Author Topic: HBO's Chernobyl  (Read 1236 times)

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Offline Rhymes

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So in spite of my better judgement (and desire to sleep tonight) I decided to sit down and watch Chernobyl.

It's stunning, and harrowing, and I almost wouldn't believe some of the **** the people in it say if I didn't know that it really happened. Absolutely blown away.
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Offline 0rph3u5

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"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

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Offline General Battuta

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So in spite of my better judgement (and desire to sleep tonight) I decided to sit down and watch Chernobyl.

It's stunning, and harrowing, and I almost wouldn't believe some of the **** the people in it say if I didn't know that it really happened. Absolutely blown away.

It's really good. Phantom has (correctly) pointed out that it's trying to oversell the scope of the disaster — that artsy montage of ash falling on people in the first episode implies cancer and misery in their futures, but really they're probably all fine. Evacuating civilians from Chernobyl killed more people than Chernobyl ever did.

Fortunately when it does stay in scope, it's incredible. The shots of the core in that first episode walked that thin line between realism and pure terror. I hope we get the heroic/tragic efforts of the liquidators front and center, and I really hope they walk us through the sequence of events leading up to the explosion.

And I've got to compliment the production design, it really nails all the little details of sets and set dressing that sell the time period.

 

Offline 0rph3u5

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that artsy montage of ash falling on people in the first episode implies cancer and misery in their futures, but really they're probably all fine.

Well, two things on that ...

One, the scientific study into the effects of the exposure to the particulates released during the Chernobyl disaster has been hampered significantly by political pressures and/or lacking infrasturcture ever since the accident. Mostly because priority was given to investigate immideate over the long term effects. Even the UN reports are very "maybe" on long term effects of the exposures - mostly because the data avalible is insufficent to support more definitive conclusions.

Two, maybe this one is lost on outsiders, but around the Baltic Sea the scare of the effects from the "Chernobyl Cloud" was a real cultural thenomenon, as is the memory of it. For example, both during my military service and my university studies I underwent training with regards to exposure to nuclear material. Each time the instructors found it appropriate to tell an anecdote about where they were in the immidiate aftermath of Chernobyl and who the catastrophe shaped their view nuclear power and radioactive material.
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The Lantern King, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."

 

Offline Rhymes

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Also, the bridge those people are standing on is nicknamed the Bridge of Death because all of the people watching the fire from there (supposedly) died, either from radiation sickness or cancer. Unfortunately I can't find any sources to verify that--might have been exaggerated recollections from the survivors.

In terms of what's verifiable, Lyudmilla, Vasily the firefighter's pregnant wife? Her baby was born with serious birth defects and died after a few days. Whether that exposure happened on the bridge or not I'm not sure,  but I wouldn't say it strains credulity.
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Offline General Battuta

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Also, the bridge those people are standing on is nicknamed the Bridge of Death because all of the people watching the fire from there (supposedly) died, either from radiation sickness or cancer. Unfortunately I can't find any sources to verify that--might have been exaggerated recollections from the survivors.

In terms of what's verifiable, Lyudmilla, Vasily the firefighter's pregnant wife? Her baby was born with serious birth defects and died after a few days. Whether that exposure happened on the bridge or not I'm not sure,  but I wouldn't say it strains credulity.

Well if that's true color me dumb (and more credit to the show)! But I would definitely want sources. There are a lot of Chernobyl legends, like the suicide mission to do something or other in radioactive water, where the dead people turned out to be alive and just fine.

e: I don't see where there's room in the accepted casualty figures for those deaths. If they all died of cancer, maybe...but the radiation sickness deaths outside of the liquidators definitely seem like they were <100, probably <50 even at the most pessimistic.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 11:21:18 pm by General Battuta »

 

Offline karajorma

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I don't think whether the people on the bridge actually died or not is as important to that scene as the terrifying fact that we don't know what health effects it actually had on them.
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Offline General Battuta

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I would like to take that angle on it, but I wonder if the show is going to take sides on whether the Bridge of Death was an urban legend, a hysterical product of traumatized evacuees, or something that actually happened and was covered up.

 

Offline karajorma

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Yep. That is one thing that worries me too. It would be pretty easy to sensationalise just to make things look worse. I'd prefer to see them keeping things closer to what is know, it's not like that wasn't bad enough.
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Offline jr2

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Well, (the following is all to the best of my recollection) to get the jump on anyone thinking nuclear is terrible: (not saying anyone here has, mind you) that whole reactor was a very, very unsafe design by any standard and the operators were forced by political numb nuts to push it outside of its designed parameters to run a dumb test, over their objections.  The whole thing was a mess from top to bottom.  Not that Three Mile Island wasn't a fiasco, what with the poorly labeled controls, control indicators being wired to switch position rather than actual valve position (yes, indeed the switch is in the right position but the valve is stuck!) but at least it was (comparatively) no big deal as far as the effect.  And Fukishima with their coolant backup generators being under sea level in a Tsunami prone area.

Nuclear is actually the safest form of energy generation bar none.  It's just one of those things that (like travel by aircraft) goes very, very bad in a very spectacular way when faults, mistakes, and human error do line up in a perfect chain of unfortunate events.  And like nuclear, even with that being the case, it's still safer than traveling by automobile.

 
One, the scientific study into the effects of the exposure to the particulates released during the Chernobyl disaster has been hampered significantly by political pressures and/or lacking infrasturcture ever since the accident. Mostly because priority was given to investigate immideate over the long term effects. Even the UN reports are very "maybe" on long term effects of the exposures - mostly because the data avalible is insufficent to support more definitive conclusions.

I'm sceptical of the political angle. The Soviet Union collapsed not long after, and as I understand it anti-communism had a great deal of political currency in its successor states in the 90s. Who, during a 10-year followup study in 1996, would've been covering for Soviet administrators, and why? Relatedly, the late and post-Soviet years were apparently very rough on the population (wit. Russian life expectancy figures) and I'm inclined to suspect that a lot of deaths caused by that economic and social disruption were blamed on Chernobyl.

That said, a friend hooked me up with a pirate copy of Voices from Chernobyl, a compilation of eyewitness accounts that do frequently challenge my "nobody died except a couple dozen plant workers and firemen" take on the whole thing, and I'm not so churlish as to dismiss them all out of hand. But when the WHO says "fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers" I have to assume they did their homework to the point of checking up on the civilian bystanders.

Anyway, the show! The show's fantastic, I loved the first episode. A lot of stuff that I initially thought was dramatic bull**** turned out to be straight from the real accounts. I do get a sense that it will pivot towards political manoeuvring and character dramas from here, rather than surreal nuclear horror, but I'm still hooked.
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Offline Rhymes

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The podcast is also really good listening as a supplement. First episode is up on Youtube. Pretty sure Spotify has it too.
If you don't have Knossos, you need it.

“There was a button," Holden said. "I pushed it."
"Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn't it?”

 
Interview here with a journalist who explicitly raises and refutes the notion of a 'bridge of death':

Quote
People talk about the “bridge of death,” about the idea that a load of residents of Pripyat went out to stand on this railway bridge, which stood at the top of Lenina Prospekt, the main boulevard into the city, and watched the burning reactor from that standpoint. And that, in the subsequent years, every person who stood on that bridge died. I could find no evidence of that. Indeed, I spoke to a guy who was seven or eight at the time, who did indeed cycle over to the bridge to see what he could see at the reactor, which was only three kilometers away. But he’s not dead. He’s apparently perfectly healthy.
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.

 

Offline General Battuta

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They seem like they’re going with the myth of the suicide mission to stop the second blast. Might not pan out that way next episode but for now I’m skeptical.

The sequence inside the flooded building at the ending was absolutely aces though.

 

Offline Rhymes

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I mean the suicide mission did happen, and I totally buy that it was expected to kill the divers. They just, y'know, didn't actually die.

Well, one did.

Of heart failure.

In 2005.

Guess the Soviets should have tried harder if they wanted to kill those guys. :V

e: And yeah, the ending was excellent. I also like that they didn't spend a bunch of episodes dicking around with everyone in denial. They showed that part, made their point, and moved on.
If you don't have Knossos, you need it.

“There was a button," Holden said. "I pushed it."
"Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn't it?”

 

Offline General Battuta

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I listened to the podcast and it made me somewhat more confident in the writer's' commitment to reality. He's pretty open about where the truth was bent or consolidated to tell a better story.

 

Offline karajorma

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Man, episode 4 is brutal. And then you listen to the podcast and you hear about what they left out....
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Offline karajorma

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Okay, this may be the best TV show I've ever watched.

And apparently I'm not the only person who thinks that
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I thought the last episode was fantastic except for them bringing up the ****ING BRIDGE OF DEATH STOP REPEATING URBAN LEGENDS YOU DICKS
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.

 

Offline karajorma

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To be fair to them, if the only contrary source that says it didn't happen is a seven year old, that's something I'd take with a pinch of salt. Seven is a bit young to be a reliable witness, they might have cycled over a different bridge or something. I guess they couldn't find a good source in either direction so they said that the Bridge of Death exists (which it obviously does) and that it is reported that they all died (which is true, that has been reported) but left whether they did actually die undecided. Notice that they also point out afterwards that it is widely reported that the three divers also died. And then they point out that they all survived.

Just look at it as a test to see who was paying attention to the meaning of the show.
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