Fifteen minutes to launch a nuke? Rampant drugs and hairspray? No beer in the torpedo hatches? As the tense thriller concludes, navy experts scuttle its boatload of mistakes
What did the BBC get right in Vigil, its tale of sex, drugs, treason, murder and perfect shoulder-length hair aboard a Trident submarine? “I noticed the clingfilm over a mug to stop spillage,” says Alexandra Geary, curator of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. “A submariner or sailor has obviously given them that tip.”
But ahead of the hit show’s finale, in which millions of fans will be hoping Suranne Jones and Rose Leslie’s detectives sail off into the sunset in their very bubbly bathtub, having made the world a safer place for Britain’s floating nuclear arsenal, the reception from submariners and naval experts I’ve spoken to has been disappointment at its lack of research and empathy.
“Apart from the dead officer, the navy are to a man and to a woman represented as robotic, malevolent and unprofessional,” laments a retired submarine commander who asks not to be named. He even suspects that Vigil is bent on undermining the case for Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident. “When you consider their ‘submarine expert’ is a retired submarine weapons officer who is an SNP councillor in Glasgow and whose wife is an SNP MSP, it’s not hard to understand the anti-Navy, anti-submariner tenor of the series,” he says.