All I want from Titanic II is for Julian Fellowes to be on the first voyage. Then it will have its full measure of horror
News that Titanic II is to set sail some time in 2016 – recreating its original, abrupted journey from Southampton to New York – has been greeted by general mirth and expectant schadenfreude. If something goes wrong (which we hope not, of course), hubris will once again have been punished; if it goes well, it's still a trashy project.
That may seem harsh, but on first sight Titanic II has all the charm of a British Rail sleeper car circa 1960 crossed with a wet afternoon spent dressed up as a Cavalier or a Roundhead on some field in Northamptonshire.
Take the idea of replicating the original's interiors, as shown in the rather hideous video (watch below), populated with actors looking ill-at-ease in costumes presumably purloined from Downton Abbey. (Even the video is given Chaplin-esque intertitles.)
A lady sits, waving her spectacles-on-a-stick, in second-class cabin on what looks like a highly uncomfortable upholstered upright bench. There are hideous post-Victorian patterns everywhere – on the bench, on the carpet. In a first-class cabin, a lady who looks like a drag version of Maggie Smith saunters to her four-poster bed, trying not to shake her wig off.
The swimming pool and the dining room seem to have their joists and bolts exposed, which hardly creates the welcoming, luxurious feeling false walls and ceilings would. Rather, it seems a lot more like a prison.
The problem – apart from the complete lack of taste Edwardian furnishings now suggest – is that you can't go back. Even if you stick a hospital and helipad on Titanic II, that era of design has passed; it's like the rebuilt Globe Theatre, with seats suitable for an Elizabethan of average size but not a modern person. Some parts of design are best left to the past.
Also best left to the past is the caste system reinstated on Titanic II. First-class guests will dine separately from hoi polloi, and all will be given the options of Edwardian costumes per their status. Clive Palmer, the brains behind Titanic II, says he'll be quite happy playing the fiddle in third. It sounds fun but it hardly chimes with our more egalitarian notions (even if egalitarianism means rich and poor are never seen in the same resorts or hotels, and only on planes by necessity).
When Titanic II launches, you'll get the worst of all worlds: Edwardian design, the Edwardian class system and dullards dressed up as Lady Pamplemousse of Belgravia and 'Enry the Sweep, all stuck on a ship, no doubt with My Heart Will Go On unironically played on a harp by the grand stairs. I shudder at the entire venture.
All I want from Titanic II is for Julian Fellowes to be on the first voyage. Then it will have its full measure of horror.