The Terror (Season One)

Clumsy historical horror struggles for a reason to exist

What’s The Show?The Terror (Season One)

What’s It All About, JG? Other than testing the audience’s patience? Two 19th century British ships go looking for the Northwest passage, get trapped as the sea freezes around them, and find themselves stalked by…. something. Wooo-oooh! Tempers run high in the crew (just like Battlestar Galactica), theres’s tension on the lower decks (just like Battlestar Galactica), there’s unexpected deaths (just like Battlestar Galactica), there’s an alcoholic who’s doing a poor job of hiding his problem (just like Battlestar Galactica), there’s inexpensive CGI (just like Battlestar Galactica), there’s two authority figures butting heads (just like Battlestar Galactica)… Even the Inuit woman that gets taken on board could be swapped out for the tortured Six. So, 19th century Battlestar Galactica, basically, with a bit of Lost’s “is this going to go anywhere?”, but also catastrophically dull. So. Fucking. Dull.

Why Did You Give It A Go? Well The AV Club, among many others, has yet to give an episode less than an A- so… maybe it’s worth a try?

Is It Any Good? It’s one of a host of recent shows which mistakes “slow” for “thoughtful” or “meaningful”, when in fact it’s just very boring. Despite the show’s name, there’s no terror (other than the name of of one of the ships, and you can insert an eye-roll here), or indeed tension, it’s just a lot of characters standing about making ponderous comments at each other. Lots of people who seem to be desperately wishing they’d been cast in either Game Of Thrones or Downton Abby put their heart and soul into material that suggests Upstairs Downstairs has been unexpectedly transported onto a ship, but with, like, a monster or something. Yet it’s not nearly as interesting as that makes it sound. The performances are uniformly excellent, which in a way is part of the problem. This is pulpy nonsense which everyone’s treating as if it’s Shakespeare or Dickens, when in fact it’s closer to Edgar Rice Burrows – there’s a huge disconnect between the performances and what the material can actually support. Also, did I mention it’s stupefyingly dull? Because it is. The production values are mostly excellent, especially by SyFy standards.  The ships’ interiors all look fantastic, and though the ice field between the two vessels is a bit 1960’s Star Trek, polystyrene rocks and all, there’s only so much you can do with a blank ice field so it’s forgivable. But good performances (and special praise to Jared Harris, who almost manages to make his Saul Tigh redux seem compelling) and good production can’t disguise how hollow this all is at the core. It’s pretentious, self-important rubbish, and no acting or set design in the world can hide that.

How Many Episode Did You Watch? Five, which is my standard “if it hasn’t got me by now, it’s probably not going to” limit. So far there’s been enough story for maybe twenty minutes, which stretched out over that many episodes is excruciating, and despite all-round excellent performances, none of the actual characters are interesting enough to keep watching for. Oh, and this is another show that thinks showing, onscreen, someone’s frostbitten toes getting snapped off by a doctor, or having a leg amputated with nothing but a saw and some whisky, passes for historical realism just than just being gratuitous.

Would You Recommend It? No. It’s not a complete bust, and the cast do deserve some praise, but they all deserve to be in a better show than this one. It’s frustrating, because the premise is actually quite interesting (it’s loosely based on something which did actually happen) and you could make a very cool The Thing or The X-Files show around it, which is clearly the vibe that’s being aimed for. The problem is the premise is literally the only interesting thing in the whole show. Hard pass.

Scores On The Doors? 4/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s