The Crown: Act of God
November 15, 2016 8:38 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

When dense fog cripples London for days and creates a serious health hazard, Churchill's inaction leaves him vulnerable to his political enemies.
posted by Cash4Lead (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I loved this episode, though it's kind of bizarre to me we don't learn about the Great Smog in schools.
posted by corb at 3:31 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm flabbergasted that air pollution in European cities, starting in the mid 1800's, isn't widespread knowledge. London was notoriously known as "The Smoke" or "The Old Smoke" or even "London fog." Fallout of the industrial revolution.

One of the reasons that codeine/morphine/heroin was so successful for Bayer (aside from tuberculosis and their analgesic properties) is that they are very effective antitussives (a classic example of a drug treating symptoms rather than causes) - preventatives against excessive coughing due to air pollution (and, I guess, cigarettes).

iirc, a research group looked at paintings of landmarks around London from before the industrial revolution and afterwards and estimated that the air particulate counts were equal to the worse of modern-day Beijing (compounded by deforestation) or Delhi (compounded by agricultural burnoff). The results are consistent with observations of the evolution/trait selection of the peppered moth as well as historical reports in literature.

Interestingly, Phillip's jackassery appears partially due to being culturally butthurt over the decline of British (boots on the ground) imperialism - that European air pollution was eventually offloaded to developing nations/former imperial colonies by means of economic imperialism is a little ironic, given that he continues to be a huge jackass.
posted by porpoise at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think people both know and don't know? I remember from very early on hearing about "London Fogs" or "Pea Soupers", but I never associated it with air pollution or smog in any way. Which is silly because of course I knew the Industrial Revolution was fueled off coal! Weird things in your head I guess.
posted by corb at 12:34 PM on November 16, 2016

(Sorry if I came across a little Philip-ey, and I understand why air pollution/European industrial revolution might not be emphasized in some educational curriculae.)

I'm glad that the show takes a moment to cover the coal power generators/unusually cold weather~more coal burning~post-war coal quality/"freak" temperature inversion, Great Smog of London, the subsequent Clean Ar Act 1956, and the political and individual responses to all that.

Winston Churchill> "It's just weather."

posted by porpoise at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I loved this episode, though it's kind of bizarre to me we don't learn about the Great Smog in schools.

How about The Great Stink?
posted by oh yeah! at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2016

I had googled Venetia Scott - the young secretary character - before this episode (still obsessing about accuracy!) and found out she is entirely fictional. So as soon as she started to gush about Churchill's youthful writings, I knew she was destined to die tragically to give Winston a sad. The whole character and the subplot were really, really irritating.
posted by sively at 2:37 PM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]

Yeah, I think because so many of the characters are very real indeed, it really bothered me that they would bother naming and centering a fictitious character. I'm sure there were lots of real people to semi-fictionalize instead!
posted by corb at 3:04 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The whole character and the subplot were really, really irritating.

At the start of the episode I was sure she was being set up as his sexual conquest, so her sacrifice to the fog was something of a relief.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:42 PM on November 19, 2016 [18 favorites]

The smog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then pushes Venetia in front of a bus.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:49 AM on November 20, 2016 [22 favorites]

I remember from very early on hearing about "London Fogs" or "Pea Soupers", but I never associated it with air pollution or smog in any way.

Same here. It came from reading Sherlock Holmes and a lot of '30s detective mysteries, not like y'know actual history, and I was a little disappointed the first time I visited London (in the summer no less) not to encounter one. But the idea that someone had to walk in front of a car holding a flashlight (a torch) focussed on the center dividing line in order to keep the car on the road was mind blowing.

To learn (eventually) that it was all smog certainly took the romance out of it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:53 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was amused that the actress playing Venetia -- Kate Phillips -- was Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall, alongside Claire Foy (QEII in this show) who was Anne Boleyn.

(Not to mention George VI/Professor Moriarty, Philip/The Doctor, and the one-two Lithgow/Northam punch.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was pretty certain from Venetia's first appearance that she was only there for Churchill character development, and when she stomped out of that hospital, I knew she was a goner. Such a waste of a character. She was basically fridged.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:41 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

So I am forcing myself to watch this show, finally. I find it very....slow.... and as a royal watcher person, I should be loving it, but not so much. I actually got interested in this one, though, but mostly because "poisonous fog" both makes me go WTF? and "do I need to add this to my pandemic/2020's bingo card as something else that will happen?"

I am also amused that Elizabeth is all "I'm going to see my grandmother!" and stomps off through the fog. Less amused that Winston has to have his assistant fridged for him to take poisonous fog seriously. I nth the whole Venetia fridging/well at least Winston's not going to nail her commentary, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:06 PM on March 10, 2021

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