The Last Ship goes Greek. Almost

It's all Greek to them

The Last Ship goes Greek

This season, The Last Ship is going back to basics, returning to a plot similar to that of its first season – a hunt for the cure to a disease, albeit one that’s affecting food plants this time. One big change, though, is that it’s gone to the Med for something billed as ‘Tom Chandler’s own Odyssey’.

Being The Last Ship, they don’t mean that figuratively and this fourth season is based in part on Homer’s Odyssey. Being The Last Ship rather than American Odyssey, they’re also following through on that and making sure you know they’re following through on that, too. As well as initially being set in Greece, there are copious references to ‘the gods’, mentions of Homer, characters called things like Ares, Chandler alternately going around calling himself ‘Noone’ and ‘Hercules’, a journey past the metaphorically crashing rock of Gibraltar (one of the Pillars of Hercules, which is also the name of the second episode), a bunch of modern-day Lotus eaters and even its own version of Calypso/Circe.

To its credit, the show’s actually hired a few Greeks/Greek-Cypriots/Greek-Americans who can speak Greek, which is a step up from The Slap (US), for example. Sure, there’s a few non-Greek speakers who are trying to pass as Greek and who have the crappy accents to match, but for the most part, the dialogue’s correct and even matches what the subtitles say people are saying.

Unfortunately, whoever they’ve got translating everything apparently didn’t get to have a word with the production assistants, judging by the ‘Greek’ in the very important document pictured. Now, said document is owned by a character who’s Greek-American, for sure, but I can’t imagine a scenario where he’d type this nonsense, rather than use either Greek or English.

Take the bottom line: ‘Elaeis virilis’, which is also written as Αγκιέντ Οιλ Παλμ. That’s not Greek, but if you sound it out, you’ll see that it’s supposed to be ‘Agkient Oil Palm’ – ancient oil palm. It’s the same with the lines above it: ‘Αφρικαν Οιλ Παλμ’ and ‘Αμερικαν Οιλ Παλμ’ or ‘Afrikan Oil Palm’ and ‘Amerikan Oil Palm’.

I don’t know what’s going on there. You can type ‘American oil palm’ into Google Translate and get something more accurate in about three seconds (“Αμερικανική φοινικέλαια”). You can’t type ‘Ancient oil palm’ into a PC with the keyboard layout switched to Greek and get what they got either – you get ‘Ανψιεντ Οιλ Παλμ’. So it seems like someone has simply asked how phonetically to get ‘Ancient oil palm’ et all in the Greek alphabet and this is the result.

Which is odd.

Still, at least they’re trying.

  • JustStark

    Tom Chandler’s own Odyssey

    Oh oh oh do you think he’ll look into the distance as if he’s thinking REALLY REALLY HARD about all the things he’s lost? And about how he has to stay stoical and strong because he’s got a job do to, even though inside he’s CRYING (and also possibly DYING)? And do you think he’ll turn around and deliver an inspirational one-liner?

    Do you think he’ll do that? At all?

    Because you just know that would be awesome.

    • He manages to stare into the distance and look stoic for really quite impressive amounts of time this season

      • JustStark

        Brilliant, that’s what we tune in for.

        (Why is Captain Squarejaw’s manly pain so watchable, when Tom Hardy’s was tedious as all get-out? Maybe it has something to do with how he is saving the world while Tom Hardy was a whining man-baby with daddy issues, I dunno.)

        • Are we talking Peaky Blinders or Taboo here? But you’re probably right – he puts God and country before himself and family, which is heroic, rather than self-indulgent. At least to British eyes.

          • JustStark

            Taboo; actually I don’t mind him as much in Peaky Blinders because he’s meant to be damaged and unreliable and dangerous, not sympathetic.

            Yes, Captain Squarejaw’s extremely still upper lip makes him almost honorary British, doesn’t it? You can definitely imagine him going outside and possibly being some time.

  • Harold Migias

    The first opponent was a Russian ship. The Russians spoke Russian to each other. It seemed very realistic. The Greeks, however, speak English to each other with Greek accents most of the time. Why? The audience had no problem reading English subtitles when the Russians were speaking with each other. It’s the same audience! We can handle hearing Greeks speaking Greek with each other.

    • That’s true and I don’t know why, beyond having a few cast members who are supposed to be but aren’t (the Russians were played by Russian actors, I think). All the same, if Star Trek: Discovery can find dozens of people to speak Klingon, you’d think they’d be able to manage to find more Greek speakers.

      I’m also finding the related phenomenon of movies having characters speaking two different languages at each other but still understanding each other to be odd (cf Ghost in the Shell). If you understand Greek, speak it; if the other person understands English, speak it. Don’t just speak English and Greek at each other!