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The Whale

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The story of the Essex, the ill-fated whaleship that sailed from Nantucket for the last time in 1819, was one of the inspirations for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. It’s dramatised here from the point of view of its youngest crew member, cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, played in old age (and reflective mood) by Martin Sheen.

Young Tom (Charles Furness) is beginning to fall into the rhythm of life on board, with its tensions, strict hierarchy and tough codes, when one of the whales the crew has been hunting takes its terrible revenge.

On the point of death and without clear leadership, the men must contemplate a course of action that will always be taboo. Underwater shots of the mighty whale add an extra dimension to salty but uncomplicated fare.


Jonas Armstrong stars in this drama about the fateful last voyage of the 19th-century Nantucket whaling ship Essex, which was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820, leaving the crew struggling to survive in three smaller boats. Stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the men must decide whether to head for the nearest islands, 1,000 miles downwind to the west, or set out on an epic journey of almost 3,000 miles to reach the South American mainland. Seen through the eyes of 14-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, the incident went on to inspire Herman Melville's book, Moby-Dick. Newcomer Charles Furness plays the young Nickerson, with West Wing and Apocalypse Now star Martin Sheen as the older man, while the crew includes Paul Kaye, Adam Rayner and Jolyon Coy.

Cast & Crew

Tom Nickerson Martin Sheen
Young Tom Nickerson Charles Furness
Owen Chase Jonas Armstrong
Capt George Pollard Adam Rayner
Benjamin Lawrence Jolyon Coy
Owen Coffin Jassa Ahluwalia
Richard Peterson David Gyasi
William Bond John Boyega
Obed Hendricks Ferdinand Kingsley
Matthew Joy Paul Kaye
Director Alrick Riley
Executive Producer Eamon Hardy
Executive Producer Ruth Caleb
Producer Mike Dormer
Writer Terry Cafolla
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