The Terror is a gradually building thriller with an intense and dark undertone. Much like the beast that is stalking the crew of The Terror, beneath the obvious chilling atmosphere lies something with a little more depth. At its core, The Terror is basically the story of survival and the gradual loss of humanity. The all-male crew and survival themes make a comparison between this and the classic Lord of the Flies by William Golding a necessity. In both stories, the characters are abandoned in unforgiving landscapes and human beings may or may not be the biggest threat. For lovers of the novel by Dan Simmons we know who or what the threat is although there appears to be plenty of antagonists to go around. In Lord of the Flies the same holds true as there are obvious good guys and bad guys but plenty of ambiguity to make things interesting.
In the first two episodes, the doctor, Henry Goodsir, is introduced as an intelligent good-hearted man who is clearly the moral compass of the crew. The doctor finds himself in the care of a young man who has been stricken with what they believe to be consumption. Prior to the death of the man, he gave a quick speech in which he requested the doctor give his ring to his sister. After burying the man in the snow, the doctor later remembers his promise, which he now knows he has broken. Although it is a small detail, it will later become the greatest catalyst within the series. Much like Simon in The Lord of the Flies, I believe the Doctor will be the first to find the evil or, as the story puts it “ the beast “. More than likely this will appear after they have abandoned ship, and likely within the desperate march towards safety.
There is another character that might make comparison even clearer. In a scene early on Cornelius Hickey, after sharing a drink with the captain (a rare treat for sure) does not finish his drink. Either Cornelius wishes to stay sober, he does not trust the captain or the more likely of the bunch, he wishes to stay in the captain’s good graces. He does this by drinking while in the presence of Francis, but not when alone. As men at arms, being men of drink would similarly bring on comradery. Additionally, after having a more intimate moment with another sailor abruptly ended by another member of the crew, Cornelius wishes to have some favors in his pocket should his secret spill to the rest of the crew. After looking at the dialogue between Cornelius and his lover, another similarity between the Lord of the Flies and The Terror emerges.
Aside from the physical similarities between Jack and Cornelius (they are both written as red heads with slicked back hair), they also share key personality traits as well. They are both charismatic, manipulative, assertive and confident, and most importantly, they think entirely too highly of themselves. Without the structure and safety of the ship and a plan, Cornelius might be the first to openly kill, and the first to do it without reason. In the Lord of the Flies, Jack was the first to murder and he was the first to jump ship. He abandons his previous civilized manner for a more chaotic and much more dangerous demeanor. Eerily there was an actual knife inscribed with Hickey on one side and H.C. on the other of the handle. The handle was made from bone.
What is more chilling is that the handle was not the original made on to the knife. Hickey made it himself and was found near Starvation Cove where many remnants of the last surviving crew were found. History tells us Hickey is likely to make it towards the end, and is also carrying a blade on his person, and with plenty of bodies to borrow a bone from to make his handle. He might also become the “Lord of the Flies”- the true embodiment of savagery and evil and will likely rip apart any hopes of survival the small remaining men have, both with possible cannibalism and with conflict in and amongst the crew.
There are further symbolic objects within the show similar to the Lord of the Flies. The two ships, technologically savvy for the time and large in size, represent Piggy’s glasses. Just as both lenses give us a sense of what civilization can do. The ships represent the height of human achievement. If you will remember one of the ships is hobbled early on, rendering it almost useless, not unlike the broken lens of Piggie’s glasses. Both are used to show the technological ability of civilization and the importance of it. Piggy’s glasses are used to make the signal fire, which is the boy’s only connection to civilization. When the glasses are later shattered during a fight, they are lost never to be used again. In similar fashion, the two ships are impressive and once again useless to the men once they get stuck within the ice. As many of you might find obvious, once the rest of the crew leave The Terror and the Erebus behind, you will likely see an abandonment of conventional rules, and upheaval of the traditional order, and mass chaos that could lead to mutiny and murder.
At the same time, the theme of guilt will play a valuable role as the crew continues on their journey. Within the first two episodes, we’ve already seen an immense amount of guilt, whether it be Captain Franklin’s realization of his death-inducing mistake to continue further into the ice, or the guilt of not being able to save the sailor who falls overboard. Death will be a powerful motivator for the crew and its leaders. I believe we will see the doctor stricken with grief, the captain filled with hopelessness, and Francis filled with rage. Both the guilt of empty promises and mistakes added to the death of starving, sickly, desperate men will eventually result in a breaking point which will lead to a potentially horrific conclusion. I believe when Mr. Goodsir is eventually buried in his shallow grave, it may be without much meat to his name. More probable and historically accurate, Henry will commit suicide amongst his guilt and hopelessness and will mark the loss of innocence and morality among the crew (if they haven’t lost it already).
The most powerful connection between The Lord of the Flies and The Terror is Francis Cozier as Ralph. Ralph survives on the connections he builds with several of the boys, which allow him to keep himself sane, However, he also builds these relationships to try and lead the boys to safety when many go adrift under the control of Jack. Francis also builds connections with Captain Fitzjames and Lieutenant Irving, which allows him to bring structure to the ever dwindling men, but also keep his wits and sanity about him. Cozier will continue to survive in Franklin’s absence and will help keep order amongst the crew. Although he butts heads with Franklin in the first two episodes, he will truly find his stride when he is no longer hindered by a leader who ignores those with more knowledge.
The parallels are obvious and the story is compelling here’s hoping the final small screen product is as good as the source material or the comparison material. If you have not read the fantastic Lord of the Flies or The Terror find the links below. Leave us your thoughts or tweet at us and tell me what we got right or wrong.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.