14th Aug2019

6 Things the ‘Chernobyl’ Podcast Revealed about the Show

by James Smith

It’s hard to come to grips with the true horrors of an event like Chernobyl. Yet the eponymous television mini-series’ creators succeeded in doing just that. From the first moments of danger through to the devastating aftereffects for those involved. Which was no small feat.

Breaking a story like this down to its core, while also creating a gripping narrative is probably creator Craig Mazin’s crowning achievement. Especially a story with so many facets, some of which are deeply personal to a large part of Europe’s population. Which is why a series like Chernobyl is one of the few out there that deserves it’s own behind the scenes look. A “director’s-cut”, if you will.

So that’s what they did. Mazin teamed up with Peter Sagal (host of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) to create a podcast about Chernobyl. Each episode accompanies one of those from the show, where Mazin provides details and interesting tidbits about the episode’s events. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot to talk about – from facts that didn’t make it into the show to some of the creator’s own artistic deviations.

Keep in mind that the discussion below will contain some spoilers about each episode. Those who haven’t watched this groundbreaking series yet should probably do that first. Both the show and the podcast are available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

These streaming services aren’t available outside of the US, however. So those looking to get their hands on Chernobyl should use a VPN to get around any geo-restriction issues. Just make sure to look for a good one that can handle smooth streaming speeds.


Six Interesting Things Craig Mazin Revealed in the Chernobyl Podcast:

1. That Rooftop Scene Is Entirely True to Real Life

The rooftop cleanup scene, with a Geiger counter screaming like crazy, was one of the most intense scenes in the entire show. And it’s completely accurate. Down to the last second. The speech given by Tarakanov was taken verbatim from a video of him talking to the “bio-robots.” Yes, that’s really what they called them. The scene on the roof was also shot in real-time to give viewers an idea of how profound those 90 seconds really were.

2. That Horrifying Puppy Scene was Worse in Real Life

Outsiders will never know the true extent of the terrible things that the liquidators had to do and go through. Having to kill the residents of Chernobyl’s pets would have been dreadful, and the series tried to show that. But that small glimpse into those grisly details of the tragedy was only that – a small glimpse.

3. The Divers Had to Find Those Levers in the Dark

In the show, three divers (senior engineers) took on the responsibility of opening the sluice gates under the plant. That actually happened, but they didn’t actually have any crank lamps (which wouldn’t have worked anyway). Their flashlights did die, but they had to keep going. The showrunners couldn’t shoot a scene in the dark, of course, so they embellished a little here.

4. The Show Toned the Radiation Sickness Symptoms Down

Sensationalism is a key feature of many a docu-drama, but the Chernobyl mini-series tries to stick as closely to the truth as possible. Except when the truth gets a little too “real” for comfort. Instead of playing on the cruel aftermath of the radiation sickness on victims like Vasily Ignatenko, they showed people’s reactions instead. Legasov’s speech also served to explain the more graphic details of the symptoms without actually showing them.

5. Ulana Komhyuk is not a Real Person

The nuclear physicist wasn’t a real person but, according to Mazin, she portrays an important part of the Soviet Union’s scientific landscape at the time. The creators intended for her to be a combination of the scientists who worked with Legasov during that time. Still, even though she’s not a real person, she has a crucial impact on the show.

6. Those Miners Really Were Naked

While HBO is pretty much known for throwing unprovoked nudity in just for the hell of it, this time it’s based on truth. Accounts of the degrees to which they undressed vary, but the miners did take their clothes off due to the extreme heat. The real miners probably didn’t do away with their undies, though.

A Bridge to the Truth

The Chernobyl podcast might be filled with interesting tidbits about the show and the realities of the nuclear disaster. It’s also more than that. Craig Mazin does an excellent job of explaining why the truth matters, and why people still stick to comforting lies despite that. So this comes highly recommended for anyone who’s a fan of the series or who’s planning on watching it.

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