|Written by||Neal R. Burger
George E. Simpson
|Directed by||Stuart Orme|
|Theme music composer||Colin Towns|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||133 minutes|
Ghostboat is a 2006 British television film based on a novel by George E. Simpson and Neal R. Burger starring David Jason – a fantasy tale of His Majesty's Submarine Scorpion reappearing 38 years after it vanished. The crew has disappeared, but the vessel is otherwise unchanged and has not aged in the intervening years. In the Cold War year 1981, a Royal Navy crew along with the sole survivor of the original voyage is given the mission of retracing the last days of the boat prior to its 1943 disappearance. A supernatural influence takes hold of vessel and most of the crew, and they find themselves fighting World War II enemies.
HMS Scorpion, a British submarine that had gone missing in the Baltic Sea during World War II, surfaces in the path of a Russian freighter in 1981. The vessel is returned to British custody. Naval Intelligence is interested in the case because it seems that, for the first time, a ship has returned from "the Devil's Triangle of the North". The submarine opens its own hatch to let the investigating team in, where they find the vessel in a state of perfect preservation, but find no sign of the crew.
Jack Hardy (Jason) is the only surviving member of the original crew, having been found floating and rescued in 1943 by members of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine; but he has no memory of the last days of the 1943 mission. He and Alan Cassidy, one of the vessel's designers, join a Royal Navy crew on a mission to retrace Scorpion's last days before it went missing. Commander Travis, a naval intelligence officer, is in charge of the mission while Commander Byrnes captains the submarine. The mission will take the submarine into Soviet waters, and a surface ship, HMS Oakland escorts the boat. Once in the Baltic, the current crew begins to take on the personalities and identities of the dead crew, and the boat takes a degree of control over itself. Contact with Oakland is soon lost.
A Soviet submarine is detected and through communication error the crew fires upon it and destroys it. Scorpion surfaces for a search for survivors, but, impossibly, no debris is found. Cassidy, who had supervised the fitting of the submarine with practice torpedoes, finds that they have become live weapons. Captain Byrnes tries to abort the mission, but Cdr Travis convinces him to continue. Hardy learns that the real mission is to discover and exploit the power that preserved and delivered the submarine.
Soon, three aircraft are detected on radar whilst the submarine is surfaced. The aircraft are WWII Luftwaffe fighters that strafe the boat with gunfire. The captain is killed, and Travis takes command. Cassidy and Hardy find no bullet damage on the deck or tower from the strafing attack, and conclude that Travis may have shot the captain to preserve the mission.
Travis apparently becomes possessed by the former captain himself. The original submarine captain's intent had been to torpedo ships in a German fleet in the then German city of Königsberg, which is now the Soviet city of Kaliningrad. Modern Soviet officers detect the incoming hostile vessel, and begin preparations for a nuclear war. Hardy manages to get the crew off the boat before it can attack the Soviet fleet, but Travis and the submarine, essentially as one entity, continue the attack. Hardy rewires the torpedo control system, causing the torpedoes to explode in the torpedo tubes killing Travis, and causing the vessel to sink but is shot in the process. Hardy dies on his bunk clutching a picture of his wife as the water engulfs him.
Six months later, the Soviets find the sunken Scorpion, looking like it had been decaying for forty years. The Soviets close their investigation of the incident. British intelligence intercepts the Soviet report, leading British military authorities to also close their files on the case. Neither Hardy's nor Travis' bodies are found.
The submarine used in filming is the non-diving replica built in Malta as the 'modified' S-33 for the film "U-571", also shot in Malta. The replica (currently on Google Earth N 35 52'46.00/ E 14 29'49.92) is still afloat, moored in Marsa in the inner part of the Grand Harbour.
Similarities to the book
The book Ghostboat was set in the 1970s, and revolved around the re-appearance of the Pacific Fleet class Submarine 284 USS Candlefish, thirty years after it disappeared in the Pacific off the Kuriles, toward Japan. The Candlefish surfaced in the path of a Japanese freighter 600 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor. The characters and their names remain basically the same (e.g. Alan Cassidy is Walter Cassidy), and the mission to re-trace the last days of the Candlefish has no undercurrent of intrigue.
In the original story Candlefish fell through a Geo-magnetic Anomaly (GMA), one of ten, five in the Northern Hemisphere, five in the Southern; and surfaced in the middle of another. The plot is concerned not so much with how the submarine came back, but why it came back.
The final mission of the Candlefish was changed by her captain, to an unplanned entry to Tokyo Bay, in an attempt to sink anything Japanese, and thus acquire a higher figure for tonnage sunk. This falls rapidly apart as the Candlefish sinks, with one survivor – Jack Hardy – injured and washed overboard from the conning tower. As the story concludes, Candlefish risks being unleashed on an unsuspecting Japan in 1974.
Ghostboat was nominated for the 2006 RTS Television Award for Best Sound - Drama.
Ghostboat was released on DVD on 15 January 2007, nine months after its first showing on ITV on 9 April 2006.
- David Jason - Jack Hardy
- Ian Puleston-Davies - Travis
- Tony Haygarth - Alan Cassidy
- Julian Wadham - Captain Nathan Byrnes
- Max Bollinger - Soviet Naval Captain