Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Since I first fell in love with
the stories surrounding the ill-fated ocean liner at age
thirteen, I have read and watched anything I can get my
hands on pertaining to the ship. For someone who knows
nothing about Titanic, this miniseries by Julian
Fellowes may prove illuminating if at times downright
misleading, but it is certainly nothing to write home about.
With the suffragist movement sweeping
across England, Lord Manton (Linus Roache) has been having
trouble keeping his daughter Georgiana (Perditia Weeks) in
line. Her most recent escapade has landed her in the local
lock-up, and out of desperation he decides that a change of
scenery might do her some good. Enlisting the assistance of
friend Bruce Ismay (James Wilby) to book Georgiana a first
class cabin on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic,
he hopes that a stint in New York will put her mind to
better uses than feminism. Also on board, in second class,
is his employee John Batley (Toby Jones) and his wife Muriel
(Maria Doyle Kennedy). It doesn't take long for Muriel to
clash with Lady Louisa (Geraldine Somerville) and let out
secrets Lord Manton did not want made into public knowledge.
Meanwhile, stewardess Annie (Jenna-Louise
Coleman) is being wooed by an Italian last-minute steward
Paelo (Glen Blackhall), who fears that once they land in
America he may never see her again. The servants of the Grex
family share a secret that could endanger them both, an
anarchist has set his intentions on another man's wife in
steerage, and Second Officer Charles Lightoller (Steven
Waddington) must cope with a shuffle in position, as well as
the challenges the night presents as it wears on.
Trying to reproduce the tragedy on this
topic scaled for television is not an enviable task since it
has nowhere near the budget of the big-screen blockbuster.
Other series and movies have managed to work around that,
but unfortunately this vision is hampered by a rushed
narrative that insists on a reset for the first three
installments. Carrying the audience through events up to the
sinking and then returning to tell a different story hinders
us from emotional involvement with already-established
characters and greatly limits our scope, both for the real
figures of the disaster and the ship itself. That none of
the staterooms, the first class dining room, or even the
deck resemble the real thing is less important than the fact
that the entire production feels claustrophobic. The rooms
are so small and our interludes kept to so few figures
that we never really get to see what an incredible
achievement Titanic truly was, much less how many
people were on board. The sinking scenes are suitably
crowded, but not the dining rooms. Fellowes' script also
makes some truly appalling mistakes, ranging from mixed
church sessions on board ship to the behavior and placement
of individual figures during the sinking.
Various miniature love stories unfold and
there are times we are drawn into the emotions of the
moment, but alas, we get to know no one all that well, so
when their fate transpires we feel as if we should have felt
more than we did. Then too, the lack of a memorable score
makes the emotions in many important scenes fall flat.
Characters are introduced and then nothing is done with
them. Thomas Andrews simply disappears. Officer Lowe is
manning the wrong boat. The Duff-Gordons are painted in an
unduly harsh light.
Television has needed a decent miniseries
on this topic for a long time. But this isn't it. It
founders where it should glide, thanks mostly to the
problematic structure. It would work better as one cohesive
narrative, with events unfolding simultaneously leading up
to the sinking and less of a scattered focus. It needed to
be built around one or two characters, not a dozen. But alas, instead we are stuck with a
miniseries aspiring to be much more than it actually is.
adulterous kiss and references to extramarital
affairs; upper-class individuals are shocked to find
a man traveling with his mistress. They are shown in
bed together (she gets up and we see her bare back
Scattered mild profanities.
A man's neck is broken; people drown.