It was the first in a series of 6 audio stories that begins the second "season" of Eighth Doctor stories.
A month after a mysterious meteorite lit up the skies of New York State, Martian invaders laid waste to the nation. At least, according to soon-to-be infamous Orson Welles they did. But what if some of the panicked listeners to the legendary The War of the Worlds broadcast weren't just imagining things?
Attempting to deliver Charley to her rendezvous in Singapore 1930, the Eighth Doctor overshoots a little, arriving in Manhattan just in time to find a dead private detective. Indulging his gumshoe fantasies, the Doctor is soon embroiled in the hunt for a missing Russian scientist whilst Charley finds herself at the mercy of a very dubious Fifth Columnist.
With some genuinely out of this world "merchandise" at stake, the TARDIS crew are forced into an alliance with a sultry dame called Glory Bee, Orson Welles himself and a mobster with half a nose known as "the Phantom".
And slowly and surely, something is drawing plans against them. Just not very good ones...
In September 1938, a meteor lights up the sky over New York City. One month later, on 30 October, two criminals, Ellis and Mouse, have robbed their boss, Don Chaney, of merchandise to resell. Their buyer turns out to be a private detective named J.C. Halliday, who tries to arrest them. Ellis shoots Halliday with a rather exotic gun. As they flee, the TARDIS materialises, and the Doctor and Charley emerge, with the Doctor cautioning Charley about changing history. They realise they have not landed in 1930 Singapore as expected, but in New York, near a dead body. He finds that Halliday was a private detective, and decides to investigate, as Halliday’s well-fried death doesn’t fit the time period. Meanwhile, Orson Welles and John Houseman are rehearsing for CBS Radio’s upcoming Halloween broadcast, for which Welles is not very excited. As they practice, network chairman Bix Biro makes some additional wiring connections in the broadcast booth...
Ellis rejoins Chaney and his men for dinner, and finds that Mouse is missing. They are accosted by two rival hitmen, who call Chaney by an unwanted nickname—“the Phantom”—based on an old facial injury, and try to kill him. He kills them first, with another of the exotic guns, which leave them burned to a crisp. Elsewhere, at another restaurant, gossip columnist Cosmo Devine chats with the upper crust, and takes donations for a theatre project. He leaves shortly to make an important call.
The Doctor and Charley visit Halliday’s office. They meet a potential customer for Halliday, a woman named Glory Bee, who is searching for her missing uncle, Yuri Stepashin, who disappeared from an alleged—but fake—conference. The Doctor poses as Halliday (against Charley’s wishes), and learns that the missing uncle was an atomic scientist. He suspects a connection with the radiation-related death of Halliday.
As Welles and Houseman leave for the night, they encounter Biro, with whom Welles does not get along. Biro’s nervous attitude is justifiable, though; Welles does not know that Cosmo Devine has kidnapped Biro’s lover, Jimmy Winkler. Devine has ordered Biro to find certain information, and to plant a signal in the Halloween broadcast, and has threatened Winkler’s life if Biro fails.
Elsewhere, Chaney has a strange creature in his custody, which provides him with the radiation weapons. He has also found Mouse and is interrogating him while Ellis watches. Mouse admits to selling the weapons to rivals, and admits to having a partner in the thefts; he mentions Halliday’s death. As a result, he doesn’t know who the real contact for the sale would have been. Chaney decides that Mouse has no more information, and should be killed. Ellis beats Mouse to keep him from talking, and then drops him through a hatch to the creature below; he and Chaney listen as Mouse meets a terrible end...
In the morning, the Doctor tells Charley that Halliday’s investigation involved the Excelsior Hotel, the hotel at which Glory’s uncle was allegedly staying. They are interrupted by the police, who have discovered Halliday’s body, and they are forced to flee down the fire escape. In the process, Charley is kidnapped by a thug. As Glory arrives with more questions, the Doctor is forced to stop searching for Charley and go with Glory to the hotel. Meanwhile, at the studios, Biro learns that the attempt on Chaney’s life was a failure.
As the Doctor and Glory arrive at the hotel, Welles and Houseman are leaving. Ellis is also there, as is Cosmo Devine; Cosmo, it seems—or rather, his agent—was the planned contact for the sale, but found Halliday’s body instead. Ellis explains that they have already kidnapped Charley for questioning; she is at Cosmo’s house in New Jersey. They overhear the Doctor and Glory asking about Stepashin; Cosmo wants to meet the professor, and Ellis happens to know where he is. Glory pretends to faint, distracting the desk clerk and allowing the Doctor to check the guest register. This leads them to room 1504, where they find another of Ellis’s men.
Stepashin is alive, and in Chaney’s custody, where he is analysing the creature in the tank. Chaney, it seems, intends to sell the creature to the CIA once they meet his price. Irritably, Chaney returns to his office to listen to the radio, just missing the opening of the now-famous “War of the Worlds” Halloween broadcast. Welles, for his part, concedes that even though terrible, the production is well written.
Charley finds herself imprisoned with the missing Jimmy Walker, who has been here for three weeks. Cosmo, it seems, intends for the German army to invade the United States. He knows that the meteor last month was an alien ship, and that the surviving alien has been found by Chaney’s goons, which led to this plot by Devine. Devine wants Biro to discover the whereabouts of the ship and the alien. Cosmo arrives and questions Charley about Stepashin; when she doesn’t produce satisfactory answers, he struggles to administer a drug which will compel her to reveal the truth. Meanwhile, the broadcast continues to play.
The Doctor and Glory are taken by Ellis to Chaney’s hideout, but the Doctor quickly gets them out of their cell. He theorises that the mobsters have kidnapped Stepashin to sell his knowledge. They locate a lab, which contains part of the alien ship’s stardrive. Stepashin arrives and examines the alien’s tank, which has become murky; Glory hides to observe him. This confuses the Doctor—if she is his niece, why doesn’t she talk to him?—but it becomes clear when the Doctor introduces himself and Glory to Stepashin. Stepashin claims he has no family, at which Glory draws a gun and admits to being a Soviet secret agent, here to take Stepashin back to Russia.
Ellis finds Cosmo questioning Charley with the help of the drug, while Winkler watches. She does indeed tell the truth, but her words about time travel confound them, so Cosmo eventually stops and goes back to the broadcast, waiting for the signal he ordered to be implanted. They hear something overhead, but pay no attention; as it turns out, however, on this particularly famous Halloween night, invaders really have come to a field in New Jersey: Destroyer Streath and Conserver Noriam, two batlike aliens who have come in search of a lost breeding party. They will destroy the world if necessary to get it back...
Stepashin was here to defect to the USA, and his return—along with the captured alien technology—will mean glory for Glory. The technology has already allowed the professor to work on a prototype nuclear weapon. Glory takes Stepashin and the Doctor outside, where they find that the hideout is inside a tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. Chaney intercepts them with one of the alien guns, causing a standoff; the Doctor tries to persuade him to destroy the technology, in order to save the human race from its own ambition. However, Chaney has already closed a deal with the CIA. They are interrupted by a mobster, who has fallen victim to the hysteria caused by the radio broadcast about the Martians in New Jersey. The Doctor realises the truth, and laughs—not realising that there really are aliens nearby.
Biro has sent the coded signal, telling Devine that he has the requested information. Devine, therefore, intends to kill Ellis, no longer needing him. However, Charley is now recovering, and attacks Devine long enough for Ellis to knock him out. However, Devine’s gun goes off in the fight and kills Winkler. As Charley and Ellis flee, they encounter the aliens, Streath and Noriam, who question them about Earth’s defences. Ellis, misunderstanding, claims that all weapons are in the city; the aliens take Charley and Ellis along to the city while they search. Meanwhile, Biro and his assistant, Carla, begin to receive word at the switchboards about the panic the broadcast has caused. As riots begin, Biro orders Houseman to broadcast an apology. He goes to meet a visitor: Cosmo Devine. Biro tells him that Chaney has the alien ship, and gives the location of Chaney’s lair. Cosmo kills Biro, but unknown to him, the conversation was recorded on Carla’s dictation machine.
Back at the Brooklyn Bridge, Streath and Noriam’s ship arrives, breaking the stalemate by distracting Chaney. Glory tries to seize Stepashin, but one of the thugs shoots out part of the bridge, causing her to fall to her death. Noriam, on the ship, detects the weapons fire, and brings the ship in to land. Ellis, now regretting all his decisions, decides to try to make good on the situation; but he misses an argument among the aliens, which belies their less-than-strong position. Meanwhile, Chaney forces the Doctor and the Professor back inside; at the lab, he finds Devine with a squad of German soldiers, here to claim the alien and the technology. They open the alien tank—but find, to their horror, that the alien has reproduced by binary fission, producing thirty hungry offspring...
The alien spawn destroy the German soldiers. Devine, Chaney, and the Doctor flee; Stepashin does as well, but is overtaken and killed. They are intercepted by Noriam and Streath, with Charley and Ellis in tow; while the Doctor and Charley are happy to see one another, Chaney realises that Ellis sold him out. The Doctor and Devine both claim to speak for Earth; the Doctor realises that, despite Noriam’s claims, there is no invasion coming, only the two of them. In fact, the aliens are criminals as well, running a protection racket. It seems they release breeding parties—the alien that has now reproduced—on less-advanced worlds, then offer to protect that world at a price. Devine tries to convince Noriam to use advanced technology to conquer the planet; he intends to use this as his own personal meal ticket. The Doctor counters this by telling the aliens that the planet is already being invaded, with Martian war machines approaching New York. Noriam suspects this is a bluff, but they are interrupted by the alien offspring. While Noriam uses a signal to calm the hatchlings, the Doctor escapes with Charley and Chaney; Ellis is still trapped, and Devine chooses to stay and continue to work on an alliance with the aliens. When Ellis objects, Devine kills him.
Welles and Houseman find Biro dead, and find the recording of the confrontation on the dictation machine. As Chaney, the Doctor, and Charley race to the studios to enact the Doctor’s new plan, the aliens begin to pack up the technology in the lab. Chaney’s men bring the TARDIS to the studio, and Chaney gets them inside using his police connections to bypass the mob outside. They find Welles trying to report the murder of Biro to the CIA, but in light of the panic, the CIA is having none of it. The Doctor offers to help, but his remarks—about Shakespeare, and about Welles’ as-yet-unmade films—just confuse the man. The Doctor lays out his plan to get rid of the aliens. The Doctor, Charley, Chaney, Welles, and Houseman are going to re-broadcast The War of the Worlds, with some special changes, for the benefit of the aliens. As they begin, the Doctor connects the TARDIS to the broadcast booth and isolates a certain frequency.
The aliens have imprisoned Devine in their cargo hold, where he hears something in the hatchling tank. Noriam takes him to the bridge and questions him about Earth and its weaknesses; he describes the various nations and the political situation, encouraging an attack so as to secure his own power. He is interrupted by the second broadcast, which—thanks to the Doctor’s ruse—convinces Noriam and Streath that there is a real invasion on. As they are aware that Mars is indeed occupied by a formidable warrior race, they assume Cosmo has been distracting them while his “real” allies arrive and attack. Streath returns Cosmo to the hold, while Noriam takes the ship to orbit.
Charley sees in the TARDIS that the ship is fleeing, and the Doctor congratulates his group...not realising that they are still broadcasting. Streath and Noriam are furious at being played, and turn the ship around. However, in the hold, Stepashin—badly wounded and dying, but still hanging on—emerges from the empty hatchling tank. He knows he will die, but he decides to save the world in the process; and he sets off his prize creation: the world’s first atomic bomb.
In true human fashion, the authorities dismiss the explosion over the city as another meteor. The CIA is ready with a cover story, and the ship sightings will be attributed to hysteria. Welles will now be infamous, but he will eventually recover; and as he addresses the public, the Doctor and Charley take their leave, dematerialising in front of Chaney’s eyes.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Charley Pollard - India Fisher
- Mouse / Winkler / Luigi / Heavy - Ian Hallard
- Ellis - Mark Benton
- John Houseman / Thug / Streath - Jonathan Rigby
- Orson Welles / Professor Stepashin / Halliday - David Benson
- Bix Biro / Noriam / Man - Paul Putner
- Don Chaney / Actor - Simon Pegg
- Glory Bee / Carla / Women - Jessica Stevenson
- Cosmo Devine / Hotel Clerk - John Arthur
- Reception Guest - Katy Manning
- Radio Announcer - Mark Gatiss
- Thug / Toastmaster - Alistair Lock
- The Doctor tells Charley that, in the 11th century, an "amoral Time Lord" altered history by providing King Canute with technology which allowed him to turn back the tide and gain greater influence over Saxon England than he would have done otherwise.
- H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds is mentioned.
- The Doctor is astonished that Orson Welles is ignorant of William Shakespeare's identity, more so considering Welles was known for his Shakespearean work, even in the 1930s.
- Orson Welles' radio series is sponsored by Campbell Soup.
- The Doctor says that sometimes he treats himself to a complete makeover.
- The Doctor was trying to take Charley to Singapore.
- This story introduces a new variation of David Arnold's theme arrangement, which doesn't open with the traditional sting and features a few more sound effects. The closing theme also opens with a newly revised sting, with the theme itself being slightly altered.
- The first episode was specially released as a bonus on the original CD of The Ratings War.
- The title references the 1953 science fiction film Invaders from Mars.
- One of Houseman's lines — "George, what are you doing with those keys?" — is aimed at George Coulouris, who appeared in Welles' broadcast as well as Citizen Kane and later starred as Arbitan in The Keys of Marinus.
- The headline on the Invaders from Mars cover is from a real newspaper reporting the War of the Worlds panic. The imitation poster on the CD booklet was drawn by Mark Gatiss.
- This audio drama was recorded on 16 and 17 January 2001.
- The Sixth Doctor previously met H. G. Wells, the author of The War of the Worlds, in Scotland during the summer of 1885 and subsequently took him on a trip to the planet Karfel. (TV: Timelash) Many years later in his personal timeline, the Tenth Doctor would meet Wells once again in 1889. He intimated that they would have a third encounter later in Wells' personal timeline which occurred earlier in his own. (COMIC: The Time Machination)
- The Doctor once again speed reads a book in a matter of seconds. (TV: City of Death, TV: Rose, TV: The Time of Angels)
- The reason for Welles' ignorance of Shakespeare is revealed in AUDIO: The Time of the Daleks.
- In AUDIO: Neverland, it is revealed why there are forty-nine states in the USA (instead of forty-eight in 1938) and how the CIA, which was actually founded in 1947, can exist in 1938.
- The Celestial Toymaker would later refer to Orson Welles in a riddle while Charley was playing his games in the Celestial Toyroom. (AUDIO: Solitaire)
- Later during his eighth incarnation, the Doctor and his companion Tamsin Drew would become embroiled in the events surrounding an actual Martian invasion in the 23rd century, though not of Earth but Mars itself. (AUDIO: Deimos / The Resurrection of Mars)
- Official Invaders from Mars page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.
- DisContinuity for Invaders from Mars at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide