Show of the week: Snowpiercer

Seven years after the world has become an uninhabitable frozen wasteland, the survivors of humanity reside in a gigantic, 1001-car train that circles the globe in perpetual motion.

While life aboard Snowpiercer is preferable to the icy apocalypse outside, class inequality is rife and some live in luxury, while others must endure constant hardships to stay alive.

Based on the graphic novel created by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, first published in 1982, and the subsequent 2013 film adaptation by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), this new series expands upon what has gone before to deliver a timely examination of social and environmental issues that are not so far-flung from today’s world.

“It is a singular franchise and a singular piece of sci-fi or ‘cli-fi’,” says showrunner and executive producer Graeme Manson (Orphan Black). “It’s just an extremely important existential story and a vessel for some real issues that we’re facing in the world today, as the best sci-fi does. It reflects so much social upheaval, stories of immigration and incarceration, resource shortages, and climate change. It’s about the most important story that could be told today.”

The action focuses on two characters, Snowpiercer’s privileged and “formidable” head of hospitality Melanie Cavill, played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), and Andre Layton, played by Daveed Diggs (Hamilton), who has been locked in the impoverished tail section of the colossal train for the past seven years.

Layton is the world’s last surviving homicide detective and his skills are required to solve a grisly murder that threatens to change the course of Snowpiercer’s political future forever.

“Melanie and Layton are the most important character pair for the season,” says Manson. “This season is really the story of a man from the tail and a woman from the engine. Their relationship goes through a lot of changes and ups and downs during the course of the season.”

Aside from the plot, Manson enthuses about the production design that helped to bring Snowpiercer’s incredible setting to life: “Production-wise, ​Snowpiercer really is all about the train. The production designers and the construction department and set deck put an incredible amount of effort into creating this train. It took up an enormous amount of studio space. We ended up with something like 63 different sets of train cars. Some of them are very elaborate, like the night car, a double-decker car with performance and lots of cast, or the first-class dining car which is very elegant.

“Then contrast that with the third-class mess hall. We really set out to create worlds that are distinct between the classes. It’s a testament to our crew in Vancouver what we managed to pull off.”

Broadcaster: TNT (US), Netflix (outside of US and China)

Producer: Tomorrow Studios (a joint venture between Marty Adelstein and ITV Studios)

Distributor: ITV Studios

Concept/Synopsis:  Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival are questioned in this TV adaptation of the post-apocalyptic graphic novels and movie of the same name, about a gigantic, ever-moving train that houses the last remnants of the human race.

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