AMC’s ‘The Terror’: What Happened to Two British Ships That Vanished in 1847?

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“This place wants us dead,” Francis Crozier (Jared Harris), captain of the HMS Terror, grimly assesses in AMC’s new drama series The Terror (Mondays at 9pm ET/PT beginning March 26).

His fellow officers don’t share his dour outlook, but he is absolutely right.

The Terror is based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, which itself was inspired by the true story of the doomed 1845 Franklin Expedition intended to discover the Northwest Passage through the Arctic.

“The Franklin Expedition has been one of the most enduring mysteries from the maritime histories,” says executive producer Soo Hugh. In 1846, the Terror and sister ship HMS Erebus became icebound. After spending two winters stranded, the crew members eventually had to abandon their ships. “What we do know over the past 170 years, through some of the follow‑up rescue missions, is we know some path for some of the men,” Hugh says. “But probably the biggest surprise as we were doing this show was, in 2014, they discovered Erebus about 20 miles off course. And then in 2016 they discovered the Terror.”

The Terror imagines what happened to the expeditioners as they battled the cold, starvation, each other, their own pasts — and possibly a large, bloodthirsty beast.

“It’s a genre story as opposed to being a straightforward historical story,” Harris says of The Terror’s horror/sci-fi excursion. “There’s nothing of that in the first episode, but you knew that that was there. And they really cleverly hinted at this eerie quality — an unsettling quality — that they’d ventured into a place that they didn’t understand.”

Jared Harris as Capt. Francis Crozier
“He’s sort of sulking, really. Crozier’s sulking, and he’s got a bad attitude and a chip on his shoulder.”

 
 

Tobias Menzies as Capt. James Fitzjames
“The incredible pressures that they’ve experienced for those two winters in this place kind of strips them all down, and we find out a bit more of what’s underneath.”
 

Nive Nielsen as Lady Silence
“I studied anthropology and usually focused on my own culture, the Inuit culture. And I recognized a lot of things in what I read and imagined life would have been like back then.”
 

Adam Nagaitis as Cornelius Hickey
“This creature, whatever it is that is engaging with us — like the audience, we learn about it as it comes along. The beauty of the show is that learning curve for everyone onboard, and who gathers what and when. That’s very important, and that’s very rewarding.”

About Ryan Berenz 1965 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.