Synopsis: Mr Bedford has an extraordinary tale to tell. A tale of discovery and adventure, of bravery and sacrifice, and of strange creatures beyond our world.
His story begins with a chance meeting in the English countryside. Professor Cornelius Cavor is a scientist, a visionary, and a dreamer – but in Mr Bedford, he finds the practical partner who can help him realise his ambition.
The two are thrown together on an impossible journey, and together, Cavor and Bedford are destined to become… The First Men in the Moon.
Review: With his script for HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon, Jonathan Barnes proved that the adaptation process can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, adding or removing characters can be absolutely necessary for purposes of narrative economy and basic flow. On the other hand, these changes can alter the thematic underpinning of the source material in detrimental ways.
Maria Bell, played wonderfully by Chloe Pirrie, was the chief case in point. It was absolutely imperative to add a female character to the story, as Wells himself did not. Furthermore, without Maria as a sounding board, the pace of the recording would’ve dragged, as Cavor and Bedford were literally the only POV characters of either gender.
Unfortunately, the choices Barnes made in order to justify Maria’s presence in the story, negated her narrative value. Most annoying, she was a trite government agent stereotype, which allowed Barnes to sacrifice the Selenite characters and the marvelous world building Wells did for them for a hackneyed hostile alien trope that belonged in The War of the Worlds, not here.
In the book, the Grand Lunar was horrified by human warmongering. However, he dealt with it by simply eliminating Cavor, not by threatening Cavor’s entire species. The Selinites as Wells crafted them couldn’t have been bothered to invade earth. They had no interest in becoming what they beheld. Instead, Barnes gave us a cross between The War of the Worlds and The Day of the Triffids.
It’s unfortunate, because everything up until the reveal of Maria’s narrative justification was spot on. Nigel Planer and Gethin Anthony inhabited Cavor and Bedford perfectly. In addition, Lisa Bowerman’s directing captured both the pulpiness of the story and the psychological layers of the two leads. Their work was sadly undermined when Barnes’ gilded lily was choked by a transplanted lunar jungle.
You can purchase The First Men in the Moon here.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: HG Wells, dramatised by Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Nigel Planer (Professor Cavor), Gethin Anthony (Bedford), Chloe Pirrie (Maria Bell), Alan Cox (Shapps/Bartoli/Selinites), David Horovitch (The Grand Lunar). Other parts played by members of the cast.
- Deviations from the novel were thematically detrimental.
- Audio Production10