Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: In Soviet Russia, miniseries make you look incompetent and corrupt.
Quick synopsis: The story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The miniseries shows what happens when you look into an open nuclear core even for a few seconds. Spoiler alert: You die.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: The final episode drastically swerves from actual history but does highlight the most ironic aspect of the entire disaster. It’s not good when your failsafe makes things worse.
My Take: This is a real good one.
Chernobyl does what a lot of TV does not do; it takes something you read about and adds to it. I just recently finished Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl and was very interested to see how much the show would deviate from the actual history. Turns out, very little.
More importantly, the show adds massive visuals to the catastrophe. As good as Higginbotham’s book is (and it is excellent), it is very hard to understand the scale of the disaster. It is too big for words. Chernobyl shows you what it looked like back then and makes you feel how massive the destruction was. Additionally, the show makes radioactivity a pervasive threat which leads to some really tense moments.
Of course, some liberties are taken. For the most part, I don’t take issue with the vast majority of the things they altered. The one annoyance I had was Emily Watson’s character. She is supposed to be an amalgamation of scientists who actually did exist. You get the feeling she is inserted because otherwise the show would be one big boys club. I wouldn’t argue with that except that there is an immensely important woman who was left out of the show. Maria Protsenko was in charge of the massive evacuation of Pripyat and stayed behind after. Her role was not a small one and deserved to be in here somehow.
All that being said, Chernobyl gets it right a heck of a lot more than it gets wrong.
Verdict: A must watch. Scary, darkly funny, and adheres to the history with a couple of exceptions.
If You Liked This Try:
- Adam Higginbotham, Midnight in Chernobyl (book)
- Saints & Strangers (TV miniseries)