We’ve had at least two “War of the Worlds” movies, the 1953 version and 2005 version with Tom Cruz. For the sake of argument, I’m going to mention the “War of the Worlds 2” movie but not address it here, since it is a sequel to a direct to VHS/DVD movie that had to loudly pronounce its relation to H.G. Wells’ work to get attention. The more important sequel in my mind is “The Tripods” TV show, because it takes the same premise and shows what happens if we lose the “War of the Worlds”.

“The Tripods” TV show is based on a three book series set a century after the original movie “The War of the Worlds”. In this world, the aliens won. Humanity has had four to five generations see every teenager being “capped”, a procedure where a mind control device implanted in their heads. There is an external receiver visible for all to see, making it easy to tell who isn’t under control yet. Adults celebrate the event as a coming of age rite, though many children fear it. They don’t just fear the loss of creativity and curiosity the cap causes. They also fear becoming part of the small minority that contract a brain infection from the procedure, leaving them mindless zombies or stark raving mad. That detail is crucial to the tiny resistance. It lets them put on “caps” harvested from the dead and wander around freely. They remain free from inspection and care by authorities as long as they act crazy enough, and they can wander up to take the food the civilized leave for the crazy rogues. A rare few of the civilized adolescents figure out this trick themselves and remain mentally free while living in broader society, though implantation or death await them if discovered.

“The Tripods” books were made into an excellent children’s series by the BBC in the 1980s. The first season was based on the first book, while the second season was close to the plot of the second book. The most exciting season, the one featuring the third book plot where the Tripods are finally defeated, didn’t get made. It was just too expensive, and Doctor Who was considered more important. Ironically, the original run of Doctor Who only lasted a few more years after this. Maybe they should have finished “The Tripods”.

In the movies titled the “The War of the Worlds”, we beat the Tripods before they conquer the world. Well, really, we don’t – the germs do. However, the aliens die out within weeks. We’ve lost most of our infrastructure and, probably, most of our people. We’ll likely have to continue to fight the alien life-forms, too, if you go by the Tom Cruise version of the movie. However, we will rebuild. A world organized enough to have traffic cops guiding people around dying tripods can rebuild. We’ll burn out the alien plants that feed on human blood. We’ll lob germ-laden messes at alien life-form infestations to kill it. It doesn’t even have to be high tech. Just imitate monkeys throwing poo … except we have better aim and knowledge of what it will do. Where are all the compost heaps and trebuchets?

The “War of the Worlds” movies are equal parts humbling and hopeful. If our entire ecosystem is hostile to the aliens, they won’t come back because they know they’d have to sterilize the whole planet to colonize it. Even then, some germs in the deep ocean or upper atmosphere could still wreak havoc. As long as the aliens relayed information to home that our diverse ecosystem is a biowarfare hazard, we’re safe … as long as they decide not to sterilize it, that is. They may just decide to quarantine the planet. Then we’re safe as long as we stay in our solar system. On the other hand, the fact that we’re not able to fight the aliens means we’re stuck here, and we can’t do much if they do decide to fry the Earth. I hope some waterbears didn’t hitch a ride on an interstellar probe and get us labeled attempted genociders by any species that found it …

“The Tripods” TV show is also a mix of humbling and hopeful. The aliens in that series have been using humans as labor and information. In this series, they find Earth’s environment almost as hostile as the aliens of “The War of the Worlds”. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Tripods have been biding their time. These aliens do plan on “xeno-forming” the Earth. One admits to the plan for replacing our atmosphere and ecosystem with one that is compatible with them. Nor do they care about killing the millions of surviving humans, since they’ve saved a few of the prize specimens in suspended animation. Any humans who may learn this won’t care, for they are bound by the will of the tripods. The resistance in Switzerland is nearly wiped out, too, while one member of the resistance learns this secret.

In “The Tripods”, we lost big. We lost our major cities. We lost industrial civilization. We lost almost all of our hope, dream and create. Yet the uncapped children and secret “passing” adults provide hope that we could defeat the aliens by exposing them to our atmosphere and preventing the sterilization of the world of all Earth life. Our creativity and ingenuity can save us, if someone is both aware of the threat and the ways it could be dealt with. And in the end, that someone does save us. And there is hope for all of us because of the ingenuity, bravery and creativity in at least one of us

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