BBC “War of the Worlds”

My view of BBC’s “War of the Worlds”

After several weeks of BBC advertising I tried to watch the first broadcast on Sunday evening and fell asleep waiting for the story to arrive. I watched it again this morning, eventually and after some considerable difficulty, using the BBC “I-Player” facility.

To be honest, I have seen more believable BBC science fiction in the days when Dr. Who was played by Sean Pertwee.

If the BBC had transcribed H.G.Wells’ story into a screenplay it may have made a good 2-3 hour drama. But, like every previous interpreter (except maybe Jeff Wayne), they felt that they had to bugger about with the story. At least the BBC set it in the correct era unlike previous film versions.

Having set the drama in the correct era, there were some fundamental errors for a “nit-picker” like myself. The biggest folly is about signing divorce papers. Did anyone check English divorce law before 1923? Can the writers explain which papers? As I understand it, the only possible accusation was adultery by the wife. This did not appear to be the case in this drama.

And as a (normally military) “rivet counter” why would anyone use a Great Western Railway train from Surrey to London? They may as well have used the Hogwarts Express.

When it came to the settings and “action”:
The woods looked like the same ones used for some “Harry Potter” scenes, totally devoid of undergrowth to impede people running from the inexpicably invisible Martian Death Ray.
There were far too many scenes of actors and “additional talent” staring in awe at stuff that would be inserted later using computer graphics. So much so that it became boring.

There were some baffling scenes of people walking in slow motion in a pseudo-Martian environment. Were these intended as “flash-forward” teasers to make us watch another episode?

I noticed that the series is “based on” H.G.Wells’ novel. It appears, so far, that “based on” refers to the title and the fact that the Martians have three-legged war machines. Also, as I mentioned above, the era is correct, which just about sets this drama above the others.

I will stick with it, if only to see if it improves.

The effects of battle

I have been listening to the BBC “Beyond Today” six-part podcast: “The Deadliest Day”. The podcast is a series of recordings made by the survivors and the relatives of those who died, were physically wounded or otherwise suffered from 9 Platoon, 2nd Rifles that suffered the highest casualty rate on the day of the highest casualties inflicted on the British Army in Afghanistan since the Victorian period – July 10th 2009.
The interviews are very frank, very enlightening and occasionally very distressing.

I believe that these experiences are common to many soldiers and their families in all the wars of history. The difference is that today the survivors – in all senses of the word – are prepared to talk about it, and that their resulting life problems are officially recognised. Not solved, but at least recognised.

If you want to make a difference, make a donation to

All credit to the BBC for making this series of programmes, and to all those who were prepared to open their hearts to us.

Highly recommended.

That damned revolting pedant.

Much of this post will be irrelevant to non-British readers.  I apologise in advance.

I am getting worried about the BBC’s syllogistic facilities.  From a BBC “South Today” news broadcast:

“Two ladies from our region are taking part in the world gliding championships in Australia.  Our success in the Women’s’ Football League shows what can be achieved”

Therefore, somewhat illogically:

British women are good at football.

Football is a sport.

Gliding is now apparently a competitive sport, rather than a pastime.

Therefore British women will be good at gliding.

I am not totally convinced.


In a similar vein, why was the BBC so interested in the fact that “only” 42% of performers at the Glastonbury Festival were female?  All hail to the tweeter who stated that in his/her opinion the quality of music is more important than the gender of the performer.


I am beginning to wonder if the BBC is trying to outdo Channel 4 in its “equality” stance. Sorry BBC, but having a continuity announcer from Ulster will never quite outdo the apparent Jamaican on Channel 4 (a channel that was set up to be controversial and forward-looking).

Both are equally comic to a listener brought up in the days when even a Dorset accent was deemed a hindrance to career progress.

A day of many parts

Today, despite being well into the second half of July, is dull and drizzly, following spectacular thunderstorms last night.

So I am confined indoors and catching up with several domestic and wargaming tasks.

I was inspired after listening to the latest Meeples and Miniatures podcast and after our recent fire to start documenting my wargame collection for insurance purposes.  It will be a long task.  It took me a week to collate from memory and photographs what we lost when the two sheds burned down.

Then I found a compiled list of unit values for Panzer Leader 1940 at for use in my Operation Sealion games, which I began to incorporate into my game records.

Next task was the pile of ironing, helped along by watching a couple of episodes of “By The Sword Divided”.


This is a BBC drama series screened between 1983 and 1985, like a sort of 1640s “Downton Abbey” which coincided with my early years of  English Civil War reenactment, and later episodes included some of my oldest – and in some cases sadly departed – friends as “supporting talent”.  The DVD series was released by the BBC in 2004.

Then I turned to some figure painting, namely the 1790s 6mm MDF soldiers from Commission Figurines.  These little “toy soldier” style figures are a little fragile, and because I expect them to be handled by small people I glue them in ranks of 3 to form blocks.


During the course of this I managed to drop a paint pot lid onto the beige carpet.  I hope that after some immediate panic action and a steam cleaner I have (almost) got away with it.  Time for a second application of carpet cleaner now before the Memsahib sees it.DSCN0707

And it’s still only 1:30pm!  Plenty of time for more catastrophes before bedtime.

More on Code Breaking

Following the surprising amount of interest in my recent code-breaking activity publicised by the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, here is a little background.

Some years ago I was invited to take part in a historical event held at Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey. My character for the week was to be the spymaster Philippe d’Auvergne. I was provided with a small look-out post at the top of the tower and a telescope. The weather was not the best and I decided to restrict my outdoor forays to a minimum, and prepared instead to display period code-breaking activities based on the story of George Scovell, who cracked the code used by Napoleon’s armies in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War.  For the benefit of visiting youngsters a set of simple cyphers was prepared for them to try their skill.

First I needed some coded documents. I wrote a computer program that would mimic the French coding system. The basis of the coding was that a single letter could be represented by up to half a dozen numbers of one, two or three digits. A number could also represent an entire word or group of commonly used letters forming part of a word.

I found some historical reports from the period in French and fed them into the program without reading them first. All I knew was the subject matter of the reports. I armed myself with pens, pencils, a notebook and an original 1791 French/English dictionary, as seen here:

Code breaker

Over the course of four days I managed to decode and translate one long document of about two pages and parts of several shorter ones that I used as cross-references. Sadly I have not been able to find any of the documents, but here from my notebook is a sample of my working:

My code-breaking notebook
The right hand page records the deciphered numbers, while the left hand page contains all the relevant notes.

I found this a most satisfying exercise, and I have recently used the same coding in my Peninsular War wargame campaign where the players requested messages to be in code.