Every alien invasion story is hiding a tragedy.
Alien invasion as an allegory for Imperialism and colonial violence is as old a concept as The War of the Worlds itself - in fact, that’s the premise of the original novel. But we see the invaders as a monolithic evil, with us as their only victims. What could have happened to create this evil? Certainly no single race, or species in this case, could just be invariably evil, totally on board with whatever destructive tendencies their leaders have. There would be resistance. Riots, protests, planned coups, elections. An alien society with members so in-league with such a vicious Imperialistic design does not come out of nowhere. It means that those riots, protests, coups, elections - all of them failed. And their perpetrators were probably not treated kindly by their oppressor class.
In The War of the Worlds, Wells brings up a deeply disturbing detail that has, to my knowledge, never been used or even acknowledged in a mainstream adaptation of the novel. After the defeat of the Martians, bodies are found within their cylinders - withered, sightless, broken corpses, drained of all their blood. Snacks in transit for the vampiric invaders. But Wells suggests that these nearly-human corpses represent some kind of Martian subspecies, one that is closer to what the Martians evolved from. The invaders, he suggests, were once more or less human, and some faction of them won out and put the other to use as genetically-reduced and utterly helpless nutrient sources. Bloodbags.
WotW2017, the first part of this modern adaptation, is about the invasion Wells envisioned, and the love that kept two people from breaking during a nightmare. This second installment is also about someone in love - a character I care deeply about and want to tell a story around - but she’s not quite the center of the story. She is our witness to the brutal history of WotW2017’s invaders, as told by its victims, who have kept the story alive hundreds of thousands of years after the fact. It’s the story of a society that lost a war for its soul to its worst citizens, those who inflicted agendas of fear and erasure on their most vulnerable and would not stop until they were humiliated and destroyed. It’s not a pretty story, but for all we know, there might be hope on the other side.
Emily Ballard and the Planet of Doctor Moreau is also a story about the politics of H.G. Wells. While Wells was enlightened for his time, he took a while in getting there, and his early writings are filled with the very eugenics he would go on to reject in his later years. Even his most progressive works about an imagined utopian future present many troubling ideas. His future history, The Shape of Things to Come, is something I particularly wanted to question while writing this piece. Why was Wells’s socialist fantasy centered around a panopticon dictatorship, whose first real action is to eliminate religious freedom worldwide? It’s a troubling idea from a very complex man. Wells deserves credit for his victories, so on the flip side of that, his worst impulses must be examined.
What Emily Ballard and the Planet of Doctor Moreau isn’t about is The Island of Doctor Moreau. It shares its premise loosely with the novel - a lost soul washes up on a strange shore only to find a society hidden from the eyes of civilization and a deeply disturbing secret history - but the Moreau of this work is not the Moreau of Wells’s adventure story about ethics in experimentation and the nature of power in civilization. This piece presents a more positive view of how technology can assist in the lives of those who are in need of assistance, not as a refutation to the valid and striking points of Wells’s novel, but as a companion to them.