Season 1, Episode 1
Go for Broke
An accident at sea cripples a Royal Navy expedition 200 miles from finding the Northwest Passage, forcing its captains to make dire choices.
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Sir James Ross enlists the help of a translator so he can understand a story recounted by a Netsilik Inuit hunter. When the hunter mentions the name “Aglooka,” Ross reacts and pulls out photos of Sir John Franklin, Francis Crozier and James Fitzjames. The hunter points to Crozier and says Crozier’s crew was in terrible shape and being pursued by the “Tuunbaq.” The translator is unfamiliar with the term, which the hunter describes as "the thing that eats on two legs and on four." The hunter passes on a warning for future crews not to pursue a passage through the Arctic. He quotes Crozier, saying, “We are gone. Dead and gone.”
In September of 1846, four years earlier, Capt. Sir John Franklin strides along his ship, Erebus, as it sails through icy waters along the Eastern shore. Henry Collins, Second Master, alerts Franklin that their sister ship, Terror, is signaling for an ice report. Collins suggests sending over Ice Master Mr. Reid, but Franklin and Commander James Fitzjames plan to meet directly with Terror's captain for dinner.
Meanwhile, on Terror, Capt. Francis Crozier looks through his scope and reads the flag messages from Erebus. He laments over having to sit through dinner with Fitzjames in particular.
In the forecastle – where the sailors, Royal Marines and Petty Officers live – a group of young men eat and chat.
Crozier's steward, Thomas Jopson, helps Crozier get ready for dinner with Franklin, Fitzjames and Crozier's officers.
At dinner in the wardroom, Fitzjames proudly relays a detailed account of his time as a soldier in China. The men are in awe except for Crozier, who doesn't hide his annoyance. Franklin shifts the conversation to give an ice report. He says they're passing by old ice, which shouldn't be a problem, but they're approaching a new intersection that may present some chunks. Franklin suggests honoring Sir James Ross by naming their current route after him.
In the forecastle, one of the ship's boys David Young enjoys a laugh, then suddenly coughs up blood.
Crozier, Franklin and Fitzjames fear David has scurvy. Dr. Alexander MacDonald says he didn’t detect any signs of it, but he can't rule it out. Franklin recommends taking David back to Erebus so he can be examined further by their surgeon Dr. Stephen Stanley.
In private, Fitzjames laments to Franklin over Crozier’s gloomy disposition. Franklin reminds him that Crozier is second-in-command and should be treated as a friend. While they make their way back, Erebus crashes into something and comes to a halt. An able seaman named William Orren is thrown overboard from the impact. Collins gets ready to jump in to save him, but it’s too late.
During an examination by Dr. Stanley, David admits he hid feeling unwell out of fear of disappointing Franklin. "Well, he can praise your loyalty as he buries you," Dr. Stanley spits.
In the Great Room, Lt. Gore informs Fitzjames and Franklin that Erebus's propeller is blocked.
In a flashback, Crozier remembers attending an opera performance where an expedition manned by Ross and himself was depicted on stage. Franklin cheers Crozier and Ross on as they’re honored and is encouraged by his own wife to stand for applause as well.
Dr. Henry Goodsir, assistant surgeon, watches over David in the sick bay. David doesn't want to be cut open after dying, but those measures must be taken to detect scurvy.
On Terror, the ship dog Neptune barks at something in the distance. Up on deck, a group of crewmen look through a scope and summon Ice Master Thomas Blanky immediately. Meanwhile, David has a terrifying hallucination of an Inuit man with the face of a bear. "It wants us to run!" he screams. David dies suddenly.
Goodsir wonders how David hallucinated without a fever. Dr. Stanley orders an autopsy be done in the morning.
Blanky and Crozier worry as they look out and see pack ice on the horizon.
The next morning, Collins dives below Erebus and dislodges a chunk of ice stuck in the propeller. In the distance, he sees William Orren's drowned body and tugs on his ropes to be pulled up.
In the sick bay, Goodsir cuts open David's body but sees no signs of scurvy.
Collins gives the crew an update on the bent propeller but leaves out what he saw.
In the Erebus Great Room, Franklin and Fitzjames meet with Crozier and their fellow officers. Franklin admits Erebus is compromised, but remains confident in reaching King William Land and finishing "this final piece of the puzzle." Crozier is doubtful and proposes consolidating coal so they can continue the expedition on the Terror. Franklin decides he'll put the Terror in lead position but continue commanding Erebus.
Per Franklin’s orders, David is buried on land. Later, Franklin gives a memorial service for him, followed by a moving speech to encourage his men.
The ships are underway as Erebus now follows the path of the Terror. As the journey continues, the crew uses saws and coal powder to try to make their way through the miles of pack ice.
On Erebus, Franklin tries to remain optimistic as he listens to the ominous sounds from outside.
The next morning, Franklin and his officers make their way up to the deck and see that they're completely surrounded by ice. A box compass spins out of control. Franklin fires off orders like normal and tells his officers to remain cheery for the sake of the crew. Across the ice, Crozier stands on the deck of the Terror and catches Franklin’s gaze.