Depth Charges

I watched Yakamoz S-245. There are 7 episodes. There is a cliffhanger ending leaving open the possibility the story could be continued.

The story begins with the big fire in the sky. There’s something wrong with the Sun.

Some sort of eruption occurs, releasing a blob of matter. We are told later that a “gamma ray burst” was responsible, but it seems we have to wait several days for the emitted matter to flow over the inner planets. Mercury gets hit first, and then it seems we’re lined up to get the next impact. This crucial premise of the show doesn’t make a great deal of sense. If there was a burst of gamma rays, then they would arrive at the Earth within 8 minutes, since they travel at the speed of light. That must have happened, since some people on Earth have realised trouble is on the way. If there is a blob of matter released from the Sun, such things are not unusual, and they tend to disperse once they are outside the Sun’s outer atmosphere, long before reaching any planets. If some sort of concentrated burst of high-energy matter hit the Earth in a beam, then it would cause more mechanical disruption than we see depicted – satellites would not be functioning anymore, electronic circuits would be burned out by any blast capable of killing humans on the surface. If this is an ongoing effect of increased solar output, then it would start to have immediate effects on temperature and climate. It is not obvious that submarines would continue to be out of danger at the depths that apply under normal conditions. In conclusion: this doesn’t add up as any kind of hard scifi, but we have to accept the rules of the new world that it creates for us.

But first, let’s meet our hero, Arman. PhD dropout, diving expert, and estranged son of a wealthy industrialist.

Arman has his self-made deep sea diving vessel, and his old girlfriend Defne suddenly catches up with him with an offer to go on a survey expedition into the seabed trenches of the Aegean, with some scientist mates of hers, including their old mate from university Cem. Arman is keen until he realises it’s all sponsored and funded by his dad’s firm.

Meanwhile, at the NATO base at Incirlik, the intelligence officer Hatice Celik has realised something is wrong with the Sun. But no one wants to listen to her, and when she tries to get the word out some special forces guys turn up at her flat and she has to go on the run.

Arman agrees to take the expedition down to the deep. There is a strange flash as they descend, but he can’t make anything of it.

However, on resurfacing they find their own support vessel deserted and a message saying everyone has headed to the nearby island of Kos following a major distaster and systemic failure overcoming the world’s surface. Our heroes get to Kos but struggle to find anyone except dead bodies, until a giant shape appears out of the water.

Submarine Yakamoz S-245 was ordered by NATO at the last minute to submerge, and so also avoided the cataclysm. It now seems they need to stay down during daylight. The captain is a bit low-powered.

Second-in-command Umut is a bit of a loose cannon.

Operations officer Yonca is the first female to hold the role in the Turkish Navy, and coincidentally the Captain’s daughter.

The military crew have to absorb the civilian scientists and try to find some way to survive and get to shelter in the new world. This does not go smoothly, and even if we allow for the extreme stress and shock of the situation there’s a complete breakdown of discipline and professionalism all round. The Captain really doesn’t provide much leadership, even though he’s surely old enough to remember Cold War years in which the possibility that submarines would be the only surviving forces after the destruction of home countries would have part of contingency planning.

But everyone has to work together when the boat is underwater and in danger. We recap some of the established landmarks of other submarine fictions such as Das Boot.

Life on board quickly fills with paranoia and conspiracy-thinking, which is partially confirmed when we later discover the Captain knew a bit more about what was going on that he admitted at first. Defne is also able to secretly keep in contact with other forces using a satellite phone. We travel around the ruined world, although the speed at which this boat can go seems to vary tremendously. One minute we’re worried there may not be enough rations to get across the Aegean to Bulgaria; very soon after we seem to have reached northern Spain in hardly any time at all.

There are some violent and extreme moments in this series, and the crew’s resentment is fuelled by a sense that the newcomers are all wealthy idlers who didn’t have to work and were lucky their hobby put them out of the way. That rage against privilege might be tempered by realising their own ship seems to be a family business as well.

Submarines being centres of survival after nuclear disaster is a long-running idea in fiction as well as scifi. On The Beach by Nevil Shute made it a story of the climax of World War Three.

Profundis by Richard Cowper had a lot more dark humour. The early chapters include some 70s British political satire, as the idea of a monster submarine is the result of mismanaged MoD projects being merged together to avoid job losses in shipbuilding, and there’s a parody of Tony Benn giving an official statement. There are also some naughty Royal Navy jokes about what some chaps get up to on long voyages together without female company. However it all builds up to a less convincing climax about God and free will and all that.

That could still be worth a Netflix adaptation, unless there’s no more room for submarine tales.

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