The Weekend's Viewing: Titanic, Sun, ITV1
Words of the Titanic, Sun, ITV1

 

In every sense, Titanic has been a little lower in the water each week, the viewing figures for Julian Fellowes' ocean-going drama almost perfectly reflecting the downward slip of its subject.

It launched with 7.4 million, dropped to 4.7 million on the second episode and then 3.5 million last week, when quite a few passengers apparently decided that the SS Des O'Connor was a safer bet. This week, a few bedraggled survivors will have watched as the stern finally disappeared beneath the waves and the drama concluded with the most otiose title card I think I've ever seen. "One hundred years later," it read, "Titanic has not been forgotten."

Well, thanks for that helpful note, Julian. We might not have noticed the centenary otherwise, what with the BBC restricting itself to a three-part series with Len Goodman, a Radio 2 special broadcast and, on Saturday night, Titanic: a Commemoration in Music and Film, and the cable channels limiting coverage to just a few hundred specials. Even ITV, which might reasonably have felt that it had done its bit for Titanoraks, added another programme for the centenary of the night the ship went down, Words of the Titanic, which drew on the eyewitness testimony of those who actually survived. And curiously it turned out to be one of the best of the bunch. No CGI reconstructions, no wild hypotheses about the sinking, no historical revisionism, just the event itself in snagging detail. Earlier in the evening you could have watched actors rushing around mocked-up companion-ways, searching for missing relatives and then you heard this from Charles Lightoller, second officer on the Titanic: "It took me 14 days before I could find my way from one point to another in that ship with total confidence." What must it have been like for panicked passengers who'd only been on board for four days?

Disaster struck with discretion. Lawrence Beesley, a teacher, remembered "no sound of a crash or anything else. No sense of shock. No jar that felt like one heavy body meeting another". Lightoller, who knew better what maritime noises meant, recalled "a distinct and unpleasant break in the monotony of her motion". But Elizabeth Shutes, a governess, had to eavesdrop to learn how bad things were, catching the officer who'd just smilingly reassured her tell someone else that "we can keep the water out for a while". Initially, those on board matched the iceberg for reticence. "There was no panic or hysteria... No cries of fear," recalled one passenger and Archibald Gracie, an American returning from wintering in the south of France, declared himself proud of his "Anglo-Saxon race and its example of self-control".

You couldn't help but feel that some of the stiff upper lip might have been retrospective, the keel of the Titanic myth having been laid before the Carpathia even arrived in New York with the survivors. But even so, these accounts were gripping, and the straight-to-camera delivery by the actors and relatives who read them an arresting alternative to the melodrama immediately before. Fellowes, incidentally, devoted his final episode to a succession of those curiously extended farewells that lovers often indulge in when facing imminent death in disaster movies. There was one nice moment when a steward threatened to report one character for damaging White Star property as they frantically tried to release someone from a locked cabin – a plausibly Wile E Coyote failure to see that life hadn't just taken them over the edge of a cliff – but it couldn't match the chilling detail from Words of the Titanic, explaining that the wages of stewardess Violet Jessop, like those of all the surviving White Star employees, were only paid up to the point the vessel sank. Or the poignancy of the final wrap-up showing you the witnesses' real faces. And now, one hopes, the Titanic can be left to rest in peace for a while.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering