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Historical Pastiche Comedy
on 7 September 2015
‘Invaders from Mars’ was written and directed by Mark Gatiss was recorded on 16 and 17 January 2001. The headline on the Invaders from Mars cover is from a real newspaper reporting the War of the Worlds panic. The imitation poster on the CD booklet was drawn by Mark Gatiss. Actors David Benson (who plays both ‘Orson Welles’ and ‘Professor Stepashin’) and Ian Hallard (who plays ‘Mouse’ and ‘Winkler’) both appeared in the Doctor Who episode Robot of Sherwood, which was also written by Mark Gatiss. The story formed part of an Eighth Doctor series on BBC Radio 7 in 2005, alongside the stories 'Shada', 'Storm Warning', 'The Stones of Venice', ‘Sword of Orion’ and 'The Chimes of Midnight' and has been repeated on multiple occasions since. This led to the commissioning of the original series The Eighth Doctor Adventures, debuting on the digital station in December 2006. Due to a limited timeslot, scenes were edited out of these versions; excluding 'Shada' and 'The Chimes of Midnight', these were collated into 'The Eighth Doctor Collection' in 2008 with an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary and booklet. 'Minuet in Hell' was excluded from broadcast due to its adult themes. The Invaders from Mars was the original title for the 1970 Third Doctor story, The Ambassadors of Death.
1. There were 48 States in the United States in 1938, not 49 as Chaney claims.
2. The CIA was not established until 1947, almost nine years after the events portrayed here.
3. Welles fails to recognise a Shakespearean quotation.
4. Don Chaney claims to own a 1929 Lamborghini previously owned by Al Capone, but Lamborghinis did not exist until 1963.
The first two "mistakes" in this list were deliberate, intended to be examples of anti-time contamination. The third was also deliberate, but was explained in The Time of the Daleks. The last was not deliberate but was later retconned to be another example of anti-time contamination.
Whilst trying to take Charley to Singapore the TARDIS lands in Manhattan Halloween 1938 just days before the infamous radio adaptation of H.G. Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’. The Doctor poses as a dead Private Detective and becomes caught up in a search for a missing Russian scientist, and a genuine alien invasion.
There isn’t a lot of background music and what there is imitates the period. It’s quite refreshing not to have constant music of some sort in the background. They use actors affecting caricature period Manhattan accents, and the sound effects are cartooney. The alien voices are strangely modulated.
The acting is all very good and there is a bit of stunt casting with Simon Pegg playing ‘Don Chaney’, and Jessica Stevenson playing every female part except Charley. Don Chaney's name is a reference to horror actor Lon Chaney, his nickname is "Phantom" which is a reference to one of Lon Chaney's most famous film roles, The Phantom of the Opera; Bix Biro's name is a reference to the Bic and Biro. Cosmo Devine may be reference to determining what is in space. Stevenson also played Joan Redfern in two episodes of the 2007 series of Doctor Who (entitled "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood") as well as Verity Newman in "The End of Time", while Pegg appeared in "The Long Game" as well as being the narrator in the first series of Doctor Who Confidential. This is the first audio story to credit India Fisher as Charley on the front cover. It’s a curious juxtaposition that both the main parts, Paul and India, play their characters so straight in such a cartoony world. It reminds me of ‘Roger Rabbit’.
The plot is pretty unexciting and straight forward. Being dialogue heavy I can’t say much about the plot, it’s quite simplistic. It’s a historical pastiche comedy with some genuinely amusing moments but generally the humour was a bit weak.