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ITV's Titanic - series review

Titanic, ITV

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ON SUNDAY, April 15, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the sinking, Julian Fellowes’ highly anticipated television drama Titanic reached its inevitable climax but sadly, like the great liner itself, it ultimately failed to deliver.

A familiar and endlessly fascinating story, Titanic had all the ingredients to make it an unforgettable viewing experience but, and due largely to its non-linear plot, it turned into a mishmash of stories held together by the great ship’s untimely demise.

I can’t say I didn’t care about the characters (many of them purely fictional) for who wouldn’t when their fate was such. However, it wasn’t with the same depth of feeling that I had for James Cameron’s Rose and Jack.

I know comparisons shouldn’t be made, but with Cameron’s Titanic now re-released in cinemas in glorious 3D, it’s virtually inevitable. But in creating and focusing on two characters from opposite ends of the social stratum (however improbable in reality), Cameron was not only able to show life as it was for the different classes but also bring us closer to Rose and Jack and the ship itself.

Again continuity – or the lack of it – may have played a decisive role in the failure of Fellowes’ Titanic to draw audiences fully into the lives of the passengers and crew. Even the horrors of that fateful night were denied a true sense of drama but at least we eventually got to see the iceberg in all its imposing and deadly glory.

On the whole, the cast played out their roles with dignity and aplomb although there were times when they were obliged to deliver a clichéd script that was more a distraction than a delight.

Not a totally bad production by any means – I never for a moment felt inclined to actually switch off – but I doubt very much if it has the staying power of Cameron’s epic or indeed the excellent 1958 docu-drama A Night to Remember that BBC2 aired earlier in the day. A pity, because like the Titanic, it promised so much.

NB: You might be interested to know than an exhibition entitled Titanic Remembered, which showcases a small selection of letters, photographs and objects, highlights from a unique collection gathered by Walter Lord during his research for his bestselling 1955 book A Night to Remember, is on display at the National Maritime Museum until September 30, 2012.