Driller thriller

Published date17 January 2023
Publication titleSignal
IT’S hard these days to isolate your characters enough for high drama to play out. You have to rely on uncharged mobile phones, social media refuseniks or go big like The Terror or The North Water did and put your people in ye olden times on a ship and/or polar wasteland. The Rig does it by putting the protagonists on a North Sea oil rig and having all the comms knocked out by an unknown but rapidly encroaching and possibly supernatural force. As Alwyn, the sage of the crew (Mark Bonnar — so still and unsettling an actor that he amounts almost to a supernatural force himself) puts it: ‘‘If you keep punching the Earth, it’s going to punch back’’

The men are looking forward to being helicoptered home at the end of their latest stint — all but young Baz (Calvin Demba), who has been bumped for clever comms person Fulmer (Martin Compston) because the Company wants the latter back for a special meeting. The Us and Them divide is further deepened by rumours that the Company is looking to trim fat and all their jobs are in danger. But their transportation back to shore is diverted at the last minute to help with an incident on another rig and soon trouble is breaking out all over. And that’s before anyone finds out that Fulmer is crossing the Them/Us divide on the regular with the Company’s representative Rose (Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire, looking uncomfortable in a so far underwritten role).

A sudden, inexplicable fog rolls in. The rig starts to shake. Modules shut down (or possibly go into overdrive — this was the jargon-heavy portion demanded of any thriller set in a little-known industry and you are not required to understand it. It’s the equivalent of a flashing red button labelled ‘‘Jeopardy!’’ filling the screen, and I wouldn’t be without it). Safety kit is donned, open staircases are perilously wreathed in fog. There is nearly a gas leak and nearly a fire! There are definitely flames coming from a nearby rig. That can’t be good. On important-looking screens, things spike that shouldn’t spike and flatline that shouldn’t flatline and even Mark Bonnar looks nearly perturbed. ‘‘Out here,’’ he tells Rose, ‘‘things that can’t happen happen all the time.’’

Nevertheless, Rose wants the crew to keep working and trust that the system can take it. But the boss, Magnus, is firm. ‘‘It’s not your call, Rose!’’ he says...

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