Getting in Too Deep

The Deep

Review of BBC’s The Deep Miniseries

With the multitude of wonderful series coming out of Britain’s television network, it seems that it would be a given that the recent miniseries focusing on Earth’s inner space would be wonderful as well. Unfortunately that is not the case, and while the 5 episode drama raises some interesting questions about the unexplored watery regions of our precious little bubble, it doesn’t deliver any answers.

The  premise of the story centers on an area of protected ocean under the polar ice cap. This UN protected “neutral zone” is being explored by a scientific team intent on discovering the origins of life. The loss of a previous expedition drives much of the personal conflict in the the story. One of the current team members, played by James Nesbitt, lost his wife. His mother-in-law and daughter also come into the story as they are harassed by mystery people while he is away. The leader of the new team, Minnie Driver, is entangled in a love triangle with another crew member, Goran Visnjic, and his wife. The convoluted nature of the story escalates when evidence of the missing woman is discovered on board a massive submarine apparently owned by a Russian oil company intent on drilling in the protected area. Toss in a mythical creature called the “lava bug” which could end the world’s energy crises, and also corrodes the submarines in the story and you have the making of a great story with all the conspiracy and intrigue a person could ever need. In fact, it is too much.

I understand why this series was made, I really do. The premise is great, but the execution fails in a few specific ways. The actors do a great job with what they were given, and Nesbitt will always have my attention when he is on screen. But the characters are caricatures. They act as you would expect people to act in a B roll sci-fi story from the 80s. There is no depth in their motivations or in their interactions with each other. The script is full of unnecessary personal trivia that has no impact on what should be the greater story arc. The direction seems frenetic, taking the viewer from one obvious focal point of the story to another with no rhyme or reason. Is this a story about a man and a woman in love? Is it about a family? Is it about a team? It is about the science? Is it about an oil company conspiracy? This story is having an identity crises, and though it has many of the elements that make for great science fiction, it is not great.

It all comes down to the same issue that science fiction usually confronts. What is more important? The story or the concept? In too much science fiction, the excitement of the writers over the possibilities that our burgeoning knowledge of the cosmos allows for in fiction overwhelms the simple elements of convincing setting, good characters, clear plot elements driven by an understandable conflict, and themes that are personal and universal. Though I desperately wanted The Deep to reflect the joy and adventure I found in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it simply didn’t.

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