At A Glance:
Title: The Last Ship
Premiere: June 22, 2014
Channel: TNT (USA) 9:00PM, Space (Canada) 9:00PM EST/ 6:00PM PST
Production Company: Platinum Dunes
Showrunner: Hank Steinberg
Executive Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Steven Kane, Jonathan Mostow, Hank Steinberg
Producers: Tony Mark, Todd Arnow, Ellen Stafford (Associate Producer)
Writers: William Brinkley (based on the novel by), Steven Kane (written for television by, 3 episodes), Hank Steinberg (written for television by, 3 episodes), Cameron Welsh (written for television by, 1 episode)
Starring: Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Adam Baldwin
The Last Ship is a TNT summer series (airing concurrently on Space Channel in Canada), beginning this weekend and set for a ten episode run. It is based loosely on the 1988 novel of the same name, by William Brinkley. The show follows a group of US Navy sailors aboard the USS Nathan James (DDG-151), a fictional class-name destroyer. With them are two paleomicrobioligists, which turns out to be a boon (or is it?): while they’ve been out of radio contact on a remote mission, most of the rest of the world has been dying off from a mysterious illness. With their resources and expertise, the Nathan James may be humanity’s last hope for survival.
The basic premise departs from that of the novel, which posited an all-out nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, with the survivors aboard the destroyer attempting to outrun fallout and find safe haven. Here, by having a virus be the primary enemy, showrunner Hank Steinberg is able to update the series to reflect more modern concerns (with the USSR collapsing only a couple of years after the book was published), and focus the show as a more on human interactions. A nuclear war doesn’t leave much behind to save; with a pandemic, there’s always hope for pockets of survivors, and you can bet the crew of the ship will be pressuring the officers to go check on family and loved ones.
The show is being produced by Platinum Dunes, a production company formed by Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Form back in 2003. They’re best known for doing horror film remakes, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). Their movies haven’t reviewed well, but this is their first foray onto the small screen, so there is hope that the different format will give them an opportunity to do better work. In their favor is a fairly strong cast with some TV credibility.
Eric Dane as CO CDR Tom Chandler
Dane’s career goes all the way back to an appearance on Saved by the Bell in 1991, but he is better known to audiences for his role as Dr. Mark Sloan on Grey’s Anatomy (2006-2012). He’s also made appearances in some movies, such as 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as being a series regular in Charmed (2003-2004). He brings acting chops and a strong presence to the role of the CO of the Nathan James; he’s ready to by the co-lead in his own show.
Rhona Mitra as Dr. Rachel Scott
Mitra first came to international attention as the first live model to play the part of Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft, attending conferences and doing television spots as the famed explorer. Since then, she’s been a series regular in several different shows, including Party of Five (1999-2000), Gideon’s Crossing (2000-2001), and The Practice/Boston Legal (2003-2005). She’s also been in movies, such as 2009’s Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Her experience on several different television shows should give her the presence she’ll need as a co-lead on this series.
Adam Baldwin as XO Mike Slattery
The actor I’m most excited to see in this show, Adam “I’m not a Baldwin brother” Baldwin, is best know to genre fans as Jayne Cobb in Joss Whedon’s Firefly (2002-2003). His blend of physical presence and deep, resonant voice, combined with a good sense of comic timing, means he can steal an episode from time to time. As a support to the two co-leads, Baldwin should be more than capable of helping to elevate the show, so long as the directors use him to the best of his abilities. While Whedon did this masterfully well in Firefly, third leads often lose a lot of screen time to the actors billed above them – here’s hoping that Steinberg chooses to use Baldwin more as a third co-lead in the series.
Promos and Teasers:
Below, I’ve embedded three promos and several teasers released by TNT in the lead-up to tonight’s series premiere. Watch and enjoy!
This first trailer, released last year, focuses on the show’s connection to Michael Bay and his production company. In keeping with that connection, the trailer has plenty of action – explosions, helicopter gunships firing on the Nathan James, and even a nuclear detonation on the horizon. It wouldn’t be Michael Bay without things going kaboom!
The second promo, titled “Look Closer” but with the hashtag “dontbreathe” included in the description, focuses on the disease that has ramped up to a global pandemic. The crew’s mission is examined, and CO Chandler’s anger at being kept in the dark is a secondary focus. A bit less Michael Bay, a bit more character. Interesting goof: the destroyer’s designation is 97 in the fly-by shot, whereas it is 151 in every other piece of promotional video.
The third promo, released a month ago, puts a face to the enemies we saw in the first trailer. Apparently, there’s a Russian Admiral in the area, and he wants to take Dr. Scott, presumably to get her to make a vaccine for him and his crew. A few explosions, and lots of grim-faced CO Chandler looking firm in the face of adversity. And good news – it looks like Baldwin’s XO Slattery will get some humorous lines of the witty-observation sort.
The next three teasers are video logs from Dr. Rachel Scott, examining her theories on the virus’s origin, and how it got released into the human population. The first video goes over her experiences of the disease’s original outbreak in Giza, Egypt. The second looks at origins, suggesting that the virus was exposed to the environment due to melting caused by global warming is a topical and, as far as I am aware, new take on the global pandemic origin story. The last one shows an increasingly tense Dr. Scott, as she communicates with a colleague named Quince. It outlines their plan to get the Navy’s help to try to find a cure for the disease.
The premise of The Last Ship is certainly promising – a kind of World War Z but with a much tighter focus (and, presumably, fewer zombies). Post-apoclyptic fiction is in a boom phase, and it will be interesting to see if Steinberg and Platinum Dunes can capitalize on it. With only ten episodes, they won’t have much time to prove themselves.