William Buckley’s book provides the title and some of the set up for this ten part series (and a few of the incidents along the way) but basically this is a different take on the Survivors trope. Rather than a nuclear conflict between the nations as in the original, a pandemic has been responsible for the loss of life, and those on board the Nathan James don’t know for much of the time whether they have any family left on land.
It’s one of those series that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure: the science seems to be mutable depending on the needs of the plotline, and there’s the military-porn element of much of Michael Bay (the executive producer)’s work. In many ways, this feels as if Tom Clancy had written a plague story – which will be a recommendation to some, and a complete turn-off for others.
The cast work well with the material they’re given (although there’s a few retcons on some of the worst dialogue, particularly in the last episode), and there are certain incidents that you’re absolutely certain going in will have to happen – the captain gets captured by the Russian bad guys who are after them, and the XO refuses to follow clear and specific orders not to rescue him; the young sailor who sought redemption is killed during that mission; the fraternizing officers will eventually get a blind eye turned when one of them volunteers for a hazardous mission; the guinea pig who thinks no-one will remember her might as well have worn a red shirt when she started the trial… But in one-hour pieces, it’s entertaining, and the episodes blend high-octane action sequences with equally tense moments in the hunt for the cure.
The final episode starts to set up the second season, with the introduction of a(nother) power-mad dictator and the leader of the opposition. The series could never be accused of subtlety but the scenes at the end that Captain Chandler witnesses are sledgehammer blunt.
Verdict: Slick, sometimes clichéd, but rarely unentertaining, The Last Ship is popcorn entertainment – and there’s nothing wrong with some of that. 7/10