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Film / End Day

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End Day (stylized as "End:Day") is a one-hour docudrama, directed and written by Gareth Edwards as his debut in both roles, and first aired in 2005 on BBC Three and later on, the National Geographic Channel. It briefly covers five (or four, depending on which version) "The End of the World as We Know It" scenarios of varying plausibility and severity, from a super-tsunami that wrecks the US East Coast and an asteroid impact that obliterates Berlin, through a vaguely bird-flu-esque global pandemic and a climate-wrecking eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, all the way up to a supercollider-created strangelet that eats the whole planet without stopping to chew. Each scenario is presented as a short dramatic segment, followed by brief clips (mostly cribbed from BBC Two's Horizon) of learned heads in various fields pontificating vaguely about the disaster we've just seen. It's all wrapped up in a frame story about a fellow who's just trying to get home from London.


Happily, it's on YouTube, so you can enjoy it for yourself if you like. Surprisingly given its subject matter, it makes rather light viewing, probably because the segments are too short to cover their subjects in anything more than the most superficial detail.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Airings outside the UK cut the supervolcano segment. It's no great loss.
  • Alternate Universe: Each segment takes place in its own. This is cutely lampshaded in the first segment, where we hear a diegetic clip of a radio interview in which the protagonist not only mentions the hypothetical possibility of alternate universes, but foreshadows a couple of the ones we're going to see.
  • Apathetic Citizens/No FEMA Response: Lampshaded in the tsunami segment, where a giant wave is hours away from hitting the east coast and people are either disbelieving, sarcastic or questioning why no evacuation is taking place. It isn't until about 3 hours beforehand that people start moving.
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  • Apocalypse How: Works its way up the severity scale from start to finish. The last segment takes it up to eleven by melting the entire planet into a strange star, a type of quark star composed entirely of strange quarks.
  • Artistic License – Cars: During the Yellowstone segment, an American family roll up to a Geyser on the edge of the national park in a Land Rover Freelander. While this alone isn't too far of a stretch - this particular model having been sold in the United States - what is are the little details: Not only is the car wearing a standard-issue British number plate, but in closer shots, a British tax disc is visible behind the windscreen! Then there's the glaringly obvious observation of the driver's seat being on the right side of the car instead of left, when in the US, it's the other way around.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In the supervolcano segment, Dr. Howell's plane, late in a transatlantic routing from London to New York, diverts to Toronto because of the eruption. When he hears the announcement, the good doctor peers out a window to see a giant plume of smoke, broad off the port beam. For this geometry to work, Bermuda Island would have to have also exploded.
  • Artistic License – Military: The soldiers in the pandemic segment carry the issue rifle of the Special Air Service, are deployed (with armor!) in a domestic policing/quarantine enforcement role for which the SAS has neither the equipment nor the numbers, and the one we get a close look at has a scrawl on his helmet reading "RAF Police", which is the UK military's internal police and would probably be among the last units deployed in the role where we see them. (They also, like most MPs, have distinctive uniform elements, none of which are in evidence here.) Even more laughable is the fact that the British Army seem to be using American M1 Abrams tanks & UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters instead of the native Challenger II and Westland Lynx.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The basis of the last segment. While it isn't theoretically impossible that a highly energetic collider could produce a strangelet capable of eating the planet, the possibility would more or less require that All Theories Are True, specifically a couple of highly abstruse hypotheses in particle physics which no one is even sure how anyone might go about trying to prove. Then, too, granting that, even the largest human-built colliders don't do anything the occasional extra-spicy cosmic ray doesn't do, and in the four-and-a-bit billion years since our planet condensed there have been a lot of those — so if a "killer strangelet" actually were possible, we wouldn't be here talking about it. It's very firmly on the list of those things which a physicist won't say are "impossible", because technically speaking they're not, but which are nonetheless so enormously improbable that their probability of occurring is somewhat less than that of every atom in your body spontaneously transmuting into gold. Unfortunately, that's a pretty subtle distinction for the popular media, which generally prefer just to take "not impossible" and spin a scare story around it.
      • Justified, in that this was produced during the last few years before CERN turned on their LHC. Both laypeople and scientists alike were concerned about the collider producing black holes or strangelets, but fortunately there's been no sign of either.
    • Also in the Strangelet segment, a plane manages to fly over the developing mega-hurricane without being sucked downwards by the Strangelet. As current theories believe a large strangelet can suck objects down towards it to convert them into more strange matter, something as small as a plane would be nothing to a strangelet which is already consuming the planet's atmosphere.
    • In the asteroids segment, one of the smaller fragments lands right beside a train, yet it doesn't seem to do more than surprise a small boy riding it. Even a meteor that small would have enough energy to damage or derail a train.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In the Supervolcano segment, rather than die as a direct result of Yellowstone exploding, one motorist, who for some reason drove towards the eruption on the wrong side of the highway, gets splattered by an oncoming 18-wheeler’s trailer after it gets swept up by a pyroclastic flow’s shockwave.
  • Death of a Child: Occurs throughout with malice aforethought. In fact, the only reason this show includes children and cute dogs is so that it can implicitly kill them off, and it does so in every segment but the last. (Because that's the one that destroys the entire planet and everything on it at the subatomic level.) Perhaps the only exception to this is the kid riding in the train that escapes Berlin before the asteroid hits.
  • Downer Ending: Rather the point. While the brevity of the segments tends to take away from the impact, the post-segment clips do their best to bring it back, with real scientists opining on the likelihood of the depicted disaster in a less than wholly reassuring fashion.
  • Endless Winter: The implied result of the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Again, rather the point.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In the virus segment, a radio presenter mentions that people have resorted to stealing cars in order to evacuate quarantine areas. Sure enough, not long after, a woman's car is stolen after she leaves it in order to check up on her mother, who's already succumbed to the virus. We later see that car crashed into a streetlight, the car thief also dead from the virus, with the woman's baby still in the back seat.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the first segment, we hear a diegetic radio interview with the protagonist, in which he casually mentions a couple of the disaster scenarios we're going to see.
    • The science magazine that features Dr. Howell on the cover references the virus outbreak, meteor and Yellowstone scenarios.
    • In the asteroid segment, the camera briefly focuses on a plastic toy dinosaur that happens to be in the same room as the viewpoint character, just to give us an idea of the stakes we're playing for. (Sizing the impactor isn't easy, but its diameter looks to be within the one- to two-mile range on the major axis, which puts it in the same order of magnitude as the Chicxulub impactor.)
  • Framing Device:
    • Played straight in that each segment starts with Dr. Howell, a particle physicist and (presumably) a principal investigator on some high-energy experiment using the TBM particle accelerator, waking up in a quite nice London flat and catching a brief news update which sets up the disaster du jour. He's a secondary viewpoint character throughout the rest of the segment.
    • Neatly subverted in the last segment, which features Dr. Howell as the protagonist and the TBM accelerator as the proximate cause of the disaster.
  • Grey Goo: The last segment deals with a non-manmade example, a Strangelet. Strangelets are theoretical clumps of up, down and strange quarks, with the latter being the most important. Strangelets have a peculiar ability to convert other matter into more strange quarks if the strangelet is more stable than the matter surrounding it, and thus could in theory rapidly convert a star or planet into a type of quark star referred to as a strange star.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Briefly and subtly employed in the pandemic segment, as we see England's index case in a variety of airport CCTV displays.
  • Nuke 'em: Attempted against the asteroid heading for Berlin. Quite unusually for televised science fiction, this is portrayed with relative realism throughout:
    • Instead of "we'll vaporize the rock with our magic nukes and it won't be a problem any more", the claim is "we might be able to deflect the rock away from Europe's most densely populated areas", which while still a very long shot is at least within the realm of plausibility, and is an accepted method of deflecting a large asteroid. Other plausible methods include painting it white, so it can't be warmed up enough by the sun to head towards Earth, and using a huge fucking laser cannon to push it away from the planet.
    • Unfortunately, the only result is to split one big rock into one very slightly less big rock and a lot of small chunks still quite big enough to be destructive in their own right. We see several of them smash into city blocks, a train station, and a variety of other items of urban infrastructure, in the moments before the asteroid proper arrives and renders its outriders' effects decidedly moot.
    • Unfortunately from the realism perspective, the impact as shown from ISS is embarrassing. A nuclear explosion in space doesn't produce a mushroom cloud (since there's no atmosphere and thus no fireball), but it does produce the same incomparably brilliant initial flash of light, as well as a thick and chunky EMP which might well have unfortunate effects on the station quite aside from the visible light pulse possibly blinding some or all of the crew. What we see in the show is a rather disappointing little bang and fireball. Really, would it have been so hard to white out the screen, then static, and cut to a flustered newsreader? Granted we see a fair bit of Camera Abuse in this film, but here's one case in which it would've been both totally justified and a lot more effective than what we actually do see.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • It's a low-rent film made in Britain, for British TV, the majority of which is set in the United States. There's a lot of this, especially in a brief scene with a classroom full of elementary-age kids.
    • Unusually, even writing is affected. In the last segments, some protesters in New York wave signs saying "BOFFINS = COFFINS". 'Boffins', meaning "scientists" or "experts", is exclusive to the Commonwealth's vernacular, and absent from that of the United States.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Quite possibly by accident, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one: it is actually quite possible, given the ISS's orbital parameters and the approach angle shown for the Berlin asteroid, that the latter would've been visible from the former as it approached the upper atmosphere.
    • For all the essential implausibility of the "killer strangelet" scenario, it's pretty abstruse for any kind of disaster flick, and thus pleasing to see represented here.
    • During that segment, we see a diegetic clip from what appears to be a scientific paper discussing collider-related disaster scenarios. The source from which it's taken is a scientific paper discussing collider-related disaster scenarios. (Take a look at page two, paragraph two. It's obviously been punched up for effect in the show's version, but many of the actual words are clearly the same.) Granted, the "paper" in question is a brief, lightly supplemented literature review which makes no bones about the "this is never going to happen, because if it could, the moon would already be one" nature of the matter, but that anyone looked it up at all is reasonably impressive in its own right.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Early on, we see a theater marquee advertising a showing of Groundhog Day.
    • We also get an early shot of an F-35C buzzing its carrier's control tower, in a somewhat similar fashion to Maverick's pass at Miramar. This becomes Hilarious in Hindsight when you take into account that at the time the F-35 was more-or-less a prototype, and now, some 12 years later, they're being embraced by both the UK and the US.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: At the beginning of each segment and over the end credits, there is a peppy little guitar tune that plays over the end credits of a fictional program that was playing in the doctor's hotel room. It's jarring enough when juxtaposed with the culmination of each end-of-the-world scenario, but doubly so after the killer strangelet segment (which ended with a couple of passenger jets being torn apart by the resultant black hole), even though the experts have just finished explaining how astronomically unlikely the formation of a world-devouring particle actually is.
    • Even better, the opening lyrics include the line "Oh tomorrow never comes..."
  • Source Music: Tightly zig-zagged: instead of music, it's more clips of boffins cribbed from Horizon, commenting on the current segment's flavor of disaster.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Compared to all the other disasters which are realistic and end with a reporting saying "It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when.", the final disaster involving the particle accelerator disaster is stated outright to be physically impossible.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The Hadron Collider experiment.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the supervolcano segment, we see a car start tumbling down a mountain with three people inside. When we see it hit bottom, we can see that it's empty. Granted that nobody belted in and all the windows were broken, but...