Fortitude was a Sky Atlantic psychological sci-fi thriller TV series that ran between 2015 & 2018. For twenty-six episodes over three seasons it bewildered, amused and triggered its audiences gag reflex.
Set on an island in the Norwegian Arctic the premise focused on a prehistoric parasite that has been frozen in the carcases of mammoths for thousands of years. As the mammoths thaw the parasites are released. Those they infect are transformed into animalistic cannibals’ hell bent on transmitting the parasites to a new host. Those who survive the infection are given the ability to rejuvenate from injuries that should be life threatening and even their youth; this does come at the cost of losing themselves to madness. All this set against the backdrop of political corruption, a collapsing economy and murder.
It started so well; a big name cast, which included Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon, plus a strong advertising campaign by Sky gave the first episode over 1.53 million viewers. Reviews were also positive making Sky think they had their next big hit on their hands. Season two also saw the critics’ lauding plaudits on the show. The introduction of Dennis Quad as ‘Michael Lennox’ furthered the shows reputation as a draw for big names.
A strong cast of British, American and Norwegian actors also impressed. None more so than Richard Dormer as ‘Sheriff Dan Anderssen’, whose decent into madness was one of the most entertain plotlines in the show. Also ‘Dan’ should go down as one of TVs greatest and funniest antiheros. Alexandra Moen as ‘Petra Bergen’ also deserves praise for helping create one of the most conflicted and complicated characters in any sci-fi series.
So what went wrong? Well the show just never seemed to find its core audience; aimed at the fans of series like ‘Lost’ it just didn’t seemed to fully connect with them. This more than likely led to the drop in ratings, which although at first strong had dropped to just 150 thousand by the last episode. The loss of Eccleston and Gambon by the end of series one would have also lost it the curious ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Harry Potter’ fans.
As the ratings dropped so did the number of episodes per-season, from 12 in the first series to just 4 by series 3. This made the third season feel rushed. This is a shame as the introduction of Aliette Opheium’s ‘Elsa Schenthal’ gave season 3 a new sense on menace.
Still available on catch-up Fortitude is one of Sky TVs strangest creations. At the time it seemed more suited to Channel Four than Sky’s premium channel for drama. Sky has since started to develop its brand and is looking to move to more edgy series. Maybe if Fortitude had come a few years later it might have found Sky a more comfortable fit.
Still available on catch-up this bizarre, creepy and at times stomach churning sci-fi thriller is one to seek out. Those who do will be rewarded with some of the strangest TV to come out of Britain this decade.