I never did see this when it was originally aired as a miniseries, and had no idea that it even existed until I did a search for "H.G. Wells" in the Dvd section at Amazon.com, and I really must say, it was one of those truly excellent rare finds that comes only once or twice a year at the most. I wasn't in the least bit sorry or disappointed that I ordered this Dvd; it was truly an excellent video adaption of some of H.G. Well's very best science-fiction short-stories.
Tom Ward played a very good H.G. Wells, in his prime as an ambitious writer for a popular London publishing company (The Saturday Review) and also as the elderly Wells, being interviewed and sharing a review of the past with Eve Best, who plays a reporter but is also connected to the Ministry of Science and has a special interest in some of the speculative works of Wells. Katy Carmichael plays Jane Robbins, the college professor that Wells eventually married. Wells and Robbins are like a Victorian version of Mulder and Scully of the X Files, as together they investigate strange events and follow the stories to do their best to understand the scientific nature and get to the truth.
The very first story is about strange events at the college where Jane herself works, and introduces us to one of Well's most intelligent friends, a Professor Gibberne (Nicholas Rowe), after a spectrograph suddenly vanishes during an experiment and Wells is enlisted by Gibberne to investigate the case. The investigation leads them to another Professor, who has been conducting experiments with a powerful chemical, which they discover, accelerates the metabolism. The special effects for this particluar episode were state-of-the-art; perfect tri-dimensional stop-action scenes with Wells and Gibberne moving about within it all, while the rest of the world was completely frozen still.
Each of the stories were interwoven by the personal lives shared by Wells and Robbins, as they became better acquainted with each other, taking lunch together and walks in the park. After Wells is kicked out of his "Saturday Review" publishing company office by the department editor, for turning in the story about the chemical accelerant instead of the romantic piece that was assigned to him, he and Jane go out and about together looking for another story which he hopes will make up for the sudden set-back.
What they found was perhaps even more fantastic than the episode about the accelerant, even though it also pertained to the relativity of time. In this case, however, it involved a paradoxical event that occurred after a subterranean power-line worker experienced a temporal displacement which put him back in time about a week. As time-travel stories go, this one wasn't all that different than others, as it gave the somewhat disillusioned man the opportunity to use his knowledge about the future to his advantage and also pointed out the dangers such manipulation of events could pose. But the really unique twist to this one was provided at the very end, after the man handed Jane's book, detailing the entire story, to Wells in the tea shop, even though they themselves never recalled the experience, because it never actually occurred in the "adjusted" time-line.
The next episode is somewhat reminiscent of "War of the Worlds", as it involves what might be considered one of the very first meteoric probes from Mars, which crashes somewhere in Northern Britain and is sold to a curios shop manager, to be sold as either a large, interesting paper-weight or whatever. Before it is sold, however, the manager studies it more closely and sees something, like a vision of another world, and an alien creature. When the man takes a drawing of the creature to Jane Robbins at the college, seeking to identify the species (Robbins is a biology professor), Wells shows up and takes a special interest in the case.
Three other episodes include one about a man that experiences a temporary bipolar disorder after an accident involving a powerful electromagnet at the college, which puts him in a mental ward speaking about visions of being alone on an island somewhere at sea; another about an over-weight friend of Wells that becomes light as a feather on the wind after drinking a potion from a mysterious apothecary, and finally, an episode about a fan of Wells that uses him to get to Gibberne, solely for the purpose of stealing some of the experimental viral cultures Professor Gibberne has been storing, to be used as a weapon against the British government.
This series is extremely well-done, an excellent adaption of the speculative science fiction of Wells. The Victorian era settings appear to be very authentic, the characters all quite believable, the effects at their best, and the fictional stories all very intriguing. Ward was excellent as Wells, Carmichael was a perfectly adorable supporting actress as Jane Robbins, the kind of strong, intelligent and attractive woman every man dreams about, and Rowe made a perfectly fun-loving zany Professor Gibberne.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the complete series is the perspective from which it is presented from the beginning and throughout; the perspective of the elderly Wells telling each of the stories to the reporter Ellen McGillvray (Eve Best). This is most interesting because it adds to the ultimate mystery by presenting each of the stories as if they are actually true; as if they were, in fact, based upon very real events experienced by Wells and Robbins and their friends and associates in late Victorian England. This fact-based fiction angle is very well-done and intriguing, and to some extent, quite believable. While each story does seem quite fantastic, at the same time, anyone who knows what a truly mysterious and fantastic universe we live in, will also realize that there could be some genuine factual basis in reality for much of it.
When one also considers how much of the 20th century history H.G. Wells foresaw and predicted, and how much more was opened up by the relativity theory of Einstein, The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells is a wonderful source of intelligent speculation as well as a reminder of how much more is possible beyond the tedious, monotonous and mundane reality so many of us find ourselves confined within, in the much more complicated beginning of the 21st century.