It took me a while to watch The Terror on Hulu. The second season of this anthology series ended last month, prompting me to go ahead and get started after much critical acclaim. There’s a soft spot in my heart for historical dramas and the idea of a historical horror story that was heralded as quite accurate regarding the actual events vaulted it to the top of my watch list. But I hesitated when I heard it had a “supernatural element” to the story. When I did finally finish it last night, I realized I should have listened to my gut instinct to avoid it.
Spoiler warning. I don’t do spoilers one shows that I like, but since I’m obviously not recommending this show, I’ll spoil it for those who are willing to take my advice. For those of you who still want to watch it, stop reading now.
Before I get into the 10-episode series, let’s do a quick tour of the actual events surrounding the Franklin Expedition of 1845. The two most technologically advanced warships of the Royal British Navy were tasked with finding the elusive Northwest Passage to connect east Asia with western Europe by cutting through the northern Canadian islands. It was a prize the British had been seeking for decades and this was perceived as their best shot at achieving it. They provisioned the ships for three years comfortably and up to five years in a pinch. What could go wrong?
As it turned out, everything went wrong. There were several missteps in preparing for the voyage, including the selection of heavy war ships instead of lighter vessels that wouldn’t have been able to break through the ice but had less of a chance of getting stuck. The bigger ships proved inadequate to break through the ice either, so it was a wasted choice. But what was worse was their selection of food canning services. They selected the lowest bigger to give the men preserved food, a selection that cost them their lives. The cans were poorly sealed, causing much of the food to spoil. But worse yet was the lead poisoning the shoddy cans gave to the crew. They should have gone with a higher quality vendor.
A stretch of extended winters that kept them frozen in place for over five years also doomed the voyage. The crew, having lost their leader, Sir John Franklin, opted for a land journey to safety 800 miles away. It was their only choice with provisions running low and no hope for rescue in the ice-locked sea, but it proved to be their demise. I won’t bore you with the details other than to note there’s evidence that at the end, as the men were starving, they resorted to cannibalism to sustain them just a bit longer before being lost forever.
The show does a very good job of not only staying historically true in most of these regards, but also in delivering masterful case-studies in nearly every facet of the production. The acting, lead by Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and a particularly poignant villainous portrayal by Adam Nagaitis, were absolutely amazing. Cinematography was top notch with constant use of the “Dutch angle” throughout. As for the atmosphere portrayed, it was as if everything was produced by someone who had been there on the ships at the time.
The historical tale was incredible and they stayed true to it. The production was as strong as possible. Where did they go wrong? As I said earlier, when my gut said to avoid it because of the “supernatural element,” I should have listened.
The crew was hunted by a three-ton Eskimo-defending man-bear-pig-spirit call the Tuunbaq. Seriously.
The mythology surrounding the creature, which the series does not go into, is all about pagan rituals and false interpretations of the world. While I’m not so dogmatic to say that only stories that support a Biblical worldview are worthy of watching, this one takes it way too far in pushing the concept. Yes, it’s fiction, but if you’re going to take a historical piece and fictionalize it, at least don’t do so by adding in spirits if god-creatures that do not exist.
“The Terror” isn’t an homage to the pagan traditions depicted in it, but the powers of false spirits are abound throughout. Using history as a backdrop for stories is fine, but let’s not butcher the history with stupid man-bear-pig-spirit monsters.
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