Sir Ridley Scott has set sail, once more, onto the small screen with a new period drama series steeped in Naval history, adventure and the supernatural.
The Terror is an adaptation of Dan Simmons’ 2007 novel of the same name, which is a fictionalised account of the crews aboard the Royal Navy’s polar explorer ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Both vessels were lost at sea, during the mid-19th century, while seeking a path through the Northwest Passage and both the book and the series imagine what mystical events could have contributed to their disappearance.
Ciarán Hinds leads the cast as the real-life Captain John Franklin, who embarked on the treacherous expedition in the hopes of rebuilding his reputation after being returned from a government position in disgrace. Hubris plays a big role in the show’s unfolding events of disaster, which Scott believes is what has kept his career going for so long.
“Hubris is courage, isn’t it?” the executive producer told Yahoo Movies. “We wouldn’t have got to the top of Everest if the guy didn’t have hubris. A little bit of hubris is useful, thank you very much. I’m still working at 80 so I’ve got a lot!”
The Terror is the latest in a string of period dramas produced by Scott; Taboo, starring Tom Hardy, is set up for a second series, having previously worked on The Pillars of the Earth, Labyrinth and Mercy Street. It’s because of his fascination with history, which began as a schoolboy learning about the Napoleonic Wars, that the filmmaker has invested so much time in the period drama genre. He believes it is the best way to educate children about the past.
“I think to reflect and revisit our history is always interesting because the attention span of people today at school is about six seconds, isn’t it?” he explained. “I think it’s great if maybe the last stand of information has to a certain extent be aligned partly, not wholly, with education.
“To tell a story about a Naval expedition, across the Northwest Passage, in 1850 is more fascinating to watch than to read. What we do with entertainment, which is pictures and words, is a lot more powerful as an educational device than some kid expected to sit down and read a book to learn it.”
The film industry has for decades been used as a medium for sharing the world’s history, but also to offer a wider comment on society and culture. That’s what Scott intended for many of his TV shows and movies, including the iconic 1991 film Thelma & Louise.
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as the titular characters are still two of the most empowering and notorious women in feminist cinematic history. Davis, herself, credits the movie for opening her eyes to the lack of inspiring female characters in Hollywood. Scott saw it as an uplifting tale worthy of the Greeks.
“Thelma & Louise was a one-off odyssey of two women who slide into trouble through the law, therefore are misunderstood, and it ends up in tragedy,” Scott recalled. “I always wanted it to be an odyssey, a kind of high rather than low emotion. The fact that I froze the car in the air meant, simply, that they could continue the journey, so that was carefully thought through.
“I didn’t want the ending to become depressing or them to be seen as victims. You can’t say they were victims of their circumstances because they made a decision and drove that car,” he continued. “I think that was a good message to women who have fewer opportunities.
“The idea of getting married and having kids is terrific, it’s a great institution, but I think you can have both, you can have both if the husband is prepared to share.”
Thelma & Louise is a film that resonates as much today as it did 27 years ago but in Hollywood’s current culture of remaking and rebooting every beloved movie from the last few decades, would Scott be interested in giving it the remake treatment? Maybe.
“God bless you, because if you want to go do, do it,” the filmmaker said. “For it to be a TV show it would have to be on the road, there would have to be some mischief and, you know, one a week is a tough call.
“You can’t suddenly turn them into detectives or something like that so what are you going to do? Are they going to be vigilantes of Time’s Up? Actually, that’s a good idea innit?”
Scott is no stranger to revisiting his classic films; last year saw a sequel to Blade Runner and a prequel to Alien hit cinemas screens. Following the release of the latter film, Alien: Covenant, the filmmaker said that the xenomorph would need to be replaced for thefranchise to continue.
“We went to Covenant to perpetuate the idea and re-evolve the universe of the alien, who—I think the beast has almost run out, personally,” he said during a Hollywood Reporter roundtable. “You’ve got to come in with something else. You’ve got to replace that.”
However, Scott told Yahoo Movies that coming up with an idea as unique as the xenomorph is not that easy.
“In my career, which has been pretty long, there’s only been, with the greatest respect for the people I’ve worked with, two real, real originals,” he said. “Funnily enough, I came across a guy called HR Giger and if I hadn’t got that monster you would not have had that movie.
“I saw the drawing – the drawing was drawn for the book, not the film – and I was so kind of taken, I flew to Switzerland where he lived because he didn’t want to get the plane as he was scared of flying. I met him in Zurich at his home and I persuaded him to travel by train to come to England and live at Shepperton studios for ten months. And he did.
“It wouldn’t have been the same movie,” he continued. “Whilst the cast was wonderful, with Sigourney [Weaver] and Harry [Dean Stanton] and those people, but without that eighth passenger it wouldn’t have been the same film.”
“What I’m trying to say is that there are rarities, there are those [ideas] that occur once in the while, not that often, but when they do grab them and hang on to them.”
The two-hour series premiere of The Terror will air on Tuesday, April 24th at 9pm on AMC – BT TV channel 332/381 HD
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