Thunderchild - Adaptations


HMS Thunder Child is commonly omitted from adaptations, or replaced with technology more appropriate to the updated setting.

In Orson Welles's famous 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber replaces the Thunder Child. It crashes into a fighting-machine after being critically damaged by its Heat-Ray.

In the 1953 film the last-ditch defence is an atomic bomb which, despite being man's most incredible weapon, is as useless as every other physical attack against the invaders.

The first adaptation to feature the Thunder Child itself was Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, which was released in 1978 and retains the Victorian setting of the novel. The album features a song entitled "Thunder Child", dedicated to the drama of this scene. The cover art of the album depicts a Canopus-class battleship in combat with a Martian tripod. This version of the Thunder Child appears to be based on an artist's impression of the Battle of Coronel (1 November 1914), in which the two outdated British armoured cruisers, Good Hope and Monmouth, were sunk with all hands off the coast of Chile by a German fleet of five somewhat more modern cruisers commanded by Vizeadmiral Maximilian von Spee.

The 1999 video game Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds features a level revolving around the Thunder Child. The player is placed in control of the ironclad itself, and must sail it down a river while using its cannons to destroy Martian units and settlements. The level ends in a climactic confrontation with the Tempest, a powerful Martian war machine.

The only film to feature the Thunder Child directly is the Pendragon adaptation, released in 2005. This version uses CGI to portray the Thunder Child as the 1893 Royal Navy destroyer prototype HMS Havock, and reverses the order of the ship's attack; it uses guns first, before ramming, in both cases successfully. The vessel eventually sinks from damage sustained in the battle. It should be noted that this reversed order of attack mirrors that from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

In Steven Spielberg's 2005 film adaptation, War of the Worlds, contemporary American military forces use tanks and helicopters to try to hold back the alien tripods, again without success. Earlier in the film, civilian transport ships trying to escape from the Tripods are trapped and sunk easily, with no intervention by any military warship.

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