Chernobyl is a five-part HBO miniseries about the nuclear disaster in Soviet Ukraine that shook the world in 1986. The event was the first (and still the biggest) tragedy of its kind. The first episode is out and depicts a horrifyingly gripping sketch of events that resulted in the catastrophe and its immediate aftermath.
Titled 1:23:45, the episode clocks just under an hour. Like other man-made disasters, Chernobyl was also largely a result of incompetence and arrogance.
Chernobyl kicks off with Jared Harris’ Valery Legasov recording a message about a certain Anatoly Dyatlov and stating his prison sentence is too kind for him, and he deserves death. He feeds his cat and hangs himself.
The scene shifts to two years earlier, just before the disaster. We learn the reason for Legasov’s rancour towards Dyatlov, who was the Assistant Chief Engineer at Chernobyl. Played by Paul Ritter, Dyatlov is closest to a villain Chernobyl has.
Until the very end, his subordinates kept insisting that the very core of the plant had blown up, and instead of paying heed, Dyatlov was adamant that it was not at all possible. He continues to downplay what has happened when his superiors arrive to get a low-down on the situation.
There was also a certain unprecedentedness of an event like this. The dosimeters at the plant were not equipped to measure such ridiculously high radiation levels, and when they showed no readings, the crew dismissed them as defective. In reality, the radiation levels were even beyond what was considered “fatal”.
Even as the crew members began to vomit and inflammations started to come out on their faces, the higher-ups kept insisting that the things were “well under control.”
There is quite a memorable and haunting shot of children in the nearby town of Pripyat playing carefree even as radiation ash particles dance around them.
Chernobyl, to me, is scarier than any horror story in existence, precisely because it did happen in the past and a similar event can happen in future. Human incompetence, after all, has no limits.
Chernobyl is streaming on Hotstar.