Friday, July 4, 2014

TNT's "The Last Ship": pilot episode review

I am a sucker for "end of the world" TV series, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm squarely in the target audience for TNT's "The Last Ship." As you can see, it's produced by Michael Bay and predictably has all of the strengths and flaws that he brings to his movie productions. But first, the big problem for me was that having cut cable, I don't get TNT any more.Fortunately for me, TNT is streaming the show on its website - sans commercials!

On to the show . . . .

The basic plot is something of a mash-up of the Cold War movie Ice Station Zebra and the deadly virus flick Outbreak. An airborne virus has broken out in Cairo, Egypt, and Dr. Rachel Scott (played ably by the excellent Rhona Mitra) is there to let the audience know that once you've been infected by this virus, you're toast. A few months later, she's boarding a U.S. Navy destroyer with her medical assistant, heading to the Arctic Circle to get samples in the permafrost. Four months of radio silence later, she and her assistant find themselves under attack from three Russian helicopters. The helicopters chase them back to the Navy ship, even attacking the ship, before getting blown out of the air. Breaking radio silence, the Navy crew learn that a devastating plague has spread across the world. The current President is the former Speaker of the House; the effective U.S. government is down to about 200 people hunkered below the White House. Russia is no longer a coherent country. As the President says, "We have no allies. We have no enemies. We just have a world full of sick people." And of course, the only hope is the last ship....

A lot of the early elements of the ship's facing just about every disaster you can imagine (EMP from a nuke blast fries the electronic circuits; food shortages; and so on) are borrowed from Ice Station Zebra. The deadly virus that can be tamed only by synthesizing a vaccine in record time with rudimentary lab equipment comes from Outbreak. But this is a Michael Bay production, so (1) it looks expensive; (2) BOOM (there are lots of loud explosions and gunfire); and (3) bombastic speeches of patriotism serve to quell any unrest from the sailors.

And in shades of "24," not only do we have Dr. Scott calling out "There's no time!" but we also have a mole! (Yes!)

I don't know how long TNT can keep this premise going, but I'm in for now.

EDIT (later that night): Boo, I just discovered that only the first episode streams for free. . . .!

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