The Terror Versus The Terror: Differences Between The TV-Series And The Book

When it comes to turning books into films and television episodes one can't help but compare these. You look for different characterizations and missing scenes and have a lot of fun. So when I discovered that AMC's The Terror from 2018 is based on a book, I fancied seeing what the source material was like and what the authors had changed to bring the piece to the television screens.

However, when I read the book, I was in for a bit of surprise. The Terror (2018) feels like a beautifully fleshed out story with characters that you feel and love, it all feels very human. It has so much more. Meanwhile, the book feels like a mere shadow of that. This is a strange thing to write since the book is the source material. However, it feels like the authors saw the potential of the story and shaped it into much more, similar to what fanfiction authors do with their favourite and slightly mistreated character. Just that this time it was on a grander scale.

Aside from sharing the essence of the plot, what are the major difference when it comes to The Terror versus The Terror. Or Book Versus Television:

Lady Silence Is Silent From The Beginning 

The book starts during their second winter in the ice, and as such, the first three episodes are either told in flashbacks or not at all. This also means that we meet Lady Silence when she is already on the ship, and she had been silent from the very beginning. While she has been found with another older man, and that one had been shot, neither were able to speak. It is also confirmed that she had no tongue even before they found her.

In addition, Lady Silence finds a home on Terror where Captain Crozier makes room for her. Sometimes she "goes missing" and isn't seen for a couple of days.

Ivring is Goodsir 

Not in a literal sense of course. However, in the TV show Goodsir befriends Lady Silence and they become friends of sorts. Since she can still talk, Goodsir is even able to learn part of the Nesalik tongue and teach Silence some English.

In the book, Ivring is ordered to watch over Lady Silence and ensure that no harm comes to her from the crew. In doing so, he becomes a bit obsessed and falls in love with her. This goes as far as him following her outside of the boat. While the relationship is never creepy, it does lack the warmth that Goodsir and Silence share on the screen.

Crozier and Fitzjames are Best Friends Forever 

A major part of the plot in the series is spent on the relationship between Fitzjames and Crozier. They don't get along in the beginning - Fitzjames disdains him so much that Sir John has to almost order him to "cherish" Francis. Halfway through, they fall apart and after a bit more character development, they learn to respect, and indeed cherish one another.

The Terror (2018) Terror Camp Clear
However, the book takes a major shortcut and does not include any of that. Fitzjames is just sort of there to begin with, and Crozier and he see eye to eye most of the time. They regularly talk about their ships being stuck in the ice, organise carnival and agree what actions to take next. There is hardly any friction between them to begin with. Aside from a small passage in Dr. Goodsir's diary towards the end, you are not even sure if they are friends.

Character Transformation Through Sobering Up

Crozier undergoes a character change after he sobers up in the series. Furthermore, the event that kicks off his rehab is the attack on Terror and Blanky's injuries. This is a major plot point in the series because Crozier becomes almost greater than life, and his relationship with the whole situation as well as with Fitzjames turns for the better

However, in the book by Dan Simmons Crozier sobers up because they run out of whiskey. In fact, it is stated that Crozier plans to shoot himself when both ships run out of whiskey. While TV!Crozier argues that he'll never drink gin (read: anything but whiskey), he is not as drastic with it. Meanwhile Book!Crozier sobers up because he has no other choice, and while this awakens the flame inside of him to want to survive, he does not change as a person.

Blanky Breaks A Leg 

The scene that causes Crozier to become sober in the series is The Thing On The Ice's attack on the ship and subsequently injuring Blanky, who loses his left leg.

However, in the book, the scene is quite different. Blanky does not draw attention to Tuunbaq and they fire on it. Instead he leads it towards the boulder field and finds a little hide for himself. He is still badly injured and very much expects to die out there. As with the show, he gets rescued but does not lose his leg. Instead:

Blanky himself had not come through unscathed. The thing had clawed off half of his right foot at the heel, [...].
His left leg had taken the worst of the creature's abuse - flash raked away to the bone in several places and then the long leg bone itself striated with claws - and Dr. Peddie later confessed that all four of the surgeons had been sure they would have to amputate it at the knee. But slowness of infection and gangrene in a wound was one of the few blessings of the arctic, and after resetting the bone itself and receiving more than four hundred stitches ..."

Blanky loses his leg later when he gets attacked at Carnival by Tuunbaq. Which neatly brings me to carnival itself:


... is a joined event which Crozier and Fitzjames come up with, and Fitzjames hosts near Erebus. Crozier walks over with his men and is quite confused about the absurd set up but nevertheless enjoys his time until The Thing From The Ice attacks and causes chaos. Correct? Yes, for the book.

Furthermore, in the book quite a few people get killed because the Marines try to shoot The Thing From The Ice and in the end only hit people.

Meanwhile, in the series, Fitzjames has the idea and plans everything while Crozier is going cold turkey. The chaos is ensured after Doctor Stanley rigs the whole place with flammable alcohol and sets himself on fire.

In both cases, the casualties are major and every medical trained officer except Dr. Goodsir is killed.

Abandoning Ship 

The decision to walk is one that is offered quite early in the TV-show and they only start doing such when Fitzjames sees reasons. It seems to be a decision that they consciously made not because they already had to but because they knew that it would be wise.

In the book, the decision was taken from them. Erebus sits on a pressure ridge and is beyond repair - in the TV-show Terror sits on the pressure ridge - after the two years on the ice. Not only is the ship slowly crushed by the ice but The Thing From The Ice also attacks it, which causes a fire and that is the final straw.

The Terror (2018) - Horrible From Supper
Furthermore, while the idea to walk is one heavily debated, in the book it is quietly agreed between the officers. Even so, the crews only move when Erebus is crushed and their food supplies run short.

The Mutiny 

Hanging Hickey and the attack of Tuunbaq that enables the mutineers to get away with another boat  are a dramatic and major moment in the series that does not exist as such in the book.

Despite Hickey having conspired in killing the natives, he does not get convinced and the mutiny is little less than various men stating that they want to take a boat and return to Terror. This idea gets shot down by Crozier, and they quietly shuffle back to their work.

However, Crozier starts to carry more weapons because he fears disloyal crewmates.  But Hickey's group only breaks away after what seems like a fairly reasonable discussion. They are given a boat and a fair share of supplies by Crozier as well as a shotgun. Furthermore, there is a third group, consisting of three people who want to hike back to Terror. These are also allowed to leave without much of a fight.

So while the mutiny is a rather violent and fiendish plot in The Terror (TV) is seems almost like a reasonable discussion in The Terror (Book).

Hickey Gets Crozier 

In both cases Crozier is lured away from camp but by using different means. In the series, his ship's boy claims that there is open water, and a small team that includes Crozier goes to the sight. Once there, he is forced to go with the mutineers and arrives there relatively unharmed when you compare it to the book.

There he is lured away by the claim that they found Lady Silence's corpse. So Crozier and Goodsir investigate and they run into Hickey. Once there, Hickey shoots Crozier multiple times - leading to injuries in his shoulder and back. Crozier manages to get away just so but the group assumes he either froze to death or drowned because his coat is floating in a hole in the ice ...

Happily Ever After

The endings are also different. In the series, Crozier is the sole survivor after Tuunbaq starts to attack Hickey's group and they "defeat" the monster. Lady Silence finds him and nurses him back to health. In the process, he also loses an arm but as time goes on, he becomes part of the Netsalik tribe and lives his life.

In the book, Lady Silence finds a terribly injured Crozier with holes in him and also nurses him back to health. While he also tries to follow his men, he is unable to find a trace of them and later on begins a joined life with Lady Silence. They enter into a relationship and have two children together. Furthermore, Crozier also cuts out his tongue and offers it to tame The Thing On The Ice.

Much later, he assumes a different name and even finds HMS Terror again. To end this chapter of his life, he burns her down since there is nothing but bad spirits on the ship.

If Crozier also fathers a child is left open. However, Lady Silence leaves the camp very early because Tuunbaq  is killed. Thus Crozier never becomes a shaman and he does not enter into a relationship with Lady Silence.

The Terror (2018) - We Are Gone
In the end, the TV-Show does not feel like re-telling the story of the book. Instead I almost dare to say that it feels like its own story and that it expands greatly on the book by adding more character and feelings to it. The differences mentioned above are the biggest and most prominent, while the show seems to create its own ending and atmosphere.


  1. I really tried, but I've had a long day at college and that's resulted in me laughing way too much at "Lady Silence Is Silent From The Beginning". And "Blanky", cause that's what a classmate of mine was nicknamed for strutting around with a blanket and declaring that his blanky was fabulous.

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation

    1. when I first watched the series, I thought that the names were made up and are used like metaphors ... but those were their actual names ^^


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