I have recently received some rather appalling information in e-mails from Cynthia Dodson. In 1996 an American company produced a 'Titanic' mini-series which was shown on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Services), to be met with the disappointment and anger of keen scholars. I would not be involving myself in this, except for the recent events over Cameron's 'Titanic'. Cynthia Dodson informed me that CBS are going to screen this mini-series again on May 24th - 26th 1998.
But, to the information received.
Dear Mr. Edkins :
I was wondering if you were aware that the CBS network broadcast a Titanic mini-series here in 1996. During my Internet travels, I came across an interesting letter written by members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association in November of 1996, which I am forwarding to you here. You will be gratified to see that others came to the defense of William Murdoch following the original airing. I am most curious to know if you are familiar with this film version.
By the way, CBS plans to rebroadcast the mini-series this month during May sweeps on the 24th and 26th. [My highlighting - R.E.]
On November 20, 1996, the Members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association wrote an open letter to CBS over the Titanic mini-series they aired in early November of that year (now available in video stores). A copy of that open letter, which CBS never answered, appears below. It appears in its original form and has not been edited :-
As you may imagine, prior to its broadcast, your "November sweeps" miniseries, "Titanic," was eagerly anticipated and discussed among the members of our online community. We had hope for an honest, straight-forward recreation of the disaster. While we recognized the need for fictional characters to create subplots, we were brightened by the fact Ken Marschall and the Ulster Titanic Historical Society were both listed, in publicity releases, as being advisors. Surely, we felt, if nothing else this production would be historically accurate.
Then, Part One aired on Sunday, November 17th.
"Disappointment" does not begin to cover our collective feelings, as displayed in the numerous messages sent to our members immediately following the telecast.
"Disappointment" can only cover the areas which where historically inaccurate - the iceberg messages from other ships being received days before they were actually sent; the actions, as depicted, of real persons (most notably Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch) being so far removed from their actual actions.
For dramatic purposes, one can understand the need to have a "villain" of the piece, but to distort the character of First Officer Murdoch so willingly, it seems almost libelous of the man and his character. Your production's portrayal of Murdoch, someone who had served the White Star Line superbly for years, as an ineffectual seaman is obscene.
Quickly, though, the consensus changed from disappointing to disgust.
You created for yourselves the remarkable opportunity of depicting just how life was, not just onboard the Titanic, but in 1912 as a rule. At that time, there were distinct rules of conduct which persons followed especially those persons in First Class. Instead, you decided to throw in gratuitous scenes of sexual encounters among passengers and give the implication that those who adhered to society's "rules" in 1912 were worthy of disdain by others - witness the reaction of the "mourning" character to the character portrayed by Eva Marie Sainte. In 1912, traditionally, mourning clothes were worn for a year; to not do so would have shocked the traditionalists. Ironically, it was the Titanic disaster, in which so many young women were suddenly widowed and/or parentless which changed that tradition.
But the truly disgusting aspect of the production was the totally unnecessary rape scene. This was a vile inclusion, and should have been left on the cutting room floor, this gratuitous scene will lead to questions from persons less familiar with the Titanic asking if this actually occurred.
As per all accounts, the iceberg which sank the Titanic merely "brushed" against the side. Yet your depiction shows a tremendous, violent impact, again creating a jarring discrepancy with actual history. Part Two was only nominally better, but again showed your producers more interested in the lurid storylines they, themselves, created than in displaying any actual facts.
Why was there no disclaimer on either of the two nights warning parents of violent and/or sexual contents? Why was there no disclaimer to the effect yours was a work of fiction, and should not be taken as historically accurate?
Hopefully, the upcoming Titanic feature film from James Cameron will treat the subject matter with the respect she deserves, as your production failed in this, miserably.
Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association
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