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.


  • Rob Buckley

    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.