The Terror Premiers on AMC

I took an exclusive behind the scenes look at the upcoming haunting drama The Terror recently, and I was genuinely impressed by the historical epic series executive produced by Ridley Scott, Soo Hugh and David Kajganich.

If you’re a fan of science fiction/ horror author, Dan Simmons (Hyperion, Ilium), then you may also know his historical horror fiction novel, The Terror which this AMC episodic series is adapted from.

Inspired by a true account of a real British naval expedition to the arctic in 1845, The Terror is a suspenseful mystery centering on the Royal Navy crew’s harrowing voyage into uncharted territory as they attempt to discover the Northwest Passage in two of Her Majesty’s ships, The Terror and her sister ship, The Erebus. Eventually we discover that things start to go very wrong. Faced with treacherous conditions, disease, limited resources, impending starvation, dwindling hope and fear of the unknown, the crew become more than just a hierarchy of their ranks, turning to cannibalism and begging for survival of even just a few men as they are pushed to the brink of extinction within the 10 episodes. 

Cold, isolated and stuck at the end of the earth, the seamen also face a mysterious threat by something out in the frigid darkness that is stalking their ship, snatching one man at a time and leaving bodies mangled or missing. I have seen this eerie creature known as The Tuunbaq
from Inuit mythology, though I won’t go into any spoilers as it’s just too good to reveal and my description wouldn’t do it justice anyway.

The Terror is an extreme tale of human survival and a “what if?” of epic proportions, revealing what hubris against nature can cost you.

The real expedition, which led to more than 120 crew members inexplicably disappearing, has warranted a great deal of speculation ever since. Their fate is one of the enduring mysteries of the age of exploration. After almost 175 years of searching and after Dan Simmons book was published, the ships were discovered coincidentally by Arctic research groups in 2014 and 2016. This new information led to certain changes to the story, as real life facts were revealed, though much of the story sticks as closely to the books fan favorite parts as possible.  

Jared Harris (The Crown, Allied) who portrays “Captain Francis Crozier” relayed that in studying for his role, he sat down to read a collection of real handwritten letters by Capitan Crozier, which have been preserved in a naval museum for some time, without having been read in decades. The emotional connection and inspiration he took form these real-life letters clearly helped capture his poignant portrayal of the Terror Captain’s romantic ambitions and fears.

Having been ordered in 1812, the Terror had a long history of battle, including against the United States in the bombardment of Fort McHenry which inspired Francis Scott Key to write his famous poem that became The Star-Spangled Banner. Laid up for a while, the ship would later be recommissioned in 1828 to serve in the Mediterranean Sea.

Before leaving on the Franklin expedition, both Erebus and Terror underwent awesome modifications for the journey. The pair of ships became the first Royal Navy ships to have steam-powered engines and screw propellers. They were both outfitted with steam engines, taken from former London and Greenwich Railway steam locomotives. Rated at 25 hp, each could propel its ship at 4 knots and carried Twelve days' supply of coal, an awesome accomplishment for the time.

Filmed in Croatia and Budapest, the realistic sets and ships were built in enormous green screen studios overseen by Production Designer, Jonathan McKinstry, while the VFX team led by Viktor Muller and Frank Petzold, masterfully recreated the arctic circle around the ships which were made as close to scale precision as possible excluding most notably (though not noticeably), the ship’s ceiling height, which was raised a bit to accommodate modern, taller human heights according to McKinstry.

Tune in to watch Ridley Scott’s The Terror on AMC Monday, March 26 9/8c.


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