The Terror

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
The Terror TV Poster Image
Explorers confront fear of the unknown in scary mystery.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive messages

The central theme of the show concerns man versus nature, and one of the messages seems to be awe and respect for what nature is capable of.

Positive role models & representations

The main characters are mostly Navy men, bound by strong codes of ethics and morality. They consistently show compassion and selflessness toward one another, even under dire circumstances.

Violence

Occasionally a character will get shot of violently harmed by another man, but most of the violence in The Terror comes from nature -- dying from a great fall, for example, or being frozen alive. 

Sex
Language

There's mild profanity used; "damn," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters drink and smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Terror is a fictionalized account of the British Royal Navy's expedition through the Arctic ocean in 1845. The show combines a historical drama with elements of suspense and psychological horror. The Terror takes its name from one of the Navy's ships -- the HMS Terror -- but the double-meaning is constantly present as the expedition is trapped in a blanket of ice at sea and the crew endures one catastrophic event after another. It's very scary, but not that graphic; occasionally a character will get shot or harmed by another, but most of the violence in The Terror comes from nature -- dying from a great fall, for example, or being frozen alive.

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What's the story?

A pair of British sea ships are traveling through the Northern Passage of the Arctic Ocean, when things start to go wrong in THE TERROR. One crew member becomes violently ill, while another falls from the crow's nest to his death. Icebergs damage one ship's propellor, and when Captain Sir John Franklin refuses to abandon the vessels, the ships and their crews become trapped for months in a thick blanket of ice. As more and more dangers mount for the expedition, the captains and the crew must figure out how to survive nature's constant threats.

Is it any good?

This exciting, tense mystery series is reminiscent of two absolute media landmarks: Alien and Lost. Like Alien (which shares a producer with this series in Ridley Scott), The Terror transports us to a strange and unfamiliar place: a mass of ice in the Arctic ocean in 1845, where there's nothing but vast expanse in all directions, including down into the gloomy depths of the water. The cinematography and art direction are stunning enough on their own, but story also manages to find plenty of surprises in the supposedly barren landscape, as the crews of the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebes explore the ice and what's underneath. 

Like Lost, as the characters explore, they continually discover that something about this place is not quite right. When a crew member starts vomiting blood, it's not simply because he has scurvy; the ship's surgeon can't figure out what's happening. Men have visions of spirits imploring them to run away. Others disappear inexplicably. And, of course, as the members of the expedition try to survive, they must also figure how to work together, despite plenty of suspicion, grudges, and personal agendas between them. Both Alien and Lost sparked hundreds of imitators, but The Terror gets right precisely what those two landmarks did, without copying them explicitly. It immerses us in a completely unfamiliar, yet fully realized, world, rife with immense and unknowable danger, and pits its characters in duel to the death against forces of nature they can't even fathom. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be an explorer. What did it mean to be an explorer hundreds of years ago, and how does that compare to today? The characters in The Terror are traveling in uncharted territory in the Arctic. Is there a modern equivalent of their journey?

  • Families can talk about man versus nature. What are the obstacles that the characters in The Terror face? Why do they, for example, make the choice to steer their ships into the ice and snow? What are the dangers that nature presents to them? How do the characters feel about these dangers?

  • Which things on The Terror can be explained by science, and which can't? The show seems to be telling us that something mysterious is happening. Is it? Or is this just a product of the characters' limited perspective? Which facts do the members of the expedition choose do accept? Which do they choose to ignore? Why?

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