The Terror

Rating 7.2
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 10 x 50 mins

When you think of shipping disasters involving ice you’ll likely envision the rosy faces of young Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, with Celine Dion belting out a tune as they swoon over the bow and that massive cruise ship. But this tale of HMS Terror has ditched the romantic clichés and instead is telling a tale of survival, full of superstition that is sure to chill you to your very bones.

The HMS Terror and HMS Erebus set sail in 1845 in the hopes of navigating the Northwest Passage and make their way to the Pacific, calling themselves the Franklin expedition. However the ships and their crews disappeared, not to be seen again until as recently as 2014, when a Canadian exploration team discovered the Erebus in the Queen Maud Gulf. Naturally this became the inspiration for many mystery novels, and this series is based on the most well-known version by Dan Simmons.

Clearly Simmons isn’t scared of getting grim. His tale is an unnerving examination of men pushed to their very limits – a lot of them go mad, having visions and believing they’re being stalked by some ominous ice-creature. Team Must have spent the last year in isolation, and we can understand why they might be going a bit doolally.

But aside from the ghostly additions, the tale pays close attention to historical accuracies. Whilst it could easily have become monotonous trudge towards an inevitable end, thanks to brilliant characterisation – helped out by stellar acting from the likes of Tobias Menzies, and Ciarán Hinds – and thoughtful exchanges, the story comes to life as a nightmarish tale of an exploration gone very wrong.  

Enjoy a period drama? Check out Pride and Prejudice. 

Despite the ending being fairly obvious from the onset, The Telegraph’s Anita Singh notes, “the creeping sense of unease is excellently done,” in this “story ripe for drama.” In the Independent Ed Cumming calls The Terror “easily the most compelling new drama to reach British screens this year,” saying “no monster is more frightful than a man at the end of his tether, thousands of miles from home.” Lucy Mangan in The Guardian agrees with us about the “impressively dense and detailed” characterisation, commenting that whilst “You hardly need the horror element” in the form of an ice monster, “history, horror and much of human life is here, and it’s all done well.”

First shown March 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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