I can tell you right now that usually I don’t watch documentaries (unless there are animals and David Attenborough involved) and I also had no intention of watching Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night (on BBC2) but this is one of most engrossing, well-handled and produced documentaries of a tragic event I have ever seen.
For those that don’t know Piper Alpha was a gas/oil platform based in the North Sea off the coast of North East Scotland. The disaster took place in July 1988 and took the lives of 167 of the crew (around 100 still alive but stuck inside when the rig sunk), with only 61 surviving.
The documentary is split into three different views, firstly from pictures of the time, then from reproduced imagery for the documentary and then from one on one interviews with those involved on the day of the accident. It is really moving to see a group of survivors (many of whom are from the North of England and Scotland, traditionally hard men areas) deal with the emotions on camera as they recount the traumatic events the unravelled in front of them on the longest night of their lives. The reproduction of scenes for the documentary were beautifully done and really allowed for you to feel the sort of panic and desperation that the men on the rig would have been going through as they battle with their own mortality. It is the sad fact that these sorts of events must take place for those in the future to live in a safer world.
I really cannot do the documentary any real justice but it really does handle one of the largest workplace disasters (the largest worldwide offshore oil disaster at the time of events) in the UK’s recent history incredibly well. Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night really is worth watching and again is an incredibly well produced documentary of the most dreadful event in Scottish offshore oil/gas production history.