The Terror – A TV series worth “digging into” [WARNING -SPOILERS AHEAD]

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Marge Simpson watching a scene from the 1993 film Alive, which is about a South American rugby team crashing in the Andes and ultimately, resorting to cannibalism. More about cannibalism later…

I’ve recently become fascinated with the AMC  TV miniseries “The Terror.” Maybe it was the sexy name that initially drew me in! I was in a bar last January and saw promos for the series on TV. I couldn’t make that much out of the promos, but it looked old-timey (19th century naval uniforms), and it looked like there was a monster involved, too. Oh yeah, Ridley Scott’s name was in the credits (you know…that guy who directed Gladiator, Alien, and Robin Hood)? 

I was sold! Hook, line and sinker! But little did I knew what I was getting into [SPOILERS AHEAD, DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE WHINY ABOUT SPOILERS, NOW GET TO YOUR SAFE SPACE POST HASTE. ALSO THERE WILL BE MULTIPLE MENTIONS OF CANNIBALISM SO IF YOU ARE EASILY GROSSED OUT, DO NOT CONTINUE READING].

Ahem, this is NOT intended to be a plot synopsis of any kind. I’m just going to run through some of the things I’m enjoying about this yummy, yummy series (more about yummy later).

Things I Like About “The Terror”

  • There are LOTS of men in uniform. There’s hardly a woman (or otherwise a human out there into this sort of thing, male or female) who isn’t, in some way, a sucker for a guy in uniform. And this series has it in SPADES. Double-breasted, heavy wool cloaks, coats, etc. They’re in an Arctic expedition seeking the Northwest Passage (presumably for opium running), so they wear lots of layered stuff with great lines!

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This still is NOT from “The Terror,” but from the 1999 film Ravenous, which was set in the Sierra Nevadas just before the Gold Rush. Cannibalism is a theme in both this TV series and the movie (more about that later…hey, I did give a spoilers warning, didn’t I?)
  • Did I mention cannibalism? Things wind up getting very desperate for these poor crew members when they get stranded on King William Island after their ships get stuck in the ice, so…they start to eat each other. Excavations of the disaster site on King William island confirm that cannibalism actually happened because of cut marks on the bones. When things got REALLY desperate, it was apparent that they boiled the bones so that marrow could be extracted and eaten.
  • There’s a monster. There’s a huge monster laying waste to some of the crew members. It’s hardly seen, but enough to make this story a “fictionalized” account of true events.
  • Tension. SO much tension! Captain John Franklin’s hubris could fill up several Titanics and all of the adjacent icebergs. He wants to press on to find this damn Northwest Passage no matter the risk. Since I already mentioned cannibalism (sorry…I couldn’t wait – I was too excited), you pretty much know where his hubris will lead his crew of the H.M.S Erebus.  His crew members unfortunately have to tag along on his doomed ride to doom, but not without mutiny…
  • James Fitzjames. Yes this is his real name. This fascinating character – a blend of vanity , tragedy and heroism – is a  “bastard” (this means that he was born out of wedlock, not that he’s really a “bastard” in the wretched sense). Yet Fitzjames rises to third in command of this whole expedition and is Franklin’s right hand man on The Erebus, eventually becoming Crozier’s right-hand man after Franklin’s death. That voice – I want him to read to me! I can’t share videos of him speaking here, but I will share this photo…(pssst…he’s not hard on the eyes, either, wink-wink)!

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H.M.S. Erebus Commander James Fitzjames
  • Captain Crozier knows how to speak Inuit! He is the translator for his vessel H.M.S. Terror when they encounter Inuit folk. I think foreign languages are cool. And there is a hint of a romance between him and an Inuit woman, who is probably the only woman we see in the series at all. Except Captain John Franklin’s frantic wife back in England, who repeatedly begs for (and funds herself) search expeditions to bring back her husband and the crew.

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H.M.S. Terror Petty Officer Cornelius Hickey, who just barely escapes the gallows (but does not escape being whipped).
  • Cornelius Hickey. This rank-hungry, sniveling, villainous petty officer is essentially the “bad guy” and de facto Head of the Cannibals. He is shown to be the first of the crew to eat human flesh, after he offs Lieutenant John Irving…and EATS him. [SPOILER – IRVING IS NOT THE LAST PERSON HE EATS IN THIS SERIES]. He tries to order the ship’s physician Dr. Goodsir to help him butcher some corpses for him. The doctor  winds up retaliating by poisoning himself so if anyone eats his corpse THEY WILL DIE. It doesn’t get more hard core than this on TV!

In conclusion, this is like nothing I’ve ever watched on TV! Even knowing ahead of time what happens to these men (I’ve been reading quite a bit about the expedition), it’s still fascinating to watch it play out. And it’s not over yet! Dig in!

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