though, pushes into this weird “hapless ’50s guy” thing that is supposed to remind us of Dobie Gillis or Dagwood Bumstead or something, and it just doesn’t really make any sense. I think it’s an attempt to make him seem adorably awkward and likeable, which fits progressively less well as he becomes more and more of an entitled jackhole. Mark Rutherford III gives up the pretense of adorkability, which at least makes sense for the character, and is played as more of a deadpan snarker, but there’s still an old-timey aspect to his voice which doesn’t make any real sense.
  • Gloria Townsend: The combination of a slightly southern accent with her overly-technical mode of speaking is an interesting mix. I have no strong feelings about her.
  • Gus Pierelli: He’s the gear-head, so they have him a working-class accent. A little on-the-nose, but okay. His Brooklyn accent becomes less pronounced as the series goes on, though, leaving him sometimes hard to distinguish from…
  • Robert Talbert: There’s not really anything distinctive to him.
  • Medic Morgan (I don’t think she actually has a first name): Having her be sort of mousy and uncertain makes it easy to distinguish her from the other women on the Orion crew, but the notes of insecurity aren’t something that you really expect from a medical doctor, and brings to mind some unpleasant stereotypes about women in “male” roles.
  • Jessica Storm: So… I can see what they’re going for. Her tone of voice conveys a lot of information very quickly. From her first line, you know not only that she is evil, but also what kind of evil she is: she’s clever, ambitious and arrogant. But she also sounds like a soap opera diva. And I mean, okay, fair enough; War of the Worlds II, as it turns out, is a soap opera. But it’s impossible to take her seriously in any of her stated competencies. I don’t believe she’s a Wile-E-Coyote-class Sooper-Geeenious, I don’t believe she’s a top-notch space pilot. I don’t believe she’s a deadly assassin. I’d buy her seducing elderly millionaires, or even executing brilliant boardroom double-crosses. Not the actual things she’s allegedly brilliant at.
  • Ronald Ratkin: Everything about Ronald Ratkin I is designed to tell you he is the villain. He sounds like cartoon character. He sounds like he should be trying to tempt young Skywalker over to the Dark Side. He sounds like he’ll disappear in a puff of smoke if you say his name. Ronald Ratkin II is much closer to what they actually ought to have been going for, being very clearly modeled on Brando’s Don Corleone. Even then, though, maybe just a hair too on-the-nose?
  • Hoover Jones: Of course, they had someone playing a gangster before they recast Ratkin, but he’s playing a very different kind of gangster archetype. Fine, but the accent slips as the series goes on until he’s just doing a kind of generic “affluent” accent with his vowels inexplicably drawn out. I think maybe they wanted him to sound British (He’s one of the characters who awkwardly throws in occasional Britishisms for no reason), but he doesn’t. At all.
  • Tosh Rimbauch: No. Just no.
  • Sandra DeWitt: She’s so mellow and soft-spoken that it’s basically impossible to take her seriously as a politician. It doesn’t help that she clearly hasn’t learned her lines ahead of time and is hearing them for the first time as she says them. Also, her husband kinda comes off as a closeted gay man.
  • Nancy Ferris: No one is that southern. Plus, far more than any other character, she tends to narrate her actions, which is really annoying.
  • Ethan Allen Ratkin: Many, many things about the character of Ethan Allen Ratkin are wrong. The decision to have a voice actor who is not a twelve year old boy play him as a super-twee twelve-year-old boy is not terrible, until the end when they decide he’s suddenly going to take a level in badass and vow to bring an end to his father’s reign of terror using his own strategic brilliance of which there has been no evidence.

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Deep Ice: I’m Just Glad This Is Behind Us (War of the Worlds II, Episode 4, Part 4)

Oh thank God. Oh thank you dear sweet merciful lord. This is it. One more part and I can put this behind me forever unless someone finds a copy of episode 3 and sends it to me (don’t do that). We’ve got about thirty-six minutes of this ridiculous thing left, and there’s a whole lot of plot threads to tie up before we say goodbye to this cast of characters and resolve this complicated story. Fortunately for us, it seems like all the characters are heading toward a fateful confrontation at the banquet about to be held for the Orion crew, and I’m sure that will make for an epic setting for the tense final battle of—

Nah, just foolin’. Of all the things which are going on in this plot, like maybe one of them is actually going to get resolved. For certain definitions of “resolved”. Instead, can you guess what they’re going to do instead?

If you guessed “Introduce a bunch more bullshit plot threads that go nowhere,” you’re right. If you didn’t, hi, welcome to A Mind Occasionally Voyaging, where I write fake documents about an alternative history of Doctor Who on Saturdays and essays about adaptations and spin-offs of War of the Worlds on Wednesdays, except when I can’t be bothered and instead post something adorable about my children. You might want to catch up on the last fifteen posts in this series so you understand why you ought to have seen this coming.*[Technically, I would have also accepted “Waste a bunch of time with pointless whining about “special interests” that goes nowhere, but the other answer is better]

But before we get to nothing happening, first, we have to finish up last week’s nothing happening. Oh yes, we are not quite done with the exciting drama of Ronald Ratkin, the world’s richest man; Tosh Rimbauch, the world’s douchiest man; Ethan Allen Ratkin, the littlest child soldier; and Nancy Ferris, suddenly the standard-bearer of La Resistance.

Ratkin finishes buttering up Rimbauch and advises him to wait until after the banquet to air his expose. Once Tosh leaves the room (and, thank God, the series), Ratkin proceeds to monologue a bit about what a moron Rimbauch is and how easily he has manipulated the fat idiot into doing his work for him. He tells Hoover Jones that Rimbauch, “Becomes so caught up in his own rhetoric that he lets his guard down.” This seems to imply that Ratkin is setting Rimbaugh up for a double-cross, but one never comes. And it’s hard to imagine what the double-cross would be. I mean, the only possible thing would be if the evidence he’s given him of DeWitt’s infirmity were fake. But it’s not. There’s no reasonable setup here against Rimbauch. Unless maybe they mean to put in in a Glenn Greenwald sort of position. But isn’t Ratkin taking a pretty big chance here that if Rimbauch is subpoenaed over releasing the President’s confidential medical information, he’ll sing like a canary?

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear Ratkin has absolutely no concern over getting caught; he’s above the law, immune to subpoenas and law enforcement and vulnerable only to something like the heroes of an ’80s action-adventure show. So why bother with all this bullshit. I mean, seriously, he’s devoting all sorts of time and energy and money into keeping his plans a secret, suppressing the media, defaming the administration, secretly undermining societal institutions on all levels. But why? It’s clear no one can do anything to stop him. And his cover-ups aren’t even working: children on the street knew about his kidnapping of Nancy Ferris, that he was the one behind the ice sectioners’ strike, that he was the one preventing water purification efforts. Yet he persists in this farce.

After Ratkin and Hoover Jones have a good laugh at the idea of giving the crippled DeWitt a “run for her money”, Hoover expresses some sympathy: “It’s not her fault she was in your way.” “It was her responsibility to move before I ran her down,” Ratkin answers. And he pledges that she will too “Know what hit her”.

Ratkin calls Evans, who is still working on his mindwipe procedure, and tells him to have “Mrs. Rochester” returned to her relatives, so he can kill her in the privacy of his own house once he’s used her as bait to lure Ethan back to the compound.

“Not very far away,” the narrator tells us, Ethan comes to the same conclusion, and tells Nancy that he wants to spring his mom from Steinmetz before Ratkin can. Nancy warns him that, “Your father is a very powerful man, and a brilliant one.” Ethan insists that Ratkin taught him everything he knows.

Except that poor people exist. Or how capitalism works. Or really anything at all. Seriously, there’s this whole claim that Ratkin has been grooming Ethan to be this perfect heir, which is completely undermined by the way that he’s actually raising him to be utterly naive and completely isolated from the world. This is not the way you raise an evil heir to your evil empire. We all know this. You send him to military school then give him a million dollars to start him out in shady real estate dealings and advise him to engage in illegal discrimination, then let him doctor your will to disinherit your other son’s family.

You know what would make way more sense than this whole family dynamic? If the mind-wipe technique Evans is working on is really just step 1 of a mind transfer procedure and Ratkin actually intends to possess his son’s body and thus gain immortality.

I mean, that would be a fucking stupid ridiculous sci-fi-soap-opera plot worthy of nothing but laughing derision. But it would still make more sense than the plot we’re actually given.

Ethan, who is now being written completely differently, muses on “What kind of a man,” Ratkin must be to have treated his mother so badly. Nancy pontificates that, “Many rulers have treated women like dispensable child-bearing machines.” Ethan declares that, while he won’t allow himself to be used to hurt his father, he’s “not a child any more” and will prevent his father from doing any more harm to others, using his deep and detailed knowledge of his father’s “stratagems and gambits”, though, presumably, no knowledge whatever of what his father’s business actually is.

Kyle returns and asks if he can tag along to the Orion banquet. Nancy doubts she could get anyone not on the guest list in, and does not bring up the fact that she’s currently a missing person presumed kidnapped by Ronald Ratkin and probably wanted by the FBI as a person of interest. She also worries about Kyle’s safety since there’s “all sorts of opposition to Mission Red, and not just from Ronald Ratkin.” Also, “Who knows if the Martians are really friendly?”

After Nancy leaves, Ethan promises to find a way to get Kyle into the banquet. What the hell is Kyle’s stake in this again? Kyle reiterates his disbelief that Ethan is a Ratkin, but again, decides to go along with it. In accordance with the narrative laws set by the great Scoobert Doo, we cut away when Ethan starts to explain his plan, thus assuring its success.

This is, by the way, the last we will hear from Ethan Allen Ratkin and Kyle Jordan (Wasn’t he the Green Lantern?). Bye, kids.

“Meanwhile”, on Mars, possibly two days earlier, I’m not sure, the real Orion crew has found and repaired the Martian warship. Pierelli declares that it’s not so weird, “Once you get used to manipulating living tissue.” Yeah, the ship is organic, because of course it is, even though Orion-1 was supposed to be made from the same metal as the 1938 warships. Gloria isn’t showing any signs of losing her Martian powers this time, and in fact feels great. She won’t lose them for the remainder of the episode. It is acknowledged, but never explained. Gloria does muse a bit on how she being among the Martians, she feels for the first time in her life like someone really, like, gets her, you know?

Are they going for a reveal that Gloria’s actually a Martian changeling? We know that Martians can adopt a form indistinguishable from a human, so is it possible she’s meant to be some kind of advance scout who was dropped on Earth Son Goku-style? Or maybe she’s only half-Martian, and her dad was a survivor of the ’38 invasion who went native. That’s not a terrible twist, though it’s hard to imagine this reveal will actually mean anything by the time they get around to it.

Nikki Jackson pulls the commander aside to tell him what he’s already worked out for himself: the ship isn’t big enough to fit seven. Commander Ferris, his Star Trek Commander’s Hat low on his brow, tells her that he’s working on it, and to keep quiet for the moment. After Mark objects to naming the ship “Orion-2”, not wanting to be, “Two to Jessica’s Orion-1,” Gloria suggests calling the ship “Ares”, which she pronounces wrong. I mean, she pronounces it “Are-ees” rather than “Air-ees”. You might be able to make the argument that she’s pronouncing it in the Greek, rather than English way, but close as I can tell, that would be more like “Are-ess” rather than “Are-ees” (No, I do not know IPA. Sorry). I wouldn’t bring it up, but she made a big deal out of pronouncing “forte” correctly before. I do wonder, though, if it’s coincidence that her preferred pronunciation is indistinguishable from “Ari’s”.

Once Gus finishes the repairs, Ferris tells everyone about the ship’s inadequate seating. Thank God he didn’t let Nikki tell them forty-five seconds earlier. For the sake of padding, he lists off the reasons for each crewmember to stay: Pierelli to maintain the ship; Townsend to communicate with it; Talbert to navigate at relativistic speed; Morgan in case anyone is injured; and Jackson because they’ve been building up this whole thing with Nikki and Jessica needing to have a big showdown.

Nikki objects to leaving Ferris behind, but he’s stalwart. Everyone objects, in fact, citing his wife and the fact that Nikki is kind of a bitch. No one says a single word about leaving Rutherford behind, not even Rutherford. He pretty much gets that he’s completely pointless.

So, bye Rutherford. Ares launches, and Nikki orders them to maximum speed. Then she immediately backs off when she finds out that maximum speed is about .83c, and they’re not confident on their ability to decelerate quickly enough to make a controlled landing. They back down to a mere 20,000 kps, which will get them to Earth in four hours, rather than fifteen minutes. After a long-winded explanation about momentum being a cruel mistress, they move on to a long-winded explanation of how the reason they can see out the front of the ship is because Gloria ordered the front of the ship to turn invisible, and now it’s not a “reflection”, but a “simultaneous telecast”. Note that she says she turned the ship transparent, so what she actually did was just make a window. But the explanation, which goes on to compare it to the Martians’ own camouflage ability, presumes that what she’s actually doing is having the inside surface of the ship mimic the colors of light striking the outside surface — something more akin to a chameleon, maybe.

Talbert goes on to explain that they aren’t going fast enough to notice any relativistic effects, which is true, but because those only kick in “within 50,000 kilometers per second of the speed of light”, which is bullshit. I could be all nerdy and pedantic and talk about how ordinary real-world astronauts experience measurable time dilation, but okay, I’ll grant that picking up a second or two isn’t really anything to make a big deal over. But generally speaking, you should take relativity into account whenever you’re talking about speeds greater than one tenth of the speed of light. Which, admittedly, they’re not.

By the time the explanations are over, they have to start decelerating, since apparently the brakes suck on these Martian ships. This gives everyone an opportunity to pontificate on how, “Waste is the way of the universe,” as they are sad about leaving Ferris behind, having to “sacrifice so many good people because of the evil plots of a few.” Gloria muses on how war is irrational, while Talbert considers it a universal law. Gloria goes on to explain how she finds pain, bigotry, greed and suffering completely alien to her, and that she finds the Martian philosophy closer to her own than any she’s heard on Earth. Yep. I’m calling it: she’s an alien.

“At that very moment”, we’re told, Jessica Storm finally introduces her boss to her new shady business partners. Ratkin is snarky about the circumstances of her return: the official story is that a “malfunction” aboard Artemis killed the rest of her crew, and she was rescued by Orion.

Does it feel like something’s missing here? I mean, they’ve skipped straight from Orion calling in to let them know they’re on their way home to Jessica being in the “Hiltmore” hotel in Washington with the clone crew. We never actually cover Orion’s landing, their debriefing, how the clones somehow managed to convince NASA that everything was on the up-and-up despite the fact that their skills at passing for actual humans is somewhere in the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons From Mars range. And now Jessica Storm, who as everyone knows was sent to Mars by Ronald Ratkin to assassinate Orion’s crew is not only at liberty, but has been given access to the celebratory banquet? I mean, okay, they’ve established that for some reason, even if they had rock-solid proof, they still wouldn’t be able to actually take legal action against Storm because of “protests”, but what the fuck is she doing being invited to the banquet?

Oh, and have you noticed what they haven’t said a single word about? The fact that Earth is deadly to Martians. Y’know, the one thing that you pretty much have to have in order to be an adaptation of War of the Worlds. Anyway, Jessica introduces Ratkin to the Tor over the video-phone. Keep in mind that the Tor haven’t revealed their true forms, as far as I can tell, and still look like “living shadows”. Also keep in mind that the Tor don’t actually speak, but use Martian intermediaries to translate their aroma-based communication into telepathy. So Jessica Storm has used a high-tech ’90s video-phone to introduce Ronald Ratkin to an invisible alien who doesn’t speak. Also, the Tor isn’t physically present with Jessica, but appears via projection. Science!

He is “honored” to meet them, and recognizes that it’s “convenient” that the Tor have no need for “primitive” names, since it puts their enemies at a disadvantage. Tor proceeds to explain how his species is dependent on Quorrium, which would be destroyed if humans try to extract water from the Martian rock, which is why they want him to prevent any further human exploration of Mars. And I’d say here that it seems like they’re giving a way an awful lot about their own weaknesses here, but we’re something like seven million hours into this production, and never once has it mattered that one side knows something the other side doesn’t, so whatever.

The Tor offer to make Ratkin supreme ruler of Earth in return for stopping the space program. Ratkin points out that he’s taking over the world just fine without them… But then they basically just say the exact same thing again, and Ratkin is like, “Wait, you mean you’ll make me the supreme leader of the Earth and all I have to do is promise humans will stop going into space? Sign me up.” He agrees to their terms, warning them that it would be unwise to betray them.

The plan the Tor propose is flatly ridiculous enough that it will presumably work like a charm in this stupid world: Ratkin will use his communications satellites to transmit DeWitt’s address at the banquet on every station around the world, whereupon the clone crew will seize the podium and declare that the Tor are making Ratkin the sole proprietor of all water in the universe.

Ratkin, presumably in need of a clean pair of pants, reflects on how he’ll soon have everything he’s ever wanted (except for his son back), and will make Jessica rich and powerful as a reward. We cut back to the Tor Master, for some Mua-ha-hahing about how they’ll soon have complete victory. The banquet will surely be “what they call ‘simulcast'”, and the Tor will “use their own technology to defeat them.” Because as it turns out, the Tor have the ability to beam people up via television.

A bit late in the day to bring that up, isn’t it? Yeah, despite there having been no previous indication of such a thing, the Tor have a technology so ridiculously far in advance of anything we’ve seen here, that it’s basically impossible to reconcile with anything else we have seen or heard. The Martians, recall, are like a million years more advanced than the Tor, but they don’t have teleportation. Also, the Tor can jam any human communication at will, so I’m not sure why they’re even bothering with this bullshit. “Once we have conquered Earth, no world will dare oppose us again,” the Master Tor says.

Oh, and by the way, let’s say goodbye to Ronald Ratkin now. This is it for him.

But I can’t linger on that ridiculous bullshit, since we’ve got a lot of ridiculous bullshit to get through. The Ares approaches the dark side of the moon and locates the Tor ship. More time gets wasted on exposition about how Ares can camouflage itself to look like space, and the Tor can’t detect them because their sensors are primarily smell-based (Ares has too mild of an odor to be detected). Gloria reminds everyone that smell and sound don’t travel in space. Ares intercepts part of the conference call between Jessica, Ratkin and the Tor, learning the location of the banquet. Gloria laughs off the suggestion that they might be able to “beam down” to Earth, since this scene was probably written before they decided that beaming was a thing that could happen in this universe.

As they land, Doctor Morgan reflects on how much she likes passing through the clouds: “It’s like flying in heaven.” Because we haven’t really had enough pointless time-wasting so far. Gloria introduces them to the marvels of Martian GPS to help Talbert navigate, and then talk turns to armaments. With audible and creepily sexual excitement, she tells them there’s a veritable arsenal on board, but most of the weapons can’t be operated by humans. Why do the Martians have hand-weapons anyway? They can manipulate matter on a molecular level with a touch. Actually, how the fuck did the Martians lose to the Tor when a Martian can pretty much turn anyone they like into a puddle of goo just by poking them?

Come to think of it, if Martians can alter their biology at will, why did they succumb to Earth bacteria back in the ’30s? I mean, other than “This sequel has completely forgotten that and will not bring it up.” Anyway, if you were hoping that we’d get to see some heat rays… You should be used to disappointment by now. Gloria presents them with a small hand-weapon that can disintegrate a human at a distance of half a kilometer. The mechanism isn’t specified, but they’re genetically coded to their operators and operated telepathically. They land Ares at the Hiltmore Hotel and set off to find their duplicates. Nikki leaves Gloria and Talbert aboard the ship with orders to go back and retrieve the others if they don’t hear back. Bye, guys.

Some classical music transitions us to Nancy Ferris. Her adventures in trying to reach the Hiltmore Hotel while evading recapture by Ratkin are… Not described. Instead, she announces for our benefit that she’s right outside her husband’s room. Somehow, she’s found his room number and gained access, apparently without anyone noticing. You’d think if she asked for him at the front desk, they’d have called up to his room. You’d think there’d be security, given that, as we keep being told, there are many who oppose Mission Red.

You would be wrong about these things. He answers the door with, “Can I help you?” and then, in a deadpan that is so thorough that I actually did get a smile out of it, “Oh. Yes. Nancy. My wife. I was told that you were missing. Enter, please. I am glad to see you.” She explains that she’s in disguise, due to having been in hiding for weeks.

Weeks. It’s been weeks.

Never mind. Press on. We’re almost there now. It takes Nancy a while, but she does eventually start to pick up on the fact that something might be a little off about her husband, pointing out that he hasn’t even kissed her yet. “Ah, yes, a kiss,” he says, sounding for all the world like Donald Trump Jr. trying to demonstrate that he is a real human being by placing photos of his family on his desk, facing away from him. Nancy gives him a sarcastic thank-you after a passionless kiss, and he returns a sincere, “You are welcome.” She asks if he’s acting strangely because the room is bugged. “Bugged? Ah, yes, bugged. I have no knowledge of such activities.” He suggests that he’s tired from the trip, and Nancy almost buys it, until she remembers that the real Jonathan is usually a useless klutz for weeks after a space trip, and he seems fine to her.

When he barely reacts to being told about their house burning down, the jig is up, and she accuses him of not actually being Jonathan Ferris. He apologizes, and actually sounds rather sad about it as he declares that he’s been ordered to kill her.

It’s just at that moment that the real Orion crew busts into the hotel room to rescue her. Jessica Storm arrives a second later with the other clones, giving Nikki a chance to flirt with herself, because at this point why not? Nancy challenges the Orion crew to prove their authenticity, and Nikki explains about the real Ferris having remained behind, which she finds convincing, since she knows her real husband would gladly stay behind on Mars to avoid coming home to her.

Jessica threatens them all with a Tor hand-weapon, and Nikki responds by declaring herself immune to being shot for plot reasons because she’s Jessica’s nemesis, and therefore Jessica needs her alive to have someone to beat at things. Jessica insists she’s okay with that, and starts to explain the plan for the benefit of the Orion crew. Weirdly, though, the Tor decide to interrupt her at this point and reveal their true intentions.


After accusing the “smelly insects” of tricking her, Jessica tries to warn Ratkin to fire his missiles. I guess over a cell phone or something? I mean, she just says “Ronald, fire missiles!” out loud to no one. It doesn’t matter, though, because the Tor have blocked her signal. We get one last bit of pointless padding when the Tor explains that a rebellious Martian slave erased all of the Tor’s records about human biology, which is somehow relevant to why they need to wait for the banquet to put their plan into action. Jessica promises that the military will destroy the Tor, and if not them, Ratkin. The Tor counter that within a week, all humans who refuse to be relocated will asphyxiate. I, um, I thought they were going to beam everyone up, so how does “choice” figure in here? “The choice is yours, Jessica Storm. Only this time, you have no choice.” Oh. Okay then.

And that’s game. The narrator assures us that the story will be continued “soon”, but he is wrong and thank God. I think he suspects this as well, since he refers to “Episode 5”, but doesn’t give a name for it as he had previously.

End of Side Four. Please stay tuned for the final analysis…


Deep Ice: Oh yes, dear. Quite mad (Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II, Episode 4, Part 3)

It just keeps getting worse and worse, but hang in there; we’re halfway out of the dark. Part of me is inclined to say that this episode is the worst of the lot, but I’ve already listened to part four and it’s pretty bad too. Though I can’t say for sure if it’s worse, or I’ve just completely depleted my will to live.

I don’t know why it keeps getting harder to write these. I mean, I talk a good game because I have a small amount of affection for hyperbole, but War of the Worlds II isn’t really even in the top five things that make me long for the sweet release of death. Top ten, sure, but not top five.

In fact, I will say from the outset that this section of the story does one thing well: it stays on topic. Out of thirty-eight minutes of side three, about thirty-four of those minutes stick to just one topic. This will not be the case in part four, for the obvious reason that they’ve got a fuckton of plot to get done before they run out of tape.

Here’s the bad news: those thirty-four minutes are about Ethan Allen Ratkin and his quest to find his mother and become a better-rounded human being. And the other four are about Tosh Motherfucking Rimbauch. Lord, give me strength.

We left Ethan and Kyle right outside Steinmetz, where they’d just evaded Ratkin’s personal physician Dr. Evans on his way home after murdering Ethan’s mom, who has been living under the name “Mrs. Rochester” for the past decade and change. Kyle explains to Ethan that he won’t be able to just knock on the front door and ask to visit his mom, as they are Just Some Kids. Instead, Kyle fakes some kind of psychotic break, running around in front of the lobby shouting about something being all over him, so that Ethan can slip in unnoticed while a nurse with an excessively southern accent tries to help the screaming street urchin.

Inside, Ethan hears someone coming and hides, I think, on a crash cart. I’m not sure. He says he’s going to hide under a table, then we hear someone say “Grab that crash cart!” and he ends up in the room where they’re taking it, but it really stretches the imagination to think Ethan would mistake a crash cart for a table, or be able to conceal himself on one such that no one would notice when they wheel it around the hospital. I mean, unless they’re imagining that a “crash cart” is basically the same thing as a catering cart, only with a defibrillator on top.

That is totally what happened, isn’t it?

In a plot contrivance which would be part of acceptable storytelling necessity except that this production has been nothing but storytelling contrivances, Ethan is thus delivered directly to his mother’s room. Mrs. Rochester is in cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to the excessively southern nurse. This is slightly odd, because we can hear her heart monitor, and everything sounds entirely normal until the nurse starts speaking. I assume they wanted us to understand what the sound meant, by playing us the normal beeps of a heart monitor before it transitioned into a solid flatline tone. But it comes off as though the staff is out ahead of her condition.

Idealistic Young Doctor from the last tape and Crusty Old Administrator work frantically to help her. Young Doctor explains that he’d been called away to take a phone call, but no one had been on the line. He’d returned to find her dying. They determine that she’s suffering from an opioid overdose, but assume an orderly screwed up her medications. The administrator orders a dose of naloxone to reverse the effects, momentarily startling me because this was made years before the current opioid epidemic, and it’s weird that they get so much right about treating the overdose. Young Doctor calls for a crash cart, which, as you know, is already on the way, and defibrillates and resuscitates her a second later, without any indication that one has arrived.

While Firstein (Administrator) is arguing that Bryant (Young Doctor) is obviously crazy for thinking that the mysterious call from no one that drew him away when his patient was given a deadly overdose might possibly mean anything other than human error, Ethan pops out of hiding to cry for his mommy. Bryant recognizes the familial resemblance instantly and intervenes to promise Ethan will be allowed to see his mother once she’s stabilized. Firstein wants to call the director and get permission from Mrs. Rochester’s family first. Which she doesn’t have, because they don’t know who she is.

Bryant manages to cajole his boss into keeping Ethan’s presence quiet for the moment and risking both their careers for the chance of turning Mrs. Rochester into “A fully functioning individual”.

The narrator helpfully explains to us that while Ethan waits for his mother to wake up, Nancy Ferris is still with Tom and Jennifer Connors, preparing to go recapture their hostage. Before going to Steinmetz, they decide to stop off at Nancy’s house so she can pick up some personal things.

Did they ever say where Nancy lived? I can’t remember if they ever actually say it. But it’s implied she’s within driving distance of NASA’s mission control center in Houston, so I’d kinda taken for granted that Nancy lived in Texas. Steinmetz is in Connecticut, and is in driving distance of Ratkin Manor, though clearly it’s not all that close since it takes hours to get there. The narrator is very clear that these events are meant to be contemporaneous with those at Steinmetz, but this makes no sense if Nancy is meant to drive from Houston to Connecticut in the space of the next scene. Or, indeed, if she isn’t. What’s she been doing all this time?

Tom isn’t comfortable with taking her back to her house. Nancy interrupts to ask if his car is new, since she doesn’t recognize it. This is foreshadowing, but it’s foreshadowing something stupid and pointless. They reach Nancy’s house to find that Ratkin’s had it firebombed. “My home. My beautiful home. Burned to the ground,” Nancy says with no conviction whatsoever.

Tom and Jennifer reveal that they belong to “The Underground”, a vaguely specified resistance movement that opposes… They’re not really clear about what. They oppose, and really, shame on you if you didn’t see this coming by now since literally every character in this series has complained about it, “a wasteful government, a government whose hands are tied by special interests and bureaucracy,” (Tom, you probably don’t remember, is a town councilman, but that’s “good” government I guess) and powerful corporations, and Ratkin in particular. That’s the reason for the comment about the car: it’s an Underground car, registered to the fictional “Killroy Burgess”, and therefore untraceable, except that it will be traced instantly the second time anyone cares to. Their main gig at the moment is running underground water refineries and selling water on the black market. Jennifer is their chief scientist.

Also, Jennifer uses the phrases “Smoke you out,” and “You can’t go home again.” within a minute of Nancy losing her house in a fire. Jerk.

“Mrs. Rochester” wakes up at Steinmetz and gets her reunion with her long-lost baby. This consists mostly of Ethan saying, “Mother!” and her saying, “My baby!” Ethan explains that he’s twelve, and I am quite sure they said he was fourteen back in episode 2. All goes well until Ethan proposes taking her back home to Ratkin, whereupon she becomes agitated and starts moaning, “No! No! He’ll kill me! No! Evans! Needle! No! Ronald killed me!”

Southern nurse shepherds Ethan out of the room and tells him that his mother is delirious from a “bad reaction” to some medication. Ethan reflexively threatens to sue if one of the staff was responsible for her overdose. Ethan is confused about his mother’s ramblings, and runs off to find Bryant. He does while Bryant and Firstein are discussing Mrs. Rochester’s overdose. Firstein has learned of the visit by Doctor Evans. They don’t go into how exactly this unknown-to-them doctor had gained entry and access to a patient without having to sign in and keeping his face covered by a large hat. Maybe it was explained in episode three, but I doubt it. Bloodwork reveals that she’d been given a large intravenous injection of dilaudid, which is not the sort of thing anyone would do by mistake, meaning that it was definitely an assassination attempt. Ethan puts this information together with what he’d seen earlier and what he’d heard from his mother, and realizes that Evans, under orders from Ratkin, had just tried to kill his mother.

He runs off, mumbling, “Oh father? Why did you do it?” He finds Kyle, who apparently is just freely roaming around outside the hospital, instead of having been taken into custody or anything, and they decide to flee together. Bryant chases after them, swearing that he won’t hurt them, but Nancy and the Connors arrive and the kids accept a ride from these strangers, leaving Bryant swearing to trace the license plate number in order to help protect Ethan and his mother.

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