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In Association with
The Deep (2010)
Directors: Jim O'Hanlon, Colm McCarthy

review by J.C. Hartley
Arguably, this is precisely the sort of thing the BBC should be doing; only ultimately it wasn't that good. Some nice moments of tension were confounded by poor writing, unfeasible plotting and behaviour, poor acting and poor pacing. Having started watching it I think you felt compelled to see how it panned out, which is a recommendation of sorts. Credit to the BBC for their ambition, but better results can be obtained when you concentrate on that unappreciated element the writing. I've put this concluding paragraph first to save you the trouble of reading on, but if you must.

A research submarine 'Hermes', exploring one of those weird active trenches in the Arctic Ocean, has a fatal encounter with something and is subsequently lost. 'Orpheus' is fitted up to continue the research and attempt to determine what happened to the original vessel. The Orpheus crew is Captain Frances (English-born Hollywood actress Minnie Driver), Clem (ubiquitous tele-type James Nesbitt), and Samson (Croatian heart-throb Goran Visnjic), who's having an affair with Frances. Also onboard are Svetlana, Maddy, Vincent, and Raymond - who joins the crew at the last minute claiming to be a Home Office salvage expert.

Clem's wife Catherine was lost aboard the Hermes, and yet his daughter seems to believe her mother is still alive. Did I say the new vessel is called Orpheus? Raymond gives Frances an audio record of Catherine's last broadcast which hints at the encounter which doomed the Hermes. Bizarrely, Frances gives this recording to Clem to listen to precisely when Samson is making an exploration of the seabed in a miniature submersible.

There are some eerie touches in the initial episode, with the crew detecting signs of structures on the seabed. Inevitably one starts to think of Sphere, and The Abyss. While I have a tendency to say to myself, 'Oh no! Don't let it be aliens or Atlantis', it is some credit to The Deep that it seemed a possibility at the time that this was a direction the plot might take; but no... The fatal encounter made by the Hermes was with the 'Volos', a massive Russian sub. Catherine is still alive. The Russians were mining the seabed in contravention of the Lomonosov Ridge's special scientific status.

The MacGuffin was a 'new phylum' - a little organism that ate waste and farted hydrogen, offering the opportunity of a sustainable bio-fuel. Unfortunately this organism also pissed nitric acid which tended to disintegrate any metal structures in the vicinity. The bad guys were a crazy Russian submarine captain, and the secret sponsors of the Orpheus, our old friends the petrochemical conglomerates. I've never understood why, instead of sitting on eternal light-bulbs, engines that run on water, and the elixir of life, the 'secret rulers of the world' don't just ring-fence everything with patents and get rich that way. But then I'm probably na�ve.

Anyway, a lot of people die, the science maybe survives, and the ending is really quite poignant and moving. But Frances and Samson make a creepy pair, and smashing up a PC with an axe probably won't destroy the hard-drive.

The original broadcast was over five weeks with two million viewers having abandoned ship by the final episode. It just isn't possible to hold your breath for that long. Special DVD features are featurettes, The Making Of The Deep, Raising Of The Orpheus, On The Set Of The Deep, and a trailer.

The Deep

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