The submarine epic was never begging to be remade. But this sequel is just as compelling, just as claustrophobic … and has some much-needed moments on dry land
Plunderers of TV past will always run into opposition. Never go back, some say, and you can see the argument. Rifling through television’s ever-growing canon will always leave you open to accusations of grave-robbing, sacrilege or being too lazy to come up with your own ideas. Not that this has ever stopped the industry from remixing the classics. The aim is to engage a new audience with a known winner while keeping fans of the original onboard. The launch of Das Boot this week comes with equal parts fear and excitement; it will float or sink on its ability to resurrect the spirit of the original while showing us something we haven’t seen before. This is no easy task.
Fortunately, they nail it. Andreas Prochaska’s eight-part series is a classy revisiting of the Das Boot universe that retains the claustrophobic doom of Wolfgang Petersen’s classic film while weaving in enough new threads to give it its own identity. Most British viewers first encountered Das Boot when the TV miniseries aired in 1985. Its impact was profound. We’d seen second world war stories from the German point of view before, but rarely at such close quarters, with so much tension and such devastating results. We learn the stakes early on. The opening slate tells us: “The battle for control of the Atlantic is turning against the Germans … 40,000 German sailors served on U-boats during the second world war … 30,000 never returned.” Right from the off, we know the U-boat is a tomb.