The Problem with TNT’s The Last Ship

There’s nothing like a good TV show about a virus running amok especially with the largest Ebola outbreak EVER in history happening to make it even more realistic.

I’ll update you with the story line if you’re not familiar with the show. Be warned, this post will contain spoilers.

A deadly virus is wiping out much of the earth’s population. It’s swift, but supposedly not airborne, which may present the first issue with the theory behind the show.

One U.S. Navy vessel was sent to Antarctica under the guise of military exercises. On board, a research scientist tagged along and spent a lot of time on the ice. It was only later disclosed that she was trying to find the “primordial strain” to help her develop a vaccine. She was able to find the strain needed. What her mission truly entailed was developing a vaccine for the disease. Essentially, the crew has had to stay away from civilization until this was developed.

It’s actually a very good set-up. Of course, what generally trips a show up is those pesky medical details and I want to highlight the biggest violation here today.

Of course, this research scientist develops a vaccine but she needs to test it out before she can truly say it works. Six volunteers are picked from the crew that meet certain age, race, and gender requirements.

First, this group of six gets the vaccine and then fairly immediately– gets dosed with the pathogen.


What’s misleading here is the time it takes for a person to develop immunity. It’s never mere minutes. Generally, it takes weeks to months. The flu vaccine (which I hope all of your are planning on getting) takes about two weeks for immunity. This link from the CDC states it takes 4-5 weeks for seroconversion for the MMR vaccine.

Needless to say, it’s unrealistic to portray a vaccine working in mere moments. This is also the reason for multiples injections– some people gain immunity only after a couple of doses. You can read more about that from the above link.

The kicker is– I actually don’t think it would have destroyed their story line in any way. There’s plenty of drama to be had with a deadly virus killing off the majority of the world’s population. Whoever owns the cure, rules the world.

Overall, I liked this show but there wasn’t a need to cheat on the medical details.

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