Historians put holes in ITV's Titanic for period inaccuracies

Apr 2, 2012

Titanoraks complain of dances that never happened and a solitary stoker keeping the engines turning


AS ITV's Sunday night series Titanic continues to entertain viewers – while generally leaving the critics underwhelmed - 'Titanoraks' are putting holes in the £11m show, complaining of historical inaccuracies.

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who endured similar criticism when his previous series, Downton Abbey, was first broadcast, is remaining stoical. "This is indicative of when a show gets noticed," he told The Sunday Telegraph. “Nobody nitpicks over something no one watches.

"Having been irritated at these sorts of observations of Downton Abbey, I now find them rather a compliment."

Among the errors picked up by 'Titanoraks' are:

  • The dancing scandal. Charles Lightoller, the highest ranking officer to survive the sinking, is seen asking a first class passenger for a dance as the Titanic heads for the iceberg. Not only would Lightoller have been considered "on duty" for the entire voyage, making such a request scandalous, but historians maintain there was no such dancing in first class.
  • The naval architect. Thomas Andrews, the ship's naval architect, on board for the maiden voyage, was from Northern Ireland. But ITV chose a London-born actor, Stephen Campbell Moore, to play the role - with an English accent.
  • The solitary stoker. In one scene in episode one, a single stoker was seen shovelling coal into the ship's furnaces. In reality, eight men would have done the job. "With just that one stoker, the ship wouldn't even have got out of port," said Dr Paul Lee, author of The Titanic and The Indifferent Stranger.
  • Sailing backwards. Also spotted by Dr Lee, the positioning of retractable windows in some scenes would suggest the liner, travelling from Southampton to New York, was sailing backwards across the Atlantic.
  • The wrong car. The Titanic sank in 1912. But a Model T Ford car featured at the start of episode one looked to at least one viewer like a version from the early 1920s.

There are still two episodes to go, with the series set to finish on the centenary of the tragedy, 15 April.

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It is utter rubbish, i love the story of titanic and have studied it for many many years and the series has countless errors from the completely wrong carpet in the first class dining room to doors that should be wood and not painted white, to dancing and women in the smoking room playing cards with the men.
ITV should take it off air in respect!

I normally find that if I want to get historical accuracy from my television viewing I go to The History Channel or some equivalent...I wouldn't be looking for it in a family styled series on ITV and would hope that others have the same amount of common sense, that people who nit pick obviously don't possess. Remember it's not a documentary and as no one involved or viewing was actually there...who knows what might have happened that was not known to others who survived.

I don't disagree with the Titanoraks' comment above that it would be unusual for a merchant navy officer to get friendly with a first-class female passenger; but it wasn't unheard of.  In 1921 my grandmother, an upper-crust 22-year-old, was taken on a South American cruise by her aunt in order to meet potential husbands; she and a young officer of the ship (oooh, merchant navy, not posh) were very attracted to each other, and my very perceptive great-great-aunt saw that he was a far better bet than the sorry remnants of upper-classery around and cheerfully arranged for them to go on a taxi tour of Montevideo from which of course they came back engaged, and were married at Southampton on their return.  We 8 grandchildren are so glad that our grandparents weren't terminally constrained by this barrier; Grandfather went on to a terrific career, earning the OBE on the way, and is widely considered in our family as having injected new blood and energy, plus talent, humour and grit.  I wish the fictional Lightoller and the real merchant navy officers every good fortune in finding young ladies who are worthy of them!