Some of us were adults in 1986, some of us were children or teenagers, and some of us didn't yet exist. Because of that, we all have different memories of Chernobyl – the world's deadliest nuclear disaster.
That didn't stop the screenwriter Craig Mazin, or the director John Renck, from creating the five-part mini-series Chernobyl, and it didn't stop American network HBO, and the British network Sky, from producing the series.
Chernobyl is certainly a change of pace for both Renck and Mazin. Renck had directed episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Mazin had written the Hangover and Scary Movie movie franchises.
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An eye-opening retelling
Mazin said that Chernobyl arose out of his interest in writing something that addressed the fact that, "We are struggling with the global war on the truth." For each episode, Mazin has created a podcast that can be found on Youtube.
For those who don't know much about the disaster, the series is an eye-opener. For those who do know what happened, the series is a near-perfect recreation of the events that took place in Soviet Ukraine on the morning of April 27, 1986.
Researching for the truth
To create the series, Mazin consulted many different kinds of sources, "from government reports to first person accounts to scientific journals to historical works, photo essays." And, he worked hard to avoid putting false drama into his scripts because as he said, "So much of what happens in the show is just shocking. It’s shocking to believe that that’s what happened.
Well, our feeling was if we started pushing the envelope on those things then we would diminish the impact of all the things that we were accurate about, so we stayed as accurate as we could."
Location scouting for Soviet-era environment
The producers recreated Pripyat, the closest town to the disaster, in Fabijoniškės, a residential district of Vilnius, Lithuania. It retains an authentic Soviet atmosphere, and was used in the scenes where Pripyat is evacuated.
A twin to Chernobyl's Reactor No. 4 was found at the decommissioned Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant at Visaginas, Lithuania. It was used for both exterior and interior shots. Ignalina is also a RBMK nuclear power reactor, the same type as the doomed Chernobyl Reactor No. 4. Several final scenes of the series were shot in Ukraine.
The public's response to Chernobyl has been overwhelmingly positive. The series has a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site says, "Chernobyl rivets with a creeping dread that never dissipates, dramatizing a national tragedy with sterling craft and an intelligent dissection of institutional rot."
In his review in The Washington Post, Hank Stuever described the series as an "effective, no-nonsense and highly researched dramatization ..." and said that it is "committed to a disciplined, truthful and scientific account."
On the site Metacritic, based on 26 critics, Chernobyl has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".
In her article in The Atlantic Sophie Gilbert says of the series, "Whether you apply its message to climate change, the 'alternative facts' administration of the current moment, or anti-vaccine screeds on Facebook, Mazin’s moral stands: The truth will eventually come out."