This show is beautiful in its bleakness. It’s magnificent to behold. It’s so realistic that you can almost feel the cold of the Arctic for yourself. You expect to see your breath fogging in the air. Watching it, you’d swear that it’s filmed on location at the North Pole. But no, it’s shot on a soundstage, with greenscreen. If you’ve seen the show–and seriously, WTF is wrong with you if you haven’t been watching–then you know how impressive this is.
Also, the two ships, the EREBUS and the TERROR (And what about the serendipity of those being the names of the ships, considering what happened to them?), are actually just ONE ship. Says Production Designer Jonathan McKinstry: “We didn’t have space, time or money to build both ships, so we built one that we modified to become [both] by changing the stern, changing the signs, changing the dressing, changing some of the companionway entrances–minor details that you would notice.” And the model was based on the real EREBUS and TERROR, which were discovered in 2014 and 2016, respectively, both now lying submerged at guarded locations beneath the frigid Arctic waters. The ships upper and lower decks are located on two different soundstages in Budapest. (Budapest was also where the soundstage used for THE ALIENIST was located, incidentally.)
“In contrast to this claustrophobic ship where the characters are on top of each other,” added McKinstry, “we have this massive, wide open space outside that’s totally inhospitable, with some sort of nasty creature lurking in it.” And both settings are completely artificial. But you’d never know it.