Review: The Last Ship 1×1 (TNT)

Ships. Killer viruses. What more do you want?

The Last Ship

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, TNT

In the Venn diagram of TV genres, TNT’s The Last Ship would appear to be in an almost unique intersection that’s targeted at me.

I love things to do with ships, period or modern day, surface or sub-surface. I loves me a Master and Commander, A Hunt for Red October, a Warship, Making Waves or a Hornblower. Although Last Resort wasn’t great on land, as soon as it put to CGI sea, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The Final Countdown might not have been the best time travel movie ever made but I am so geared up to write an article about how you definitely must watch it because of its naval accuracy. I so am.

Provided you give me enough proper naval content per episode – I’m staring at you here, Black Sails – I’ll watch you, no matter how bad the rest of the show is.

As I remarked when I reviewed Helix, another thing I love is the killer virus genre: The Andromeda Strain – (both versions) – Outbreak, The Burning Zone, The Satan Bug. All aces, provided there’s a real threat of a wide-scale outbreak of a potential lethal virus.

So imagine my nerdy joy, given those facts, when I heard about The Last Ship. An adaptation of the 1988 post-nuclear apocalypse novel set on a US naval vessel that was at sea when the nukes went off, this TNT update instead gives us a guided missile destroyer that happens to be at the Arctic when a global pandemic breaks out, wiping out half the world’s population and leaving the remaining half on the verge of death, too. With the world falling apart, its crew has to survive and fight off enemies while scientists on board have humanity’s best – and perhaps only chance – to create a cure for the disease.

Brilliant, hey? Hell, it’s even got Adam Baldwin as the XO. Nothing could tarnish this, surely?

Not even the fact that Michael Bay is the executive producer?


Here’s a trailer.

Their mission is simple: Find a cure. Stop the virus. Save the world. When a global pandemic wipes out eighty percent of the planet’s population, the crew of a lone naval destroyer must find a way to pull humanity from the brink of extinction. Executive Producer Michael Bay presents The Last Ship, starring Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra and Adam Baldwin

Is it any good?
It’s almost pure Michael Bay, it has dialogue that makes you want to have a spleenectomy, just so the general anaesthetic will take the pain away, it has Rhona Mitra doing the ‘Rhona Mitra’ thing and the rest of the cast are pretty much all at sea (ho ho).

But it’s about a naval destroyer and a killer virus so I’m loving it.

Now I have to admit that that’s a personal blind spot. Although the pilot isn’t actually directed by Bay and doesn’t even has his visual style to redeem it, in terms of content, it’s concentrated Bay. It’s got a hardware fetish, rubbish female characters who are largely just there to look good, rubbish male characters who are just there to serve the plot, poor plotting, goodies on snow sleds who can’t be blown up by helicopter-launched rockets, patriotic speeches that would make even Glenn Beck think they were milking it, science but not as we know it, Jim, and a loose grasp of naval protocols at best.

Yet despite all that, it’s about a naval destroyer and a killer virus so I’m loving it.

To be fair, the show does do a lot of things well. It has some genuinely exciting action scenes, particularly the naval battles. The series as a whole pretty much starts with half the world’s population being wiped out, rather than dangling that particular threat until the end, and there is real tension throughout the first episode, once the virus breaks out. Mitra (Stargate SGU, The Gates, Strike Back) almost shows some diversity in her acting, rather than being merely a b*tch the whole time, as she is oft called to be. It’s actually shot in some pretty icy locations on board some genuine naval destroyers, so looks good for most of the time until the CGI kicks in. And it’s got Adam Baldwin, who even though he’s largely coasting at this point, doing what he’s also always been called on to do since Full Metal Jacket, is still Adam Baldwin.

Although one might be tempted to think the show has been top-loaded, with all the fun in the first episode, subsequent episodes merely to be about the pressing need to keep finding more diesel, provisions, etc, while Mitra looks down a microscope and condescends to people, there are signs of intrigue ahoy from spies and the Russian navy who all want to find the cure and perhaps use it to hold the world to ransom (and given the virus was weaponised, they might just want to stop a cure being found at all). We’ve already had nuclear weapons fired, so maybe we’ll get more of that, too. Woo hoo!

As I mentioned when reviewing Murder In The First, this is the summer when TNT tries to get noticed and breaks out of its mold with some adventurous programming. Given this was the highest rated cable launch of the year, I’d say it’s succeeding.

Either way, it’s about a naval destroyer and a killer virus so I’m loving it.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.