Titanic Blood & Steel.jpg

Titanic: Blood and Steel is a 12-part television costume drama series about the construction of the RMS Titanic.[1][2] It is one of two large budget television dramas aired in (April) 2012, the centenary of the disaster; the other is Titanic.

The series premiered in Germany and Denmark on April 15, 2012, in Italy on April 22, 2012 and in France on December 2012. Part of filming took place in Serbia,[3] where it aired beginning September 9, 2012. In Canada, it began to air September 19, 2012 on CBC. It was aired in the United States as a six-part mini-series with two episodes back-to-back[4] from October 8, 2012 until October 13, 2012 on Encore.

Plot[edit | edit source]

The series follows the lives of the people who made the Titanic: from the workers who built it to the rich financiers. Dr. Mark Muir, an engineer and metallurgist, convinces American tycoon J. P. Morgan to hire him for the biggest shipping project in the world, the construction of the RMS Titanic at Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard. Mark is in truth a native of Belfast born Marcus Malone. Now with a new name and identity, he tries to hide his heritage from his employers, as he is Catholic and his employers, the Protestant elite that rule Belfast, dislike Catholics. While working there, Mark falls in love with Sofia Silvestri, an Italian immigrant. However, during the construction of the Titanic, tensions rise between the lower-class workers and the rich elite. More setbacks stall the construction: Harland and Wolff want to save costs and use cheaper materials, the workers wish to form a Trade union, the women suffrage movement in the UK and the battle between pro Home Rule and pro-Unionist groups. Mark attempts to deal with it while trying to escape his past.

Historical errors[edit | edit source]

There are many historical inaccuracies, some of them so fundamental that if they were corrected, it would completely alter the series. Below is a selection of some of these:

  • The riots and labor unrest in the series are portrayed as safety and wage related; however, they were caused by Harland and Wolff's hiring practices. Harland and Wolff, like most Northern Irish employers at the time, practiced sectarian discrimination and hired predominantly Protestant workers. Catholics rioted against this and the Royal Irish Constabulary were called in. For the period, Harland and Wolff's wages were considered fair, as were the death and injury benefits paid to workers, or to their families, who suffered mishap in their yard.[5] That said, in the plot the sectarian tensions are shown to be a driving force among the various socioeconomic levels and how they relate to each other; including in the fifth episode Lord Pirrie regretfully acknowledging to Dr. Muir that he could have never been employed at White Star at his level if it was known that he was a Catholic, even with a letter of recommendation from J. P. Morgan himself.
  • It is also insinuated that Harland and Wolff favored cheaper steel of lower quality to save money, with the implication that cheaper steel played a part in the sinking and loss of life. It has been thoroughly documented, however, that the ship's steel plates were of good quality for the period.[6] Indeed, the R.M.S. Olympic showed great inherent strength prior to the Titanic disaster,[7] and remained in service on the Atlantic until the mid-1930s; Titanic's hull strength is demonstrated by the fact that, even after her bow section plunged 2 1/2 miles to the sea floor, still remains largely intact. Although her hull broke apart in the final few minutes of the sinking, this was because the strains imposed upon it were simply greater than any ocean liner was designed to bear, and not a symptom of structural weakness. In fact, a scientific analysis of some of the rivets indicated the presence of impurities in the material from which they were made, which made them weak or brittle, which proved a contributory factor in her sinking.
  • Thomas Andrews, Jr. is portrayed early in the series as being a temperamental, indifferent man quite separated from the workers of the yard and unconcerned with furthering the abilities of Harland and Wolff's capabilities if it meant losing money. In reality, Thomas Andrews was well-loved by all who worked in the yard, from his Uncle, Lord Pirrie, to the laborers in the yards. His kindness and generosity and ease of temper was well-documented. If there were imperfections in the building of his ships, he'd have been one of the first to have realized it. Moreover, he would have been eager to fix it. However, after the third episode he is shown to be sympathetic to Dr. Muir's safety concerns regarding the steel plates and iron rivets of the Titanic's hull. He is shown accurately insisting on having 64 lifeboats to be carried on the ship, more than the British Board of Trade mandated by law, but was over ruled.
  • American Financier J. P. Morgan is portrayed as overseeing construction of the Titanic, heavily involved in decisions regarding the liner's construction. Although Morgan had acquired the White Star Line in 1902, and had rolled it into his shipping combine, the International Mercantile Marine (or IMM), the White Star Line was run by its Managing Director, J. Bruce Ismay. Ismay, in turn, became President of the IMM in 1904. It was in fact White Star, not Morgan and IMM, which financed the construction of Olympic, Titanic and R.M.S Britannic (which was to be named originally Gigantic, as correctly noted in the series). However the series does correctly show that it was Ismay, not Morgan, who was involved in decisions regarding the ships' design, interior appointments, safety features, etc.[8] His domineering character which is the traditional depiction of his reputation is intact. Morgan is also shown to have been the one who recommended the fictional character Muir to Harland & Wolff to be employed by them in the project but since Muir himself is fictional this action doesn't go against actual history.
  • The timeline of events during Titanics' construction and fitting out is significantly distorted in this miniseries. Olympic and Titanic were built side by side on Harland & Wolff Slips Nos. 2 & 3, with Olympic enjoying a lead of several months' progress over her sister. Olympic was launched on October 20, 1910; Titanic was launched on May 31, 1911. On that date, Olympic had just finished her trials, and she began her maiden voyage in June. Olympic's collision with the HMS Hawke was September 20, 1911 - well into the time of Titanic's fitting-out. However, in the series, the Olympic had entered service close to the time that Titanic's keel was laid, the collision with the Hawke happened long before Titanic was launched, a significant inaccuracy.
  • In the show, Titanic is seen under construction on the slip that Olympic was actually built on.
  • The blueprints for Titanic, as seen in the series, are actually all of the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania.
  • Throughout the production 1920's jazz music is heard which is completely incorrect for the period. Ragtime jazz, such as that from composer Scott Joplin, would’ve been appropriate.
  • Titanic did not embark passengers in Belfast. Titanic departed Belfast on April 2, arrived in Southampton 28 hours later, and did not depart Southampton until April 10. With just one exception, the only non-crew members embarked at Belfast were members of the H&W guarantee group and a Board of Trade official.
  • In the show, Ismay says that Titanic was 'significantly larger' than the Olympic; in reality, the two ships bore identical length (882'9"), width (92'6") and weight (52,310 tons at a mean draught of 34'7"). The only "size" difference between the two liners was in the on-paper measurement of their enclosed volume (Olympic's was 45,325 grt, Titanic's was 46,329), not by any actual dimension. In fact, after the Titanics' loss, Olympic was re-fitted and her gross registered tonnage was made slightly greater than Titanic's had been.
  • In the series, the term "unsinkable" (or "theoretically unsinkable") is dreamed up and applied primarily to Titanic by the fictional character Muir after the collision with the H.M.S Hawke, when in reality it was introduced by White Star publicity and period Trade journals such as The Shipbuilder during construction of the two liners, and was applied to both equally. (Coincidentally, the special number of The Shipbuilder in which the term appeared is seen in the series long before Muir supposedly dreamed it up). However, neither publication identified who actually came up with the pharase so it is plausible that someone like Dr. Muir could have come up with the phrase "Unsinkable".
  • While the damage to the Olympic by the collision with the Hawke was on her aft-starboard quarter, the damage is shown on her forward-port quarter.
  • The January of 1912 storm encountered by the Olympic, which Captain Smith described as the worst he had encountered in his career, actually proved her great strength, rather than any inherent weakness in her hull or that of Titanic. Olympic required no repairs following the storm, and was not forced to "limp" into New York harbor.[7]
  • The worries portrayed among Lord Pirrie, Thomas Andrews and Dr. Muir about the Titanic being just "too big" are a great exaggeration. Although Olympic and Titanic were the two largest ships in the world, at the time, the Hamburg-Amerika Line was beginning work on a trio of even larger superliners, and the Cunard Line was planning to build a similarly-sized liner.
  • Further any worries about New York City refusing to extend their piers to accommodate Titanic was contradicted by the fact that Olympic was already making port calls at New York City and so already had the capacity to accommodate ships the size of Titanic since Olympic and Titanic were identical in length and beam.
  • Any discussion regarding the possibilities of including a double hull on the Titanic (and on the Olympic, as the two ships were designed simultaneously) would have transpired around 1907-1908, during the design phase, and prior to the laying of either ship's keel. Such discussion would not have been applied solely to Titanic after the Olympic/Hawke collision. Although the discussion about adding an internal hull to the Titanic during her construction in light of the events with the Hawke/Olympic incident was quickly dismissed by Bruce Ismay as too expensive.
  • Doctor Muir's description of how expansion joints worked is inaccurate. The description in the show implies that the expansion joints played a significant role in the structural abilities of the ship. However, expansion joints were placed into the superstructure only, and not the primary form of her hull. The hull is what bore structural stresses, working in the sea, while the superstructure merely "floated" on top of the primary hull.[7]
  • The large model ship of the Titanic shown in the first few episodes in inaccurate. The model shows the 1st class promenade deck enclosed (the promenade deck was not enclosed on Olympic) and this decision was not made until late in the construction period.
  • In the series Liam Cunningham, who was in his early fifties at the time of filming, portrays labor leader James "Big Jim" Larkin. In reality Larkin at this time was in his mid-thirties as he was born in 1876.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Talmon, Noelle (9 November 2011). "Neve Campbell, Chris Noth & Kevin Zegers Pose On The Set Of 'Titanic' Miniseries". Star Pulse. http://www.starpulse.com/news/Noelle_Talmon/2011/11/09/neve_campbell_chris_noth_kevin_zegers. 
  2. "‘Big’ now Titanic". New York Post. 11 November 2011. http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/tv/big_now_titanic_lWSNYrN3bLRnkqZ8Wjfd2J. 
  3. Made In Serbia
  4. Breaking News - Encore Presents "The Big Miniseries Showcase" This Fall with the U.S. Television Premiere of "The Crimson Petal and the White"
  5. Titanic: Belfast's Own (Stephen Cameron), ISBN 978-1906578770.
  6. What Really Sank the Titanic? by (Timothy Foecke and Jennifer Hooper-McCartey), ISBN 1615585273; On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S. Titanic (Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt), Appendix A: "Titanic's Technical Specifications & Some Common Technical Misconceptions", ISBN 1848689276.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S. Titanic (Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt), Appendix A: "Titanic's Technical Specifications & Some Common Technical Misconceptions", ISBN 1848689276), pg. 285.
  8. On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S. Titanic (Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt), Appendix A: "Titanic's Technical Specifications & Some Common Technical Misconceptions", ISBN 1848689276), pgs. 38-41.
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