The Terror 2? Dundee actor to reprise role on Franklin’s doomed ship

Interview by Graeme Strachan for The Courier, 24th August 2021

Dundee actor Gordon Morris will make a pilgrimage to Hungary to ‘reprise’ his role as John Weekes in Ridley Scott’s hit The Terror.

A theme park in Kisvárda has bought the replica of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror which was built as the set of the 10-part psychological drama.

The Terror fandom did the detective work to track down the set to Hungary where the ship is now the jewel in the crown of the Cinemaqua Film and Nature Park.

Terror fans are already booking tickets to visit the ship.

Those that do might just stumble upon a one-man sequel from Gordon.

Gordon’s character was among the 105 men who died after the crew abandoned the ships in 1848 but Weekes could return like Bobby Ewing in Dallas!

“I honestly do have plans to visit the ship when travel restrictions ease,” said Gordon.

“I’ll maybe try to get hold of my Weekes costume, then I’ll grow my beard and sit there shouting out my lines until I’m escorted off the ship!

“I think that would be a good send off for both of us.”

Gordon said he saw some photos of the ship at the theme park in Hungary which brought back fantastic memories of being on set.

He said: “I travelled back and forward between Dundee and Budapest for around a month to film my scenes in the show.

“I never got used to seeing the limousine pull up outside my house in Craigie and the chauffer standing there with the door held open.

“I’m sure my neighbours thought I was up to something pretty dodgy!

“The first time I saw the ship I was shocked.

“As sets go, this one was on another level.

“When I walked inside the detail was phenomenal.

“It was like travelling back in time.

“My first thought was HMS Unicorn as the area I was filming in was exactly like being below deck on Dundee’s own ship.”

Ship started to come to life

The Northwest Passage is around 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and less than 1,200 miles from the North Pole.

In Franklin’s time, finding it was one of the greatest maritime challenges.

The fate of the Franklin expedition fascinated Victorians and inspired a steady stream of books including the TV series which gripped viewers on BBC Two.

Production designer Jonathan McKinstry constructed a vessel which was modified to become the Terror or the Erebus by changing the stern and the signs.

McKinstry made as faithful a replica as he could, with help from Matthew Betts, a Canadian archaeologist who had been working on a model of the Terror for years.

“I have a blog that documents my model-making and historical research on HMS Terror,” said Matthew.

“One day, out of the blue, I received an email from David Kajganich, one of the showrunners, saying that they were fans of my blog and work.

“They were committed to making the historical elements of the show, and especially the ships, as accurate as possible, and they asked for my help.

“They are wonderful people and I had an amazing experience.

“The process was relatively rapid from the time I became involved.

“It was remarkable watching this ship come to life – they built it at full scale on a stage in Budapest.

“They flew me out to see the filming and when I saw it for the first time I was incredibly moved; when I saw the images of the wreck I told the Parks Canada divers that I had already been here – the sets were that accurate.

“After filming ended the sets were dismantled as all sets must be.

“The stages needed to be used for other productions.”

Matthew plans to visit Hungary

Matthew said he was heartbroken when the ship was pulled down because such care had been taken to make the sets as accurate as possible.

Dave Kajganich, Jonathan McKinstry and Matthew Betts stand on Terror’s quarter deck.

He said: “I actually did not know that they would be preserved until a few months after the production ended.

“When I heard that it was sold to a theme park I was very pleased.

“Terror, the ship, and the series, deserve all the attention they have received.

“I hope this set becomes a pilgrimage of sorts for those who love the series and are fascinated by the Franklin expedition.

“It will be a stunning opportunity to walk the deck and imagine what it was like to be trapped in the ice on those ships.

“What an opportunity!

“I expect to make a pilgrimage to the set myself in the future.

“There has been a massive increase in those obsessed and fascinated by the Franklin mystery created by the series.

“I’m thrilled that the sets are on display and that thousands of people will explore them to see the care and craftsmanship that went into recreating these historical vessels for the series.”

A shot of the ship which was taken during filming in Hungary.

Harry Goodsir from Anstruther was one of several Scots on the expedition including Aberdonians Daniel Arthur, James Reid and Josephus Gaeter; Dundonians William Bell and William Shanks; David Leys from Montrose, John Kenley from St Monans, Robert Ferrier from Perth; and Thomas Work from Kirkwall.

They made their final stop before the Atlantic crossing at Login’s Well, Stromness, Orkney, for water and supplies.

The ships were last seen in Baffin Bay in the Arctic three months later and after this they became part of one the enduring mysteries of the age of exploration.

Praise from the Goodsir family

Michael Tracy, of Chicago, Illinois, one of Dr Goodsir’s closest living relations, has spent over a decade researching the distant medical branch of the family.

He said: “Ever since the early Victorian era, the mysterious demise of the Franklin expedition is a story that has captivated the imagination of successive generations and now, with the annual ongoing archaeological excavation off King William Island by Parks Canada, it is a tale for our own times.

“Clearly, the reasons for the loss of the crews of the HMS Erebus and Terror are still unclear and may indeed always be unsolved.

“The crews’ deaths, in what we know were horrific circumstances; brought wholesale personal grief to the families of those lost, and in the case of the siblings of my kinsman Assistant Surgeon Harry Goodsir, blighted the remainder of their lives.

The ship is now the jewel in the crown at the theme park.

“Commemorating his life is, for me, a personal duty and an honour.

“The recently broadcast BBC television series The Terror portraying the Franklin expedition was as fascinating as it was powerful.

“The series was based on the true historical events and I applaud all those that were involved in the telling of the story, particularly those that were involved in the set production, such as Matthew Betts for his craftsmanship and authentic re-creation of HSM Terror.

“It is refreshing to know that this is to be preserved and will be used as the central exhibit in a Hungarian-based interpretative centre for both families and students alike.

“Hopefully, it will continue to inspire a younger generation for many years to come – it is just a pity that a home could not have been found in Nunavut, Canada within any future museum devoted to the recovered artefacts from the nearby shipwrecks.

“As to the possible scientific potential of Assistant Surgeon Harry Goodsir, portrayed so exceptionally well by the actor, Paul John Ready, I feel certain that if he had returned he would have carved out an eminent career alongside the accomplishments of his internationally renowned brother, Professor John Goodsir.

“Harry was a brilliant naturalist and surgeon, he possessed such great knowledge and displayed such humanity towards all crew members, and his loss was a tragedy as he had so much to offer the world.

“A life full of future promise cut-short much too early.

“What contributions he might have made to science and medicine will never be known, but his published research discoveries prior to the Franklin expedition demonstrate he was one of Scotland’s rising stars in his chosen field of natural history.”

This interview was originally published by The Courier. It has been reposted here for posterity.