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"The Last Ship" is based on a novel of the same name by William Brinkley and was developed for television by Steven L. Kane and Hank Steinberg. The writers have been praised for their work of the show which has been aided by the U.S. Navy offering them access to the U.S.S. Dewey which provides the setting for the U.S.S. Nathan James ship of the book and TV show.
Beginning with the arrival of two scientists onboard the ship, "The Last Ship" details the work done by Captain Tom Chandler in the face of a deadly virus outbreak. The two scientists are described to the Captain as experts in birds who are to be given all the help they need in their work. The Captain is told to sail to the Arctic where the two scientists will conduct their work before returning to the U.S., however, the Nathan James is quickly attacked by hostile Russian forces prompting Captain Chandler to begin questioning exactly what is going on onboard his ship.
Captain Chandler confronts the scientists who reveal they are virologists investigating a deadly outbreak which they estimate to have wiped out around 80 percent of the population of the planet. The lead scientist is Dr. Rachel Scott, who has been tasked with finding a cure for the virus using her skills and the abilities of Captain Chandler to keep her safe from harm. A form of government still holds firm in the U.S. and gives orders for the U.S.S. Nathan James to remain at sea and air. Scott with her research which should be completed before the crew can return home and try to save their families. After news breaks of the real reason behind their mission, the crew of the ship spends much of their time attempting to contact friends and family members, with most trying in vain.
The crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James faces many problems over the course of the season, including the issue of a hostile Russian Navy trying to gain access to their research for their own ends. Dubbing the outbreak, the Red Flu, Dr. Scott is targeted by Russian Admiral, Constantin Ruskov who is being driven by the Russian Government holding his family hostage to make him work against the U.S. forces.
Not only must the Nathan James remain at sea in its bid to assist the work of Dr. Scott, but the ship faces the problems of a lack of maintenance and supplies. Dr. Scott is consistently trying to develop a vaccine aimed at halting the Red Flu but faces the problem of a lack of equipment with which she can do her work. Engine problems also force the crew to assist Scott in keeping her supplies cool and ready for action when the time comes. The race against time continues for Dr. Scott as the U.S.S. Nathan James must stop at a port somewhere soon for repairs and the supplies the crew need for survival.
The show was developed for television by Steven L. Kane and Hank Steinberg who have both gained reputations for developing high-quality content for various networks in the U.S. Steinberg came to prominence in the mid-1990s when he was looking to break into television writing and struggling to come up with an idea. He eventually remembered the legendary baseball race to score the most in a single season involving Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle while both men were members of the New York Yankees. Steinberg's script was produced with the aid of Billy Crystal and was nominated for 12 Emmy's. Steinberg also wrote "RFK" for the FX network which was nominated for both Emmy's and Golden Globe Awards. Steven L. Kane has a history in both TV and theater for which he has written a series of successful one-act plays. His TV credits have been many, including writing and producing shows such as "NCIS" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
San Francisco native, Eric Dane moved to Los Angeles in the early-1990s in a bid to find fame as an actor. By the mid-90s he had become a guest star on various shows such as "Saved by the Bell" and "Married... With Children." In the early 2000s, Dane found fame when he took a recurring role in "Charmed" before achieving global success as the character of Dr. Mark Sloan in "Grey's Anatomy" which began as a guest role before being made a series regular in the third season.
Beginning her career as the video game character, Lara Croft, English model and actress, Rhona Mitra plays the role of Dr. Rachel Scott in "The Last Ship." The actress was the face of "The Tomb Raider" franchise in the late-1990s and went on to star in the "Underworld" series of movies along with many critically-acclaimed TV shows of the 21st-century. Among the shows, Rhona Mitra has appeared in are "Nip/Tuck" and "Boston Legal."
The TNT network attracted a large amount of anticipation for its "The Last Ship" adaptation in 2012 when it was announced the Hollywood director, Michael Bay would be acting as an executive producer for the planned pilot. The pilot was shot using locations across the port city of San Diego with a number of ships from various museums used in the filming. The U.S.S. Dewey has long stood in for the U.S.S. Nathan James and did so until the fifth and final season.
During the first season of "The Last Ship," the production was seen as prestigious because of the involvement of Bay and director Jonathan Mostow who was riding high following the release of "Terminator 3." Director Jack Bender was also a consistent collaborator in the early seasons before he found wider fame as one of the main directors of "Game of Thrones."
The first season of "The Last Ship" received mixed reviews with the internet-based critic's sites, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic both scoring the season with a 60 percent approval rating. The season was praised for its high-quality action sequences many associated with producer Michael Bay but felt the characters and story had not been delved into in any in-depth way. It does appear the show is worth the time and effort of the viewer as later seasons received more positive reviews based on the development of all aspects of the story and characters. The fifth season was always planned as the last of the series which does give it a satisfactory conclusion for the viewer who makes the time investment.
In recognition for the work of himself and the crew, showrunner Steven L. Kane was awarded the U.S. Navy's highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Award. The U.S. Navy played a key role in the production and allowed its ships to be sailed out to sea to allow the crew to film without the fear of the appearance of land. Even the real-life Secretary of Defense became involved with the production providing a video message for the members of the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James.