Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds Terrified A Nation: Today In Science & Science Fiction

By David Wharton | Updated

WellesIt’s nearly Halloween, so people are busy picking out last-minute costumes, buying candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, or maybe just planning the perfect spooky double feature to watch with your favorite people. If you’re short on Halloween ideas, however, we’ve got your back. Why not listen to Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, which first aired on this date in 1938.

Consider it a predecessor of the whole “found footage” genre. Welles’ War of the Worlds radio drama presented itself as a real news broadcast recounting unbelievable events: the arrival of a Martian invasion of Earth. It started out as a music broadcast, then a newscaster kept interrupting with increasingly fantastic reports of events, beginning with explosions observed on Mars and then leading to a full-on alien attack.

Although the broadcast did explain that it was a dramatization as it began, History.com explains that “most of these Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy ‘Charlie McCarthy’ on NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m….By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well underway.” As word of the panic the program was causing spread, Welles eventually interrupted the broadcast to clarify that it was fiction, hopefully before too many people had drained their savings to build doomsday bunkers.

You can listen to the Mercury Theater’s full War of the World broadcast, based on the book by H.G. Wells, below.

Today’s TV

Revolution (NBC, 8/7c) — “Dead Man Walking”

MILES CONSIDERS THE CONSEQUENCES OF MONROE’S ACTIONS – As Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Gene (Stephen Collins) question Monroe’s (David Lyons) true allegiance, Miles (Billy Burke) himself is weary of his former friend’s intentions. Meanwhile, Aaron (Zak Orth) continues to have visions that lead to endless questions.

Nova (PBS, 9/8c) — “Making Stuff Colder”

Cold is the new hot in this brave new world. For centuries we’ve fought it, shunned it, and huddled against it. Cold has always been the enemy of life, but now it may hold the key to a new generation of science and technology that will improve our lives. In “Making Stuff Colder,” David Pogue explores the frontiers of cold science from saving the lives of severe trauma patients to ultracold physics, where bizarre new properties of matter are the norm and the basis of new technologies like levitating trains and quantum computers.

The Tomorrow People (The CW, 9/8c) — “Kill or Be Killed”

UNFINISHED BUSINESS — When Ultra’s most wanted, Killian McCrane (guest star Jason Dohring, “Veronica Mars”), resurfaces after years of being in hiding, Stephen (Robbie Amell) enlists John’s (Luke Mitchell) help in tracking him down. John reluctantly agrees to help, but changes his mind when he learns that Killian isn’t after Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino) as everyone suspects. Stephen, wants to help, but Cara (Peyton List) explains that John’s history with Killian, which brings back a flood of memories from John’s past, making him do something he never thought he would do again. Meanwhile, Stephen’s mom (guest star Sarah Clarke) is suspicious of his whereabouts, putting him in an awkward position.

Today’s Comics

GuardiansGuardians of the Galaxy #8 (Marvel Comics)

This October, the Guardians of the Galaxy face the overwhelming might of Thanos and Infinity! Marvel is proud to present your first look at Guardians of the Galaxy #8, from blockbuster writer Brian Michael Bendis and superstar artist Francesco Francavilla! As the Mad Titan and his sinister armies lay siege to Earth, it’s up to Peter Quill and his rag-tag band of heroes to rise up and meet him! The Peak, orbital headquarters of intergalactic peacekeeping force S.W.O.R.D. has been hijacked – and it’s weapons pointed right at Earth! The galaxies most mismatched heroes must give it their all as they attempt a daring rescue mission! But at what cost? Don’t miss Guardians of the Galaxy #8 for the answer!

PlanetoidPlanetoid Volume 1 (Image Comics)

Silas, an ex-soldier turned space pirate, finds himself stranded on a mysterious planet in alien territory. As he explores the long-abandoned industrial ruins of the planet’s surface, he will have to fend off roving cyborg militias and a hostile alien military with a bounty on his head. Ultimately, Silas will have to build a coalition amongst the planetoid’s nomadic tribes in order to make a final stand against the larger tyrannical forces that rule over them.

CampbellWilliam Campbell (October 30, 1923 – April 28, 2011)
If you’ve watched much television from the 1960s, there’s a good chance you’ve seen William Campbell, even if you can’t place the name. Star Trek fans will remember him best as the puckish god-child Trelane, who made Kirk’s life hell in the 1967 episode “The Squire of Gothos.” Trelane is one of the franchise’s most memorable villains, and in many ways he was the template for John DeLancie’s eventual performance as Q, beginning in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Trelane wasn’t Campbell’s only Trek role: he also played Koloth in “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Campbell would have turned 90 today.

SSCSarah Carter (October 30, 1980)
Fans of TNT’s sci-fi drama Falling Skies will recognize Sarah Carter from her ongoing role as Margaret, but she’s been working in TV and film for the past decade or so, appearing in projects such as Final Destination 2, Smallville, and Dark Angel. She was also the very first celebrity interview I ever conducted, so she’s always got a special place in this world-weary writer’s black heart. Here’s hoping she has a lovely 33rd birthday!