Hit drama The North Water comes to an end

Friday: The North Water; (BBC Two, 9.30pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 7th October 2021, 5:00 pm

“Despite the obvious challenges, shooting in the Arctic seemed the very best option,” says writer-director Andrew Haigh.

“I wanted us to feel the biting wind, the bitter cold.

“I wanted to capture that fear that comes from being so far from civilisation.”

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Patrick Sumner

The decision to film his adaptation of Ian McGuire’s much-admired novel The North Water – the tale of 19th-century whalers trapped aboard a ship with a psychopath – so far from home in real locations has certainly paid off.

Viewers can feel the cold and discomfort of the crew – we imagine many people have donned an extra jumper after tuning in.

“We were up to 81 degrees north, 24 hours away from land at some points, locked in the sea ice,” continues Haigh.

“It was not an easy experience.

“It was very cold and really challenging, but to me that was what was so exciting about it.

“Luckily, we had a bunch of crew and actors who also thought this was exciting, so we could all do it together.

“I was terrified. I think we all were.

“None of us really knew what to expect. I’d been on some scouts up there, so I had seen the environment already, but it was nerve-racking to know that we were going to be on a boat for a month, all the crew, all the cast, in very close quarters.

“It was a big cast and I wanted to ensure that everyone got on, that it was an enjoyable experience, and in the end, what made me very happy was that it was such an incredible experience for all of us.”

He adds: “You feel very privileged to be in that environment and that part of the world. We had very few days off in the Arctic, but you’d go on to the deck and see a family of polar bears climbing across the ice – that doesn’t happen every day.

“And I like a challenge I suppose, I knew that it would be challenging, and that brings an energy to what you’re filming.”

The result is one of the most gripping series shown on the BBC in recent years, and one that is almost impossible to define.

“What sets this apart is that it doesn’t exist within one genre,” explains Haigh.

“It is a historical drama, a thriller, an adventure story, it is a lot of things in one, which is why I find it so interesting.

“This is a story about the few and the privileged exerting their power and dominance over everyone else for their own gain.

“It is a very contemporary story as well as a character study.”

The final episode begins as Sumner (Jack O’Connell) recovers from his injuries thanks to the missionary who rescued him.

He eventually makes his way back to Hull, where he claims the money he’s owed ahead of a showdown with Drax (Colin Farrell).

If you’ve missed the previous episodes, don’t worry – the entire series is available on the BBC iPlayer for at least the next 12 months.

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