Ghostboat, ITV1

by | Apr 9, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A thrilling hybrid of Das Boot, The X-Files and Pirates of the Caribbean with a perplexing, plot which twisted and turned so much we felt a little travel sick.

What was good about it?

• David Jason as Jack Hardy the sole survivor from the Scorpion, the World War Two submarine that disappeared in Russian waters during the conflict. Jason reaffirmed what a fantastic character actor, something which was perhaps needed as he sometimes gets entrenched, though never typecast, in roles such as Frost or Delboy in series that endure into classics thanks largely to his brilliant thespian talents.

As Hardy, Jason was instantly unlovable as the irascible war veteran who wanted nothing to do with Commander Travis’s desire to navigate the rediscovered submarine on an identical voyage to its doomed mission and discover why it went missing for 35 years.

• The gradual crescendo of the spookiness of the submarine that started from the innocuous ebb of it coming back to the surface, then became more eerie when the seemingly steadfast hatch opened up when Hardy approached and revealed its innards which had not suffered from the ravages of time or the sea at all despite apparently resting on the ocean floor.

This then spread to the mysterious death of a crew member, disembodied voices, the picking up of a broadcast of a Nazi Germany propaganda message and, most sinisterly, the creeping possession of the crew members by their 1940s counterparts.

• Ian Puleston-Davies as Commander Travis who switched between charming, passionate investigator, such as when he needed to convince Hardy to accompany him on the new Scorpion mission, and conniving, manipulative megalomaniac when his true intentions were unveiled (Naval Intelligence guessed that the Scorpion had been locked in some kind of time trap and wanted to exploit the anomaly as a weapon to win the Cold War). It was this change that made him such an effective villain, far more potently so than the Nazi fighter planes or submarine that attacked the Scorpion.

• The rather novel demise of Lieutenant Redding who had his head crushed under a falling torpedo.

• Very little actually happened – we thought this sort of pacing was extinct on ITV1. Such a ponderous technique enabled many of the characters to be fleshed out, even the doomed Redding whom we felt sympathy for even though he was on-screen less than five minutes.

• Another hugely effective strategy was during the battle with the ‘Soviet’ submarine, the whole engagement (bar a little glimpse outside to see the torpedoes launched) was viewed from the perspective of the crew as the captain anguished over whether or not to attack a submarine in peace time. Granted, it owed much to the stifling claustrophobia pioneered in Das Boot, but the extra little twists, such as when the Captain’s orders not to fire were distorted into an order to open fire, meant it had a unique excitement all of its own.

What was bad about it?

• As Jack Hardy sat on the Maltese dockside, he caught sight of a man in a dark suit and sunglasses. Such a ‘disguise’ now marks somebody out as a member of the intelligence forces rather than helping them keep a covert identity.

• The blatant signposts to remind the viewer “we’re in 1981” were perhaps overcooked. The wedding of Charles and Diana was sufficient to orientate the viewer without the need for a Rubik’s cube or a pair of prototype Walkman earphones with garish orange foam.

• As soon as the captain neutered the authority of Commander Travis he was effectively signing his own death warrant, and it was almost a mercy when he was gunned down by the German fighter planes (or Travis’s pistol) as he surveyed the empty seas.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

09/04/2006

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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