Don’t worry, BBC1’s The War of the Worlds IS still coming to TV

Despite visual effect delays, the HG Wells sci-fi adaptation with Ralph Spall and Eleanor Tomlinson is now primed for launch

War of the Worlds

We’re against an alien takeover as much as the next person, but isn’t it time we witnessed a brutal Martian invasion on TV? Or, more specifically, isn’t it time audiences finally saw BBC1’s adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a project unveiled over two years ago?

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The three-part sci-fi series promised a faithful take on HG Wells’ sci-fi novel that was set, just like its source material, in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century. However, although the Ralph Spall and Eleanor Tomlinson drama was expected to crash down onto our screens in late 2018 or early 2019, the show never materialised.

This delay was, according to producers Mammoth Screen, down to its visual effects, with the post-production team struggling to complete the show’s many computer-generated elements by Christmas 2018.

So, many months on, what’s happened to the drama? As we haven’t had a sniff of a trailer, is The War of the Worlds stuck perpetually in post-production?

Simple answer: no. A final cut was completed in May 2019 – one highly likely to contain finished visual effect shots.

That’s according to information provided by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – the folks who provide age ratings for films and DVDs. Although they aren’t required to rate everything that’s aired on TV (how on earth would live news work?) the BBFC do certify shows submitted by broadcasters for their DVD releases.

Now, it isn’t uncommon for broadcasters to get their big shows certified in advance but, as the BBFC says, “all content submitted for classification must be the full, final edit, in the correct screen ratio and with the final sound mix”. And, since The War of The Worlds was classified in May (achieving a ‘15’ rating, indicating the drama will be broadcast after the watershed) a full and final cut of each episode must exist.

Of course, it’s possible that since May the BBC has decided that The War of The Worlds needs some additional work and will re-classify the film in future – the BBFC would permit this. However, the BBFC say there are no current plans to re-certify The War of The Worlds (and doing so would cost the licence payer over £1,200).

In other words: in all likelihood, The War of the Worlds is finished and ready to air.

War of the worlds tripod

Although the BBC did not comment on these findings, it did say the drama is “coming soon”.

But when exactly? We can’t yet be sure. To ensure maximum viewership, such a big-budget series isn’t likely to air in the summer when TV audiences are traditionally lower. Instead, it will probably make it to screens either in the autumn or over Christmas when a three-episode run could fit nicely in the schedules.


Interestingly, it’s taken so long for the BBC to release The War of the Worlds that there’s now a competing adaptation in the works from Fox and Canal Plus – sparking a War of The War of The Worlds.

Created by BAFTA award-winning writer Howard Overman (the man behind Misfits) this contemporary reimagining of the classic story will be set in present-day Europe across eight hour-long episodes.

A release date hasn’t yet been announced for this version of The War of the Worlds – the drama is still looking for distributors – but they have released a raft of preview pictures. In fact, we have already seen more of this version of the story than the BBC’s adaptation.

War of the worlds
Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern in The War of the Worlds
studio canal
War of the worlds
studio canal

We guess that’s just how life is: you wait an age for one Martian massacre and then two come along at once. Typical, eh?

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The War of the Worlds is coming soon to BBC1