Filming begins in Malta this week and the drama will follow the ill-fated voyage of The Essex through the eyes of the cabin boy Thomas Nickerson who, at 14, was the youngest member of the crew and one of only eight survivors of the shipwreck.
Before he died in 1883, aged 78, Nickerson wrote a detailed account of his experiences which will form the basis of The Whale’s chronology, geography, characters, and main events; these are the same events that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.
Martin Davidson, Commissioner for BBC History, says: “Throughout the narrative of this fascinating story, some universal themes that everyone can relate to will be explored, such as – What is Man’s place on Earth? How does humanity relate to the planet and its creatures? And what lengths will Man go to in order to survive? It is a thrilling tale.”
Jonas Armstrong leads the cast as First Mate Owen Chase with Adam Rayner as Captain Pollard, Paul Kaye as Joy; David Gyasi as Peterson and Jolyon Coy as Lawrence. Also starring Jassa Ahluwalisa, John Boyega and Ferdinand Kingsley and introducing Charles Furness as the young Tom Nickerson.
Made by BBC Factual productions, the action-packed narrative follows Nickerson as, against all odds, he comes through the worst that nature throws at him, growing up fast in the process. He faces the destructive force of sea-storms, the power of whales, the brutal desolation of the sun and sea after the shipwreck, and finally the grim realities of dark deeds as his only means of survival.
Terry Cafolla, writer says: “At the emotional heart of the drama is orphan Nickerson’s coming-of-age story, where he meets three powerful male role models in the captain, the first mate, and a steward. As the narrative develops, his views on what makes a man switch dramatically as he sees how these role models respond under some of life’s most extreme pressures.”
Woven within the story is a vivid depiction of the 19th-century whaling industry, its importance to the world in an age before petroleum, the reality of its economics and operation, and the life and society of the sperm whale itself, one of the ocean’s greatest creatures the BBC state.