Aliens stand for something that we cannot control – Gabriel Byrne

Aliens stand for something that we cannot control – Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne as “Bill Ward” in the upcoming reimagination of the War of the Worlds series by US TV network FOX | Image: Supplied

Though the star of the upcoming series does not believe in the existence of aliens, he does believe they function as an important symbol for humanity’s fear.

Despite being written in 1897, HG Wells’s science fiction novel War of the Worlds has remained so popular that television and film studios can’t stop finding new ways to reimagine the book’s story.

Written between 1895 and 1897, War of the Worlds has been hailed as one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race.

The latest iteration of the narrative is a FOX production written and created by the BAFTA award-winner Howard Overman (Misfits, Crazyhead, Merlin) set in present-day Europe.

The story begins when astronomers detect a transmission from another galaxy, believing it to be definitive proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Thereafter, the world’s population waits for further contact with bated breath. However, they do not have to wait long and within days, mankind is all but wiped out by a devastating attack. Pockets of humanity are then left in an eerily deserted world.

A scene from FOX’s iteration of War of the Worlds | Image: Supplied

During a recent interview one of the show’s stars, Gabriel Byrne (who plays Bill Ward), said that although he did not believe that aliens exist, he believed that they symbolised something that humans could not control.

“I believe they stand for something that we cannot control, that’s fearful, that’s out there, so I believe it from that point of view, just the same way people used to believe in fairies,” said Byrne.

This after he shared his thoughts on how he thinks the human race would fare in the aftermath of an alien invasion.

“Well, first of all, I don’t think there’ll ever be such a thing as an alien invasion, but how would we cope? I don’t think we know how we’re going to cope, there are certain things that we think we would know how to do, but in the event of a catastrophe like that, we can’t predict, individually, how we would react.

“I mean all I know is that the biggest threat, the biggest existential threat to the human race is climate change and we don’t seem to be acting terrifically well in relation to that. I can’t think of anything more threatening, and yet I can’t think of really any great collaborative reaction to that. Maybe we’re destined to be wiped out by aliens or the weather,” he said.

Byrne plays a scientist, separated from his wife, and though he is a pretty brilliant scientist, he’s not so great at getting in touch with or being open about his emotions.  

“His journey is two-fold. From a scientific point of view, it’s to try to put together these indecipherable signals that come from somewhere out beyond the universe, to try to figure that particular problem out. His emotional journey is trying to reconcile with his wife as they journey through this apocalyptic kind of landscape,” he explained.

Byrne also thinks the story is extremely pertinent to the world we live in today.

“I think that the aliens, they’re a metaphor for the unknown, the fears and terrors that are out there. I think in the films of the 1950s, for example, there were a great many stories about unseen and unknown forces coming to threaten the world and that was indicative of a time when the world was entering a nuclear age and a very scary place. The aliens there stood in for perhaps the ‘red menace’, as it was known at that time.”

He believes that fear lives on in the world that we live in today as something equally as unnameable and incomprehensible.

“We can’t articulate what it is exactly, so that’s why this story, War of the Worlds, the HG Wells original story, which was written in 1908, was in a way a premonition of the Great War that was to come. The story itself can be recycled again and again to meet the changing world that we live in.”

Alongside Byrne, War of the Worlds features a critically acclaimed ensemble cast which includes Elizabeth McGovern, Léa Drucker, Natasha Little, Daisy Edgar Jones, Stéphane Caillard, Adel Bencherif, and Guillaume Gouix.  

War of the Worlds will premier on FOX DSTV channel 125 on October 30 at 8.45pm and new episodes will air every Wednesday thereafter.

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