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TV Series Review

Fact: In 1845, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror left England to fill in a few more blank spots on the world map. The ships, under the overall command of Capt. Sir John Franklin, were traversing what Britain hoped would be the final piece of the fabled Northwest Passage, stitching together the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The ships never returned to port. None of the 129 men on the journey were ever heard from again.

What happened to those men, however, has always been the stuff of conjecture. Starvation? Exposure? Lead poisoning? Insanity?

Or could they have been devoured by … a monster?

AMC's The Terror, based on Dan Simmons' bestselling novel of the same name, suggests it might've been all of the above.


The voyage of the Erebus and Terror was never going to be mistaken for a pleasure cruise, of course. The two ships were both modified war vessels, sporting hulls thick enough to withstand—and, hopefully, plow through—the icy waters north of Canada.

But the hulls aren't enough. Soon, both ships are locked in place. Days become weeks become months, and longer. And as foodstuffs run low with still no thaw in sight, the options begin to dwindle.

It's enough to put a strain on any man, even those who knew exactly what they were signing up for. Captains Franklin and Francis Crozier attempt to keep their crew together, functioning and exhibiting that fabled British stiff upper lip. But both have their own challenges as well. Franklin, who is now dead, was burdened by a certain Victorian hubris. Crozier has a crippling addiction to alcohol. And neither liked the other very much.

Their officers and crew have their own issues that, in time, may grow to be literally fatal flaws in their characters. Hunger and lead poisoning and outright desperation create an environment ripe for chaos. Disagreements blossom into full-fledged fights, mutinies and, perhaps, even murder. And as the expedition unravels, so does the morality of the men, where the highest ideal is simply to survive.

Perhaps the crew could get help from the local Inuit population. Alas, the party accidentally kills the tribal shaman—a man in close communion with the creature known as Tuunbaq. The Brits apologize to the shaman's daughter, called Lady Silence, but relations between her people and the crew are ticklish. And Tuunbaq cares nothing for the stranded crews' apologies.


The Terror is a multitasking title, referring perhaps to the ship, the monster, and the prevailing emotion most of the frigid sailors must feel most of the time.

It might be considered aspirational, too. After all, the show's makers hope to inspire a few feelings of terror among its viewers.

AMC's semi-historical horror drama indeed has the power to terrify, given its strong cast and top-flight writing. It makes for a compelling watch, even when you know the end. If The Walking Dead is increasingly a gratuitous gore-fest, staggering aimlessly on for season after season, The Terror aims to clear a higher bar: sort of Master and Commander meets The Thing.

But while The Terror wants to put a bit of prestige sheen on the tried-and-tired monster yarn, the content we can see is the real beast, here. The camera rarely looks away at the horrors of this voyage. Red blood rains down on the Arctic's white snow with frequency, sometimes accompanied with bits of muscle and organs and brain. It's not just the monster shedding the blood, either: What fellow crewmen do to each other can be even more horrifying.

Alcohol consumption can be a pretty significant issue, too. And while these 19th-century sailors keep their language in better check than you'd hear today, there's still a reason why the cliché "he swears like a sailor" began in the first place.

The Terror, unlike its namesake ship, is not a wholly doomed voyage into the telegenic ocean. But it does sail into some pretty perilous waters. As the old maps used to say, here there be monsters.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

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Plot Summary

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Other Belief Systems

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

The Terror: May 14, 2018 "The C, The C, The Open C"
The Terror: April 23, 2018 "A Mercy"



Readability Age Range



Jared Harris as Francis Crozier; Tobias Menzies as James Fitzjames; Ciarán Hinds as John Franklin; Paul Ready as Harry Goodsir; Adam Nagaitis as Cornelius Hickey; Ian Hart as Thomas Blanky; Nive Nielsen as Lady Silence; Christos Lawton as George Hodgson






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On Video

Year Published


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