There were thrills, of course, it was just that they couldn't ever quite match the frenzied presale of the presenters. It's one thing to promise "never-before-seen pictures", but if quite a lot of what you are then shown is "still-can't-quite-be-seen-properly", there's bound to be a certain amount of disappointment. It was eerie to stare into the crow's-nest hatch on the main-mast, the place where nemesis had first been spotted looming out of the darkness ahead, and poignant as well to see the captain's bathtub, its enamel shining through decades of silt. Unfortunately, the soundtrack to this bathetic momento mori ("that's incredible... gosh... Oh my god!") soon smothered whatever bubbles of excitement were rising up. Not that understatement worked much better: talking to one of the submersible pilots, who was preparing a mosaic of high-definition pictures of the entire wreck site, the female anchor got into trouble trying to provoke him into similar extravagance: "I've heard that described as being like siphoning off the Atlantic, snapping a picture and putting the Atlantic back," she said. "That sounds kind of easy, but it can't be." He managed to keep a straight face.
Nor did the "mission" deliver on its other promises - providing conclusive proof about how the ship sank or whether those controversial barriers between steerage and the lifeboat deck had been locked shut when the boat went down. The science, too, was vestigial - a marine biologist offered a brief explanation of how the wreck was being consumed by "rusticles", structures formed by micro-organisms. He enlisted the ship as a kind of exemplary object - a demonstration of the great cyclical turns of nature, by which the iron had briefly been put into a condition of unnatural complexity by Harland and Woolf of Belfast but was now returning to its elemental simplicity.
That is what the Titanic is best at - provoking contemplation and moral reverie. But neither of those states of mind are compatible with the commercial urgency of an American television event. Paradoxically, the most evocative moments were those when the sound went completely dead (including the dubbed-on pinging of sonar which accompanied some sea-bed shots). This puzzling gap was a sign that an advertising break, unsold here, was playing out in some other market, but it also meant that we could briefly be left alone with our own thoughts - sunk in contemplation rather than knee-deep in synthetic thrill.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Pharrell Williams says 'Blurred Lines' criticism is out of context
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'