The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Years beyond his time, the grandfather of science fiction was writing about alien invasions, submarines, and space travel long before man ever thought of walking on the moon. This miniseries by Hallmark traverses into the imaginary world of such a man, introducing us to delightfully eccentric characters and wonderfully imaginative stories along the way.
Approached one stormy evening by a journalist seeking to write about his younger years, author H.G. Wells (Tom Ward) reminisces about his youthful adventures into the paranormal. A struggling writer seeking the attentions of beautiful scientist Jane Robins (Katy Carmichael), Wells is lured into an exploration of unusual events when attending a lecture by famed Professor Gibberne (Nicholas Rowe). In the midst of an experiment, the expensive contraption simply vanishes, blowing one door off its hinges, sending the professor and his assistant crashing back into the wall, and accompanied by a magnificent gust of wind that leaves everyone slightly dazed. Blamed for the loss of the instrument, Gibberne finds that the only theory remotely plausible is presented by Wells, who gladly assists him in investigating a series of mysterious events that have recently occurred on campus.
Mice have disappeared from the laboratories. The clock in the tower was halted abruptly through the presence of a ball burned completely black, propelled with such force through the outer wall that it might have been shot with a cannon. Ghostly visitations in the late evening have more than one professor convinced a poltergeist is loose. On solving the crime, Gibberne, Jane, and Wells are involved in other inexplicable events. A glowing rock from outer space that mesmerizes anyone who draws near to it. A trip into the future and back via a railway accident. A young man suffering from delusions of being castaway on an island. A "magical" potion that backfires, and finally, my personal favorite, a case of intrigue in a race against time to prevent a terrorist from unleashing a deadly toxin on England.
Cleverly entwining "realistic fiction" with Wells' stories, this miniseries is remarkable both for its delightful misadventures and the exquisite casting. Hallmark is known for production values and this series doesn't lack in wonderful visuals, from Gibberne and Wells talking a walk through a world in which time has temporarily halted to the creepy vision of an alien being beckoning the curious to enter its sinister world. Each episode is stand alone (there are six, shown in three-part segments) but also builds on one another. One is left with the feeling that this could have been an eventual series had not the funding been pulled, which is unfortunate since the plot has merit, and the characters are very likable. Some episodes are more enjoyable than others. I felt Gibberne was a great asset to the plot and was sorry that he plays a substantial role in only the first and last installments, with brief cameos in the others. Ironically, however, the entirety of the story seems to revolve around him, as it is through a collection of his things that Wells comes to recall their adventures.
Few content issues intrude, but there are little things worthy of notice. Mild language is often used (d*mn, and Good Lord!) by primary characters. There is some violence, the worst being accidental electrocutions and a man being run over by a cart. The supernatural is discussed (the possibility of ghosts, and out of body experiences) but never proven. Jane and Wells have an intimate relationship that eventually leads to them living together without marriage, something frowned on by various "prudes." They are later married. One scene has them cuddling in bed. In one of the series' more awkward moments, a truth serum forces the dean of the college to confess to Professor Gibberne that he has "feelings" for him. We are left with the professor's expression of horror, but it still was unnecessary. There were times when it was a little too strange even for my taste, but overall I found this to be a delightfully eccentric gathering of stories.