RogerBW's Blog

The Last Ship, season 4 13 June 2019

2017 post-apocalyptic science fiction, ten episodes. The virus that nearly wiped out humanity has mutated into a crop-destroying plague.

But we don't care about that, except as an excuse for a bunch of action. Perhaps after all it was a mistake to renew after season 2, or at least 3.

Tom Chandler, hero of the previous seasons, has run away from high office and is hiding in Greece; but of course that doesn't last, and we get the whole reluctant hero thing as he works his way up from nothing to saving the world. Again. (Via lots of fistfights.) The script has everyone far more impressed with him – even when they have no idea of his background – than his actions would seem to justify. (I'm also not convinced that a man in his forties (judging by the actor's age), who's never particularly been a hand-to-hand combat specialist, will casually defeat desperate men in their twenties who have been fighting daily for years.)

The initial problem is that only one sort of seed, in one seed bank, has the DNA for immunity to the plague; and someone's stolen the canister (and of course there are no other samples, and no way to synthesise the sequences from the records). Of course there are plots within plots, so the thief remains a mystery at first; the plan eventually revealed is, hmm, ambitious.

Also, nobody remembers how to do basic base security. Guess they all died in the plague.

This setup ought to work quite well: with the USS Nathan James as one of the few surviving pre-collapse warships, there ought to be interesting stories to be told about power imbalance and asymmetric warfare, with limited resources on the more powerful side. But somehow it always feels contrived: oh, this ambush would have failed, except that this other thing just happened to go wrong at the same time.

The directors are a bit too keen to cut constantly between a fistfight, a firefight, and desperate attempts to repair the ship, even when the fistfight is unrelated to the other things. If the sequence is good enough to watch on its own, let it play out without chopping it into little pieces; if it's not, make it better.

It just doesn't hold my attention. The fights are all right, but what should be the significant talk that links them together comes over as technobabble, because what it always ends up meaning is "we're going to have another fight". So I notice small details, like the chief special operator now having a truly silly-looking beard (often a problem for light-haired men) that you'd think would be a vulnerability in the sort of close-up hand-to-hand fighting in which he often indulges. Have they run out of razors? Is it a sudden fashion thing, since other people on the ship are also now bearded? Don't know, nobody seems to care.

This was made back-to-back with a ten-episode final season (going up against a South American warlord), but after this I have no interest in watching it.

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