With its fixed hazard and cross-section of society, an oil rig affords such a wealthy crucible for drama that it’s stunning it hasn’t been exploited extra usually. Now, first-time screenwriter David Macpherson has made it the setting for an Amazon Prime collection that mixes spectacle, supernatural thriller and specific environmentalism. Its considerations vary from the worldwide — local weather change, fossil fuels — to the native — the continued dependence of the riggers and their Scottish group on North Sea oil. The employees are, because the script places it, “fossils digging fossils”.

With The Rig, Macpherson joins a rising variety of TV writers now inserting the local weather disaster on the coronary heart of their work. Their forebears are few in quantity. The early Seventies introduced the BBC collection Doomwatch, during which rogue scientists tackled plastic waste and air air pollution, whereas the landmark 1985 collection Fringe of Darkness couched Gaia idea and chilly warfare nuclear dread in a crime-cum-espionage thriller.

However barring these occasional exceptions, environmental points had been largely ignored by broadcasters, who maybe thought-about the topic too dense, dry or related to long-haired activism and greatest left to information reporters and documentarians.

A black-wand-white still from TV series ‘Edge of Darkness’ showing two men in a dark, industrial setting
Joe Don Baker (left) and Bob Peck within the 1985 TV collection ‘Fringe of Darkness’ © Alamy

For the reason that early 2000s, nevertheless, because the sense of urgency has intensified, Hollywood has mined environmental considerations for big-budget films. The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Avatar (2009) and Geostorm (2017) used the chance to show advances in CGI, the warning to humanity a useful fig leaf. The reality-based Deepwater Horizon (2016) was uncommon in delivering as a personality examine, catastrophe film and cautionary story.

TV and lower-budget movies merely couldn’t compete or, worse, didn’t attempt. A 2022 survey by California’s Media Influence Venture discovered that solely 2.8 per cent of greater than 37,000 scripted US movie and TV reveals between 2016 and 2020 even talked about “international warming”, “fracking” or 34 different phrases linked to the local weather disaster.

However over the previous few years there have been extra critical makes an attempt to interact with the problems, reflecting each a wider acceptance of the information and rising curiosity amongst audiences.

A scientist in a bio-hazard suit tending to machinery
A scene from TV collection ‘Chernobyl’ during which scientists deal with the nuclear accident © Sky UK/HBO

The outcomes have been blended. Meteor-as-metaphor satire Don’t Look Up (2021) obtained misplaced in its personal cleverness and giddy on star energy. The Trick (additionally 2021) had the other drawback: masking the 2009 hacking of Climatic Analysis Unit emails, the BBC/PBS manufacturing betrayed its public-service origins by being sober, scientific and barely boring. Sky/HBO’s 2019 collection Chernobyl, nevertheless, was an outstanding stability of intimate human drama and horrifying environmental disaster. In the meantime, a number of high-profile TV collection have used the local weather disaster as a subject of the week (Gray’s Anatomy, Physician Who) or a peripheral concern to the central narrative (Reservation Canines).

The boldest and most imaginative interpretations have come primarily from international locations on the frontline of the disaster: examples embrace the 2020 Norwegian fantasy collection Ragnarok, during which Thor is reincarnated as a teenage boy who wreaks revenge on these destroying the planet, and 2019’s Frontera Verde, a supernatural crime thriller set within the Colombian rainforests. Most notable was this 12 months’s revival of Danish TV drama Borgen, during which politician Birgitte Nyborg makes an attempt to sq. the circle of group, financial system and setting after oil is found beneath Greenland.

The head of a person with striking red facial marks swimming in a river
A scene from Colombia-set collection ‘Frontera Verde’ © Juan Pablo Gutiérrez/Netflix

The frequent thread linking most of those reveals has been the involvement of Netflix, however others with comparable monetary and inventive heft are catching up. Apple TV Plus has developed the upcoming anthology collection Extrapolations, with Meryl Streep, Equipment Harington and Marion Cotillard amongst these enjoying individuals investigating the human impression of local weather change.

However earlier than that comes Amazon’s The Rig, which stars Iain Glen, Martin Compston and Mark Bonnar as members of an offshore crew reduce off from the surface world by a mysterious fog that presages a collection of more and more alarming, seemingly supernatural occasions. It’s equal elements office thriller and eco-horror, nevertheless it was essential to Macpherson to not demonise riggers themselves and to replicate their predicament.

“I needed to inform that international story [of climate change],” he says. “However one of many issues that will get missed is the impression on on a regular basis individuals in these services. The rounds of business decline within the UK haven’t all the time been managed effectively. If this business involves an finish, I hope persons are significantly better taken care of and their abilities correctly valued.”

A man and a woman, both in hard hats, standing next to oil-pumping machinery
A scene from Norwegian collection ‘Ragnarok’

Sarcastically, this drama about an previous, fossil-fuel-driven business was filmed in a manufacturing facility as soon as hailed as housing the way forward for renewable power. Pelamis Wave Energy on Edinburgh’s Leith Docks was a pioneer in offshore wave power earlier than going into administration in 2014. (The constructing reopened final 12 months as a cavernous new studio complicated.)

Macpherson is effectively certified to jot down about rigs and environmental issues. His father labored on an offshore platform for a few years and Macpherson has an MA in environmental research and has labored with non-profit organisations on local weather change. “If we might seize the identical sense of delight within the engineering of renewable expertise as we did within the engineering of those rigs, Scotland may very well be a world chief in a brand new subject,” he says.

However not all of these concerned within the collection are specialists. Emily Hampshire, greatest recognized for taking part in Stevie within the hit Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek, right here performs Rose, geologist and oil firm rep. She admits that she knew little about offshore drilling when filming started.

A man and a woman, both in rd overalls and looking alarmed
A scene from new TV collection ‘The Rig’

“Rose has to clarify the science in a manner that’s partaking and never a lecture, which I struggled with at first,” she says. “Then I began studying a ebook about mass extinctions referred to as The Ends of the World, and it simply clicked. The road [in The Rig]: ‘In case you maintain punching the Earth, it’s going to punch again’ made actual sense.”

“We’re asking what occurs after we excavate sea beds, releasing what nature has created,” ponders her fellow actor Glen. “But additionally taking a step additional again and searching on the supply. It’s solely after horrible disasters that humanity tends to assume, ‘Perhaps we shouldn’t have been doing that.’”

So is it hopeless? Macpherson thinks not, and is acutely aware of the position of dramas in forcing viewers to face a number of inconvenient truths. “I believe it will be a disservice to keep away from it,” he says. “We’re within the age of local weather change and issues are going to worsen. If writers aren’t placing that side of their story, are they actually reflecting the world as it’s?”

‘The Rig’ is on Amazon Prime from January 6

Comply with @ftweekend on Twitter to search out out about our newest tales first


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *