RogerBW's Blog

The Last Ship, series 1 07 October 2014

While the destroyer USS Nathan James is on exercise in the Arctic, a plague has killed over 80% of the world's population. Now her captain must decide how to proceed.

Technically this show is based on William Brinkley's novel of the same name, but really you won't be missing anything if you haven't read that book. Yes, the ship has the same name and there's a global disaster going on, but that's about all they have in common. Rather than the nuclear war of the book, what we have here is a massive disease outbreak; and rather than everyone except two ships' crews being dead or dying, it rapidly becomes clear that there are more survivors out there even if they're in poor shape, and there's some chance of actually making a difference to their lives.

Which of course is all more plausible, but potentially less distinctive, than the book's setting, and I think that was probably a change worth making. Most of the ten episodes broadcast in this first season deal with attempts to gather resources in order to work on a cure (for relatively non-contrived reasons a basic lab and suitable scientists are available), or to cope with the other major vessel still afloat, a Russian Kirov-class cruiser whose commander has his own ideas about who should have a monopoly on effective research into the plague.

(Unusually for an American series, the Kirov is depicted as clearly a more powerful ship than the Arleigh Burke-class Nathan James, which of course makes for more interesting stories as well as being accurate. Though from a technical point of view it seems to me that any full-effort engagement at anything like close range would probably leave both ships sunk.)

The external shots are lovely, taken on a variety of US Navy ships, and it's sadly obvious when things move into the studio; though the regular sets have had some effort put into them, they're never quite a match for the real thing.

Acting is workmanlike but generally nothing special; the only stand-outs for me were Adam Baldwin as the XO, using a few familiar mannerisms but definitely playing a distinct character from other roles I've seen him in, and Charles Parnell as the senior enlisted man who may or may not be developing a religious mania.

In terms of the small moments rather than the big plot, I'll admit it's nothing we haven't seen before; on the other hand, the unusual setting and the lack of a large external cast make for a rather different feel from most procedural shows, and that's welcome. They've clearly got a decent military adviser, which always helps. We do end up learning how the disease got into its present state, a welcome angle that I hadn't expected would be explored.

The final episode introduces big changes, and it'll be interesting to see how things develop in the 13-episode second season; I hope it doesn't turn into another generic end-of-the-world story like The Walking Dead or Falling Skies, but finds some way of turning the main narrative back to the seagoing template that's worked so well in season 1. In any case I'm glad they're sticking to short seasons; it seems to make things easier for cast and crew, especially scriptwriters.

Not brilliant, but definitely watchable; this is somewhat thoughtful action-film material done well on a television budget.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1