BORIS SHCHERBINA:I’ve known
braver souls than you, Khomyuk.Men who had their moment
and did nothing.Because when it’s your lifeand the lives of everyone
you love…your moral conviction
doesn’t mean anything.It leaves you.And all you’ve want
at that moment…is not to be shot.♪ (TENSE MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ PETER SAGAL: Hi and welcome
to episode four ofThe Chernobyl Podcast.It’s the podcast you listen to when you’ve watched
the HBO seriesChernobyland you just need to talk
to somebody about it. Well, we are here for you. My name is Peter Sagal,
I’m here with the series writer, producer, and creator,
Craig Mazin. CRAIG MAZIN: Good to be here,
Peter. PETER: It’s always good
to be back with you. We’re talking of course
about the seriesChernobylbeing presented on HBO
and Sky. And today of course,
we’re talking about episode four the penultimate episode
of the series, which I will admit right now
is my favorite… -CRAIG: Ah! Excellent.
-PETER: …of the five for three reasons, I guess,
these aren’t spoilers ’cause everybody’s
watched the episode I hope, because of the real time
sequence on the roof with the bio-robots. Because of I don’t know
what you wanna call it, the self-contained story
of Pavel. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: The liquidator. And because one of the greatest
tantrums I’ve ever seen performed on film
by Stellan Skarsgård. Let’s go through the episode,
though, from the beginning… another remarkable little scene with someone who really
doesn’t want to leave. And that is what I believe,
I used to call ababushka.CRAIG: Yes, so, and these were
the people that were the most resistant
and for good reason. They were old, they had lived there
their whole lives. I think when you are, say,
82, 83, your concern about… a future impending death
from radiation exposure is– reasonably less
than someone else’s. And more to the point, your connection
to the land you are on… is greater than your need
to be quote-unquote, safe. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And what I wanted to do with this– First of all,
that story is inspired by a real account of a soldier who was moving
through the zone and had to evacuate people
and there was a woman milking her cow
and she just didn’t get it. And he would dump the milk out
and she would just keep milking again
and he would dump the milk out and this would happen over
and over and I love the– the stubborn battle of it all.
You know? Like, “Okay. you’ll keep milking
and I’ll keep dumping ’cause you can’t drink it,”
and she’s like “Okay. But I’m not gonna go
and I’m gonna keep milking.” That felt so beautiful,
and desperate, and bizarre. But it was also an opportunity
for me to express… where I thought Chernobyl sat in the larger
historical picture, the history of tragedy… in the Soviet Union and in pre-Soviet
Tsarist Russia. And in particular, the tragedy
through Ukraine. -PETER: Right.
-Ukraine has always occupied this dangerous place, trapped between Europe proper
and Russia. It is neither Europe,
it is neither Asia, it is that Eurasian swath– It is incredibly valuable land, the breadbasket
of the Soviet Union, and it was also the first place -that would get invaded…
-PETER: Right. …when Napoleon felt like
traipsing into Russia or Hitler felt like marching
into Russia. It was through Ukraine. And unfortunately,
on the other side to the east, Ukraine was where Stalin… I think, visited his worst… crimes in the thirties, Stalin’s
forced collectivization, his villainization
of what they called kulaks. PETER: Yes. The liquidation
of the kulaks. CRAIG: The liquidation
of the kulaks. What were the terrible kulaks?
They were basically… -farmers that were successful.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: So, farmers that were
considered too bourgeoisie, too successful,
maybe a little too wealthy… they had to be essentially
removed from these farms, so that the farms
could be more… “collective”? -PETER: Right.
-Quote-unquote. -Made part of the state.
-CRAIG: But really, Stalin just didn’t like the fact
that anybody could have any leverage
whatsoever on the central position
of the Soviet Union. And if you allow some people
to control food supply, they’d become powerful. The kulaks
weren’t simply removed. A lot of them were put on trial,
they were imprisoned or killed. And the result, when you destroy the economic basis
of agriculture, the result is a shortage
of food. The other issue is that
he was taking the food. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And so, he would force people in Ukraine
to work at length on farms to grow food
they were not allowed to eat. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And they began to starve and die in the streets,
there were bodies everywhere. This is one
of the great genocides that people don’t talk about. PETER: In fact she uses a word
that I had never heard. -CRAIG:Holodomor.
-PETER: Exactly. And I thought I was pretty up
on your history of genocides
in the 20th century but it turns out I didn’t know
about this one. CRAIG: No, this is a terrible,
terrible story and they estimate somewhere around
three million civilians died in this forced starvation. And I wanted someone
to basically say, “This isn’t new!” This is not new, this is in fact
how it goes around here. I thought it was so cruel
of fate… to have visited Chernobyl
on this place. -On Ukraine.
-PETER: Which had had enough. CRAIG: It had had enough
and yet, one final– Well,
I wish I could’ve said final, but unfortunately right now, there’s a little bit
of a situation going on in Eastern Ukraine in Crimea. But in terms
of the Soviet crimes, this was the final Soviet crime
against Ukraine and it was… -it was a big one.
-PETER: Yeah. The soldier in the open
ends up being -somewhat merciful.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: It’s a great little fake,
congratulations. In terms of the gunshot
and the cow toppling over. I think we should let–
Especially for this episode, we need to reassure everybody,
as the ASPCA likes to say, “No animals were harmed
in the making of this episode.” -CRAIG: No animals, no animals.
-PETER: Did you get a stunt cow -that could fall over?
-CRAIG: We built one. PETER: Oh, really?
That’s a fake cow? CRAIG: So, we have a real cow
that she’s milking. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: And then we have a fake cow that we can stand in
and topple over. And then use a little bit
of VFX magic to de-fake-ify some of the faker aspects
of the fake cow, but, yes, of course,
the cow is totally unharmed. -Do not worry, cow lovers.
-PETER: (LAUGHS) Cow lovers. CRAIG: As you eat
your hamburgers, don’t panic. -PETER: Don’t worry, yeah.
-CRAIG: Don’t worry. PETER: They didn’t do
anything mean to this cow, like, -raise it in an industrial farm.
-CRAIG: Yes, exactly. PETER: But let’s not go there. Maybe we just need this moment
of levity. It is hilarious to think,
it’s like, -“Cut! Bring in the stunt cow!”
-CRAIG: Bring in the stunt cow. PETER: And they roll in the cow
on wheels, I imagine, like, -something out of Monty Python.
-CRAIG: Pretty much. I mean, there are– When you’re making
a show like this, there are probably more bizarre,
amusing things that happen behind the scene
where you just– -“This is weird.”
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: We’re out
in the middle of a field wheeling in the fake cow,
but I did– I do think, that there was a… a kind of innate respect
for elders in the Soviet Union
and I think that… one thing that seems
in my research was a shared experience
of all people was a respect for the great war and the things
that people went through. It’s getting back
to that poem again that there was that– Okay, when an old person starts
talking about these things, you shut up and you listen. Even if your head hurts,
even if you’re tired, even if you have to get her
out of there. Eventually, you’re gonna
have to shoot her cow. And she’s gonna have to go.
But you listen. PETER: Right, exactly. -And then you shoot the cow.
-And then you shoot the cow. PETER: And then you get her
on the bus. Do we actually see her
getting in the bus? CRAIG: We don’t see her getting
on the bus. PETER: It’s implied
she gets on the bus. BOTH: She gets on the bus. CRAIG: Also,
no humans were injured in the making of this episode. June Watson, wonderful actor. -PETER: She was great!
-CRAIG: Yes. She’s amazing. And the last person
we would’ve wanted to harm. PETER: Yes,
don’t hurt June Watson. All right, we check in
as the episode now begins after the credits with Lyudmilla
who’s now moved to Kiev. CRAIG: Right. PETER: And we’re gonna see her
again… but we’re not gonna focus
on her. Her pregnancy is happening
in the background. And it’s obvious
that you wanna make sure that her story continues… in the background
of this episode. CRAIG: Yeah, well,
this episode is where time really starts to expand and so, over the course
of these episodes, time has been expanding slowly. PETER: Right. The first episode
was like a day, -the second–
-CRAIG: Not even– First episode essentially, takes place
over eight hours. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And then the second episode,
we’re dealing with a day, a day and a half,
the third is weeks, now, we’re talking about months. Now, we’re into the long war, and this is a totally different
point of view of the accident. There is no running around like
a chicken without a head on. There’s no panic. There’s more of a sense
of the slow ground war, a slog, that is going
to take a long time and won’t kill you right away. -It’ll just chew you up slowly.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: Much different vibe
in this episode. PETER: So, I just realized this
that of course, using Lyudmilla marking
her pregnancy is a way of just establishing,
as they say in the screen writing class,
as a clock. -CRAIG: There is a clock.
-PETER: There’s a clock
in this episode. We know because her pregnancy
continues and completes by the end of this episode,
right? CRAIG: Right. PETER: That, that’s how long
it’s taken. Here we learn, at the top
of the episode about the roof. -CRAIG: Yes.
-PETER: And by the way, this is the first time
I’ll mention this. We had talked when we began
this podcast series about the things that– well,
I remembered about… Chernobyl. And one of the things
that I remember, but didn’t mention then
was the idea of the sarcophagus. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: That eventually, and I knew this… it was covered with concrete
in a sarcophagus to protect it. And I had vaguely known
that a lot of people lost their lives
or endangered themselves to build it. We never see the sarcophagus
being built. Was that a proactive choice
on your part? CRAIG: Yes.
And this is an area where I did deviate a bit
from the timeline, because it would’ve started
to have been built towards the end of this episode. We would’ve seen
large concrete panels being put in place and start
to be erected in place. They were already building it. You know, the issue was, we can’t get really
to the top of this thing with that stuff on the roof. So, they would’ve started
by this point. But for me, I felt like, I didn’t wanna start something
and not finish it. And also, frankly,
the sarcophagus itself, wasn’t really, I think,
dramatically fascinating. It was just the solution
they came up with at the time. PETER: Right.
Instead of focusing in the building
of the sarcophagus, we focus in the clearing
of the roofs and this is another instance where the problem they’re facing seems almost
ridiculously simple. Like, video game simple. “In order to complete
this mission, you have to remove the rubble
from the roof.” CRAIG: Right. PETER: But as Legasov exclaims,
that’s the problem. There’s all this stuff
on the roof, they have to throw it back
into the reactor so they can build
the sarcophagus over the reactor,
it’s that simple. And of course, the material is, as we’ve discussed,
that highly radioactive graphite that landed on the roof
at the explosion, which again, we will see
in episode five. It was really that simple? They just needed to get
the stuff off the roof? CRAIG: They needed to get
the stuff off the roof. This was, um, incredibly
radioactive material. And even if they weren’t
building the sarcophagus, which obviously they needed
to get up there to do that, rain, wind, anything
that would pick that stuff up and move it around,
it would– you couldn’t leave it up there. It was firing radiation
into the air, still, and would not stop. The division of the roofs
into those three sections– a little fact that I–
Just because of the way we kind of
brought General Tarakanov, who’s a real man,
into this episode, we had to kind of
have our characters tell him that they had named these three
sections of the roof. In reality, he named them,
those things, after his,
I think, his nieces. -PETER: Really?
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: That’s sort of nice? -Kinda?
-CRAIG: Yeah, I guess like– I guess, Masha
was really difficult. -PETER: Yes. Goddamn Masha.
-CRAIG: Difficult child. Yeah. She was rough, but… This was the biggest… and yet simplest problem
they faced, and… where it went was another
one of those things where I think a lot of people
will say, “Really?” -And the answer is, absolutely.
-PETER: Yeah. That was in my notebook:
“Really, again?” And we intercut this to
the episode, but let’s just focus
on this for now. CRAIG: Yeah.
Let’s walk through this. PETER: So, the problem they have
is getting stuff off the roof, -it’s highly radioactive.
You can’t send people up there.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: And one thing
we just need to establish as a baseline
which is that I picked up, is that your exposure
to radiation is cumulative, -and it doesn’t go away.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: So, for example,
if I were to be exposed to this level of radiation,
as we find out later for a limit of 90 seconds,
that’s it for my life. -CRAIG: Lifetime dose.
-PETER: Lifetime dose. I mean, it’s not like I wait
a little while, and I recover, and I can go back
and do it again. I’m done. CRAIG: Yeah,
after a certain number, -you’re sort of done.
-Right. Workers in radiation industry–
I shouldn’t say radiation– Medical radiation
or nuclear power industry, they have certain dosages
that they’re allowed maximum -per year….
-PETER: Mm-hmm. CRAIG: …with the expectation
that they will work this long and it will add up to this much. And you do wear cumulative–
I mean, you’ll see throughout the episode,
everyone, always, is wearing a little badge. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: This little black– It’s just essentially a little–
Or sometimes, what looks like a penlight, which was
another version of it, all… authentic and accurate
to the time, and these were– And we wore them,
when we went to Chernobyl. We had a little thing clipped
to our shirt and at the end of our time,
they take it. And what those things are
is essentially -a little piece of film.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And from that piece of
film, they can check exposure. How much radiation has this film
been exposed to? PETER: Yeah, just like– and, kids, this will be
amazing to you– we used to have photo film
that changed when you exposed it -to visible radiation.
-CRAIG: Right, let’s back up
for a second. BOTH: Film… (CHUCKLING) -PETER: …Well, kids…
-CRAIG: …was this thing… PETER:
This chemical thing, and if you expose it
to kinds of radiation it would change, like– CRAIG:
We’ll call it magic plastic. -PETER: Exactly. Sorry.
-CRAIG: Magic picture plastic. So, they do check
and in this case when you’re talking about
that much radiation, it’s a function of,
how close you are, how strong the source is,
and how long you’re there. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: That’s the math problem. So, there are some sources
that are so strong that you can’t–
A second is too long. And of course,
protection can help a little bit in this case what they were
contemplating on that one section of roof was an amount
that would essentially lifetime dose you in about
a minute and a half. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: That’s with wearing lead and rubber and boots
and all the rest. PETER: By the way,
parenthetically, rubber and plastic protect you
from radiation? ‘Cause that comes up a lot
in the series. CRAIG: They do wear
a lot of rubber, I think that’s mostly
to seal off air, in other words,
that’s gonna keep air out and therefore particles, but lead is the big deal now.
If you look at the sequence where these guys are going
on the roof and we’ll get to how that
decision was made. You’ll see that they’re wearing
what looks like dark crinkly tinfoil.
That is lead. But you ask like, why are they–
Why is it done like that, where it’s kind of– holes are punched crudely
and wires are holding– PETER:
It looks like homemade armor. CRAIG: It was. There was absolutely
no real lead protection for any of these people.
So, what they started to do was scavenge lead
from the other parts -of the nuclear power plant.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG:
Buildings one through three. Because certain machinery
in there was covered in lead to protect it from radiation, they just started
taking that lead. Lead is incredibly soft.
Hammer it out, make aprons out of it
or we’ll come to understand the egg baskets.
It was all homemade. -And that is so upsetting…
-PETER: Yes! …to me. I mean, I know,
in the United States sometimes, people are shocked to hear that
our soldiers have to actually -buy their own body armor.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: You know, to upgrade
what we give them normally. -But they’re something.
-PETER: Yes. At least give them something.
They didn’t give them anything. -CRAIG: Nothing!
-PETER: Right. CRAIG:
They had to make their own. PETER: Let’s get to how they,
The people who had to make their own armor to go up
on the roof, got to that point. So, we go through the sequence
and they’re using -Russian Lunar landers.
-CRAIG: Lunokhods. Yes. PETER: Lunokhod. They managed
to clean off the first two roofs and then we get to the Joker. By the way, where did you get
a police robot? -CRAIG: We built it.
-PETER: You built it? CRAIG: We built Joker. Yes. The Lunokhods that you see
in the show are mostly CGI. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: So, the initial shots of the Lunokhods are actually
just like a cart with a grip -pushing it.
-PETER: Pushing it. A race. CRAIG: It’s kind of amusing
to watch it on that way. But, then they were replaced
by the CG creations but, the Joker,
we wanted a real thing because it was going to arrive
and be on this truck and move around and so we had it
constructed for us, and that is exactly
what it looks like with the script of Joker
and in fact, they’re online,
you can find photos of Joker. -In a garbage heap. In the zone.
-PETER: Right. -CRAIG: It’s there.
-PETER: Because, as we find out -pretty quickly, it dies.
-CRAIG: Oh, yes. PETER: And it’s killed
by the radiation. CRAIG: Killed by the radiation
which is not something they expected to happen. The whole point
of getting Joker was… that we’re told it is designed
to withstand this kind of radiation.
And it doesn’t. And the reason why it doesn’t… as we point out in the show,
and this is the cause -of the great tantrum.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: Is the Soviets– And this is mind blowing to me. They refused to tell anyone
how bad the situation was. Even then, months later, after the world was aware of Chernobyl
and what it meant, they were still soft pedaling
just how bad it was to the point where they refused
to tell the West Germans how much radiation was actually
on that roof. CRAIG: So the West Germans said,
“We can hit that number -you’ve given us.”
-PETER: Yeah, “Our machine will function
in that environment,” when of course, the environment
was how many times worse? -100 times worse? 1,000 times?
-CRAIG: Not 100 times. I think they told them, maybe,
it was like, 2,000 roentgen per hour and it was more like 9,000
or 10,000, or 12,000. So, I mean, it was just– It was 600 percent
or 700 percent more -than it could handle.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And what blows my mind is
the Soviet power system thought that that’s okay. Why not? You know, -let’s just see.
-Yeah It’s the same kind of attitude that leads to Chernobyl
in the first place. PETER: Right. I mean,
it is weird because, I mean, you can imagine
that kind of lie being told… husband coming home.
Oh, I had two drinks, -when he had five.
-Right. PETER: And we all are familiar with that, “Well, I’ll just try
to get away with this lie, -’cause it’s less embarrassing.”
-CRAIG: Yes. PETER: But to apply that
to the level of a state, dealing with an emergency
of this nature is extraordinary to think about.
That they’d rather not be– As you point out later,
not be humiliated. CRAIG: Not be humiliated
and just so people don’t think that the only casualty here
is a robot. In reality, when Joker
was put on the roof initially, they believe it wasn’t moving
because it was stuck on a piece of graphite. And so they sent
a couple of guys up there to attach a winch to it -and move it…
-PETER: Right. …physically. So they were up–
They were the first people, I think, to kind of roam around
on Masha with the protection
that they had very briefly and they did, they got it free
of that graphite, so it was able to move around
and then it quickly just died -because of the radiation.
-PETER: Right. And did it sit up there
for the duration? Is it still there?
Did they get it off the roof? CRAIG: They got it off the roof,
they put it in a– One of the many, sort of, collections
of Chernobyl garbage. PETER: Irradiated machinery– -We pass one at one point.
-CRAIG: Correct. Vast vehicle graveyards
and burial pits… and it’s there. And it’s still
quite radioactive. PETER: Right, yeah. And thus,
we finally get to bio-robots. CRAIG: Bio-robots.
The notion of bio-robots, that’s what they were called.
Came about because there was… an attempt to do anything but.
These ideas that they talk about -dropping molten lead.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: Firing exploding bullets. -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: These were entertained. -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: And one by one dismissed as insane
and in the end the only option they had
was to send men. PETER: And as we see, they started
from the presumption that a human being
could be out on the roof for a total of 90 seconds. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-PETER: Lifetime. CRAIG: Lifetime dose. PETER:
The extent of this operation is a little clearer
in the script. Where you make it… very clear that this happened -over a series of months.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: They would bring in crews
of men, who were ordered to do this. Were they military?
Were they just conscripted? -CRAIG: They were conscripted.
-…they were conscripted guys, -they were brought there.
-CRAIG: Yes. PETER: The General
would give them this briefing… which he gave over, and over,
and over, and over again. CRAIG: Correct. And by the way,
the briefing he gives them, I would say, 90 percent of what
you hear from Ralph Ineson who plays Tarakanov,
is actually what Tarakanov said. TARAKANOV: You will enter
reactor building three.Climb the stairsbut do not immediately proceed
to the roof.When you get to the top,wait inside behind the entrance
to the roofand catch your breath,you’ll need it
for what comes next.PETER: How do we know
that’s what he said? CRAIG: We have a documentary. -PETER: Oh, really?
-CRAIG: A documentary was made so you can watch
film of him saying this. The man who’s narrating,
who was one of the– He was in fact one of the guys
who winched the Joker off that rubble. He said it was almost
like a prayer… -PETER: Yes.
-…that Tarakanov would say over, and over, and over.
So, when you listen to that, if some of it sounds
a little odd or unscreenwriterly it’s because that’s exactly
what he said and I just– You know, I’m a sucker for that,
I just love that. You know, I have to do that. Similarly,
what we hear from him at the very end is exactly
what he said. TARAKANOV:
Congratulations, Comrades.You are the last of 3,828 men.PETER: We lead our way up to
a reenactment of one of those– I don’t know which one
to call it, sorties? -Out onto the roof.
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: It’s in real time,
if people were to time it on their watches while watching
the show it’s 90 seconds -or there about.
-CRAIG: Yup. PETER:
Three thousand men did this. Got suited up, went to the roof,
“Go!” Ran out, threw maybe one,
maybe two, pieces of rubble -off the roof with shovels.
-CRAIG: Right. -PETER: Heavy stuff.
-CRAIG: Heavy. Yup. -PETER: Ran back in…
-CRAIG: And they were done. -…and they were done. Forever.
-CRAIG: Done permanently in the zone. They get sent home. So, we don’t do a lot of tricks
on the show. You know, Johann and I aren’t big
on fancy tricks, we don’t do
a lot of crazy camera moves because we felt that
that would interrupt the reality of things,
this is one, where, you know, from the script stage
I just thought, the only value
is being with somebody, is being with them
for the whole thing and feeling it,
what that would be like because it’s this terrifying
90 seconds in a place no one is supposed
to be at all. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And the fact that they’re even up there
is evidence of a– -just a systemic failure.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: And the fact
that these people had to be burned up there,
so many of them… I– I presume so many of them… had shortened lives,
there’s just no question. PETER: There’s a lot of things
that you can ask about the bio-robots,
where they came from, what their experience was
going there and coming out, but in order to address
those questions, we can go over
to the other plot thread of this episode
which is the story of Pavel. CRAIG: Right. PETER: Tens of thousands of men
were conscripted… CRAIG: Hundreds of thousands. PETER: Hundreds of thousands
of men were conscripted, brought to the exclusion zone. -And put to work, liquidating.
-CRAIG: Liquidating. PETER: Obviously, you chose
to focus on the one person’s experience
to stand in for the whole. How did you choose this person
and this job? CRAIG: So,
there were some stories in Svetlana Alexievich’s book,
Voices of Chernobyl,that liquidators told. And one of the stories
was about… a liquidator said, “Our job
was to go around from village to village with hunting rifles
and kill the pets that had been abandoned there.” And he told these stories
and he was kind of a tough guy, you know, the way
he described it all. And he describes a scene
that eventually we do not include in the show,
mercifully, I think– PETER: Yeah,
we’ll talk about that, -’cause it remained
in the script.
-CRAIG: Yeah. Yes. -We’ll get to that.
-PETER: Yeah, oh my, God. CRAIG: People probably think,
I’ve abused them with this episode,
they have no idea what could’ve been, but,
I thought, what a fascinating idea
to follow… a… an innocent,
along with that guy. And watch this unfold
in his eyes because, we’ve seen what this does
to people, what radiation does to people, we haven’t seen
what these choices do to people. And that I thought,
was a really fascinating thing -to focus on.
-PETER: Right. -So Pavel is a kid.
-CRAIG: Yeah, basically. PETER: He’s just some kid
who was conscripted with– Some guy showed up with a gun,
presumably still in his holster and said,
“You’re coming with me, -you’re going to Chernobyl.”
-CRAIG: It was a summon, you know,
they received papers that said
show up at this place, you’re going to Chernobyl,
that’s how they sent people -to Afghanistan by the way.
-PETER: Right. -CRAIG: Same deal.
-PETER: And he gets there and he comes
into this enormous camp. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: Which I’m going to guess because of the things
we discussed is very accurate to the actual camps
that were built. CRAIG: Yeah, we tried to be
as accurate as we could. They would create these camps
in various areas where they would either,
you know, there were some clear fields or sometimes
they would take over existing things,
we actually went and visited what was essentially like a– a holiday camp in the woods. I can’t remember the name of it
but it was like, basically like, the theme was fairy tales. So, you’re in the woods,
there’s some cabins, there’s some buildings
and then there are wooden statues of mermaids -and it’s so bizarre.
-Yeah. CRAIG: That’s actually
ended up getting sent too, and one of the things our guide
showed us was a pit with boots. All the boots that
the liquidators had left behind. It’s just remarkable
to look at these things. They had a massive operation, but this is what
the Soviets knew. They knew how to mobilize men. -PETER: Yeah.
-And it was men,
that’s other thing– You know, the question comes up,
I mean, there were some women we did some research to find out
how many. And the best number we could
come up with was about 3,000 to 5,000 women,
out of… a revolving number
of approaching 600,000. Mostly they’re as medical
personnel or support. Cooks, chefs, I mean, it was
still a very sexist system. But largely it was men. PETER: Right. Speaking of men,
Pavel shows up an innocent and meets Bacho, who we find out
pretty quickly -is Afghanistan war veteran.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: He’s a veteran
of the system. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-You go where you’re told, you kill
who you’re told to kill. You enjoy the benefits, which are vodka
and the occasional sausage… -CRAIG: Right.
-…and you move on with it. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-Before of course,
we go off to do it, -we get the egg basket.
-CRAIG: The egg basket, that’s exactly
what it was called. -And that was real.
-BACHO: Give me an egg basket.-PAVEL:No, I’ve only got the–
the fucking basket.-PAVEL:Okay.
-(CLATTERING)BACHO: He’s with me.
You understand?Nobody fucks with him.We make these from lead scrap.-Put it on on your balls.
-PAVEL:Now?BACHO:No, no, you can wait
until the radiationgives you a cunt.Yes, now.Over your clothes! Fucking shit.CRAIG: In one of
the liquidator’s accounts not only does he describe
the egg basket but he’s very adamant:
“Write about this. Tell this!
That we made these things and we call them egg baskets
and we put them on under our crotches
to protect our balls… -PETER: Yeah, yeah.
-…from radiation.” PETER: I have to say the moment
where Pavel’s like, “All right,” and he starts undoing his pants
and Bacho says, “No, you put ’em on
over your clothes.” -I totally would’ve done that.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: I would’ve been like,
okay, I will hold– -CRAIG: Poor guy.
-PETER: I know, Pavel. Sticking with Pavel,
their wonderful day in the exclusion zone.
The details that you offer that I assume you got
from a first-person account are chilling. For example,
they’ll come to come to you, -the animals.
-CRAIG: Yeah, yeah. PETER: Because they wanna be
fed, the associate humans with– -CRAIG: They’re domesticated.
-PETER: Yes. -CRAIG: They’re pets.
you start shooting them after they come to you for food. They run away, well,
then you go inside because they all seek
shelter inside. And the fact that he knows this. That he’s been able
to do this long enough to understand the pattern
of their behavior -is in and of itself horrifying.
-CRAIG: Yeah. PETER: You know? CRAIG:
That is what war does to you. And a lot of the guys
that were in the exclusion zone were Afghan veterans. Veterans of Afghanistan. And so they had experienced
this already with humans. And this was seemingly
much easier. And you slowly lose touch
with norms. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: There are new norms that are coming in to replace
the old ones and the new norms are… simpler rules,
like for instance, -don’t let them suffer. Which–
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: That was just something
that I thought… someone would create
as a kind of -dignity preserving rule.
-PETER: Yes, at least I’m not making
them suffer. CRAIG: At least I’m not making
them suffer. PETER: He almost has anger
about it. CRAIG: Correct and I think,
you know, he tells Pavel a story about the first time
he killed someone. And what is implied
in that story is that he didn’t kill
that man… -quickly. And that man suffered.
-PETER: Yeah. Right. CRAIG: And this is kind of
the nightmare that probably knocks him awake at night
and this is why when he goes through here,
“Okay, this part of dignity, I will maintain this
and if I do, -everything will be fine.”
-PETER: Right, and everything else
he puts aside and just deals with it.
Has lunch. it’s almost as if he’s like,
looking at Pavel, Pavel’s like, not even eating his lunch,
“All right, well, you know, I’ll get a little bit more
for myself.” Um… And then we get to of course, to what will be known
forever more as theChernobylpuppy scene… -Yes, yes theChernobyl puppy–
-…yes. Before we get
to theChernobyl puppy scene, there’s a moment where we reveal -this propaganda banner.
-PETER: Oh, God. Which is of course the title
of the episode. CRAIG:
The title of the episode. And that is again,
taken from a… from a liquidator’s account
and I just– That was one of those things
where I just stared at the page. Because again, as a writer,
if you were to dare come up with something
like this, you would just be tarred and feathered
for being on the nose but… -“For The Happiness
of All Mankind.”
-PETER: …all mankind. CRAIG: And it was just
strung there over an abandoned village
where the people had been evacuated
because of radiation and men are there to kill
their pets, the pets that had been
left behind and just this… bizarre celebratory banner
with that ridiculous slogan. -PETER: Yes.
-CRAIG: The most
over-the-top nonsense. PETER: Yeah. It’s almost as if if you make it
in big enough letters and make the banner big enough,
people might believe it. CRAIG: For the happiness
of all mankind. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: Of all mankind. PETER: Yes. Certain lies
have to be shouted. -CRAIG: Yeah.
-PETER: We have our lunch… -and then we move on…
-CRAIG: Yeah. …and we find our puppies. CRAIG: Yeah.
And that also happened. That’s a real story. And there was a scene
following that, that we shot and did not choose
to include, that was also real. PETER: Do you even
wanna describe– Because, -it’s pretty tough. That scene.
-CRAIG: It is. PETER: And I can’t be upset
as sort of brilliantly dramatic and powerful
as it would’ve been, I can’t be upset
that you cut it,
do you wanna describe it? CRAIG: Well, I would say
to people that they should readVoices from Chernobyl,
which is sometimesVoices of Chernobyl
it’sChernobyl Prayer.But they should read that book,
it’s a wonderful book, the account is in there,
long story short, one of the dogs,
a puppy is not… dead. When they would put
the animals in a pit and bury them
in concrete because… -PETER: We had
a glimpse of that.
-CRAIG: …they were irradiated and the liquidator
in his account… wants to put it
out of its misery. So, it’s not buried alive. But they’ve used
all their bullets. -PETER: Yes.
-And it… CRAIG: Again, it was
the kind of thing where I felt sick writing it,
but I had to and we shot it -and it was too much.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: It was just too much,
again, it was that little bit like,
when we talked about depicting the effects of radiation,
acute radiation syndrome -in episode three…
-PETER: Yeah. …you don’t wanna cross a line,
where you feel like you’re excited
about upsetting people. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: Because we’re not. You know, once we kind of
got out of Pavel’s head– I mostly want people
to watch this and feel -what Pavel feels.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: If we start feeling like
we’re there, you know, -then I think it’s gone too far.
-PETER: All right. We leave Pavel, we’re talking
about this episode in sort of dramatic through lines,
rather than scene by scene, but the third element of this… is the continuation
of the investigation. -CRAIG: Right.
-PETER: We return to the hospital, we tried to have
with Dyatlov. Who’s attitude is,
“It doesn’t matter.” -CRAIG: Yeah.
-PETER: And it’s interesting ’cause this is a guy
who’s defiant… but that’s the moment
where he’s actually kind of accepting. Where
he’s like, “It doesn’t matter -what the story is…
-CRAIG: Right PETER: …the lies will win
and I will get the bullet.” -CRAIG: He knows…
-PETER: Yeah. …on some level that… even though he says, “How do I
even know it exploded?” -He knows it exploded.
-PETER: Yeah. -CRAIG: Certainly by this point.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: He shows him a picture
just to make sure he knows. But, I think he also knows
in his heart of hearts that something is going on.
He doesn’t know what it is, what he’s sure of… as a fairly intelligent citizen
of the Soviet Union is that -he’s going to be blamed for it.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: And most likely be
put to death, -that seems like a fair guess.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: And there is
absolutely nothing this naive idiot
can do about it. She’s in here asking
for the truth… and searching for facts… -in this place?
-PETER: Yes. CRAIG: In this world? -Why?
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: It makes no sense to him
and in a way, he’s right. PETER:
There’s a constant question
that comes up, and will again, “How does
an RBMK reactor explode? It’s impossible,
it can’t happen.” And that is… the core of the mystery.
That the rest of the series the final episode is going to be
obsessed with. She goes to a library,
an archive, she’s looking up, presumably this kind of reactor
had been used before it was part of the Soviet
Industrial Process… and there’s that
interesting scene where she asks for certain documents.
A guy appears… we’re never told who the guy is, but we understand
what he represents. He allows her to look at one… -…book or article.
-CRAIG: Yes. And this is an invention
to get across a fact. Which is that there was a report
written by… a nuclear engineer scientist
named, Volkov… -and it regarded this flaw.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG: The RBMK was designed
to produce… an enormous amount of power
very cheaply… -PETER: Right.
-…and to do that, certain things were implemented. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And we get into what that is now.
And this is a little bit of the science now,
but before we get into how that science works, I guess
the important fact to know is… -people knew…
-PETER: Yes. …that there had been
an essentially a mini Chernobyl. In fact there have been
a couple of mini Chernobyls and by mini Chernobyl, I mean,
the phenomenon that led to Chernobyl exploding
had happened small… -PETER: Right.
-…in a couple of
other reactors… earlier, years earlier. So, they understood
that under certain conditions… this could happen. I don’t think
they ever contemplated that it would lead to an explosion
per se because the conditions that would lead to
the smaller problems occurring were kind of within the realm
of expectation. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: Nobody ever expected that a reactor would be put
through the paces that Dyatlov put it through that night. Then you combine it
with this flaw… -PETER: Yeah.
-…and then you have
this disaster. PETER: What’s important–
And we’re gonna explore that in detail in episode five, but,
right now, what’s important is, Khomyuk has found this out. She has certainly found
that there is a secret -about these reactors.
-CRAIG: Correct. PETER: And she comes back
and she’s back at Chernobyl and she’s talking to Shcherbina
and she’s talking to Legasov… and it turns out
that Legasov knows. CRAIG: Right. PETER: And he’s always known. PETER: That somewhere
in the back of his mind he knew that it wasn’t… completely inexplicable
how this reactor blew up. And we end the episode… looking forward
to this Vienna conference. CRAIG: Right. PETER: So at this point we’re,
I don’t know how many months– Well, at least nine months
after the accident, because of course,
the last image we have is Lyudmilla without her baby. Nine months later,
there’s gonna be a conference, I know it’s in Vienna
this conference about atomic energy.
And Legasov is going to go and a discussion
happens about… -telling the truth.
-CRAIG: Yeah. VALERY LEGASOV:
They’ll go after your family.They’ll go after your friends.ULANA KHOMYUK:You have a chance
to talk to the world, Valery.If that chance was mine.LEGASOV:
But it isn’t, isn’t it?I’ve known braver souls
than you, Khomyuk.Men who had their moment
and did nothing.Because when it’s your lifeand the lives
of everyone you love…your moral conviction
doesn’t mean anything.It leaves you.And all you want
at that moment…is not to be shot.PETER: And that’s a really
powerful moment. Because we’re talking about
the value of telling the truth and standing up and telling
the truth no matter what. And Shcherbina, has this moment
that I thought was both, realistic to someone like him
and also profoundly true, i.e. ,”I’ve known braver men
than you. And when the time came for them
to tell the truth damn the torpedoes,
no matter the consequences, they couldn’t do it.
Because the consequences -are real.”
-CRAIG: Right. PETER: “This isn’t…”
If you’d excuse me, “…a movie. This isn’t where you stand up and tell the truth
and you get applauded and the credits roll.
This is where you stand up and you go to prison
and your family goes to prison.” CRAIG: And he’s right.
And he’s absolutely right and in fact, you know, one of the things
that was so remarkable about… Stellan Skarsgård is that
he understood instinctively that when he’s talking about,
“I’ve known braver men than you, who have failed.”
He’s talking about himself. Because every single
one of those people at some point or another -had a moment.
-PETER: Yes. CRAIG:
Where they could’ve done– Told the truth,
done the right thing,
been defiant… knowing full well,
that on the other side of that are bullets, or you know,
when they would disconnect you from everything
and denounce you publicly, put you on these show trials. He’s right!
So, what’s happened here is… a kind of devil and angel
on the shoulders of Legasov saying, “Listen… you can’t not tell the truth,
this has to stop, there are all of these
other RBMK reactors out there, this is going to happen again.”
And on the other side is, “What are you talking about? Tell the truth
will get you nothing! Nothing! It will be denied,
it will not be disseminated, all it will result in
is your punishment.” And they’re both right.
It is an untenable position for anybody to be in
and at that point what I hope
people are feeling… -PETER: Yeah.
-…and they haven’t seen episode five yet, so they don’t know
what’s coming… is… that he now, has to make
an impossible decision. -PETER: Right.
-CRAIG: And there may not be… -a good outcome.
-PETER: Yeah. CRAIG: Unlike most stories
that are fictional and are designed to uplift
or instruct… this one may not possibly have
a happy ending. -There may be no victory here.
-PETER: Yes. Right. CRAIG: So, that’s where I kinda
wanna leave people, I promise that… to those of you
who’ve come this far, episode five is going to be,
I think, the most enlightening and you will not
leave wondering. You will be certain at the end -about everything.
-PETER: Right! CRAIG: But right now,
you should be in uncertainty because this man faced
what I think, is one of the great dilemmas
of all time. PETER: Yes. And he really did.
It’s interesting, we’ve talked about before
how you choose not to show Legasov’s family,
his social circle, and they existed, he had a wife,
he had kids; we don’t see them. And for clarity and simplicity,
that was a wise choice, but it’s easy to forget when you’re looking
at Jared Harris, an actor, playing this part really,
really well… that the real person
was a real person. That he had very,
very strong incentives not to rock any boats. -CRAIG: Absolutely!
-PETER: Just as Shcherbina says, -you think about your family–
-CRAIG: Your friends, your family, your status,
your position, your job, your identity, I mean, you know,
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need to belong,
this is the first
psychological need we have. That’s what they take from you.
Right off the bat. And against that… the noble path -probably is pointless.
-PETER: Yes. CRAIG: There is no
actual victory there, it’s probably
only a Pyrrhic victory. So, it’s really difficult
but at the same token when Khomyuk tells him
what happened to Lyudmilla’s baby,
what she’s driving home here is, -“This has to stop!”
-PETER: Yeah. That was another thing
I was really curious about, if you look at the way,
that we’ve ended, you’ve ended, the prior three episodes… fairly dramatic.
The first episode, people playing
and what they don’t know is a poisonous atmosphere,
bird falls from the sky, go to black.
Second episode, these men trying to literally save
the world… -CRAIG: In the dark.
-…in the dark and their flashlights go out.
Black! Episode three, the burial of these men,
who we’ve seen die. The concrete rising up
over their coffins pretty serious.
This episode ends with a bereft woman
alone in a room. CRAIG: Yeah. The ending
of this episode is essentially -an expression of the truth.
-PETER: Right. CRAIG:
The truth is that these… young men were sent
to this place to be radiated the truth is that women
lost their children and there’s other
brutally difficult and sad and heartbreaking stories
inVoices of Chernobyl.One in particular about a man
who loses his daughter and… (STAMMERING) it’s tragic
and it is ongoing… -PETER: Yeah.
-…it is true. There is no happy ending
there for them. There is no narrative close,
right? It just goes on. That pain goes on. -PETER: Yeah.
-CRAIG: Forever. PETER: So the question now
for the characters who still have decisions
to make is, “What do I do now
in a world with that?” -‘Cause that is now
part of fact.
-PETER: Right. So, we leave episode four
with the stakes very clear and the choice very difficult… facing our scientists
and our principal characters… and we’ll find out what happens
and we’ll also find out what happened at Chernobyl
in episode five, when we’re back next week. This has been
The Chernobyl Podcast,talking about episode four
of theChernobylminiseries on HBO and on Sky,
I am Peter Sagal and I’ve had the honor
of talking about the show with its creator, Craig Mazin. You can listen to this podcast
which I assume you know, because you’ve been listening
to it, via Apple Podcast, Spotify,
Stitcher, NPR One or wherever else you choose
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just tell everybody, that this is something they need
to do, ’cause you’ll be wanting to talk about it
when you see everybody this weekend. We will be back,
next week, with the final episode
ofThe Chernobyl Podcast,talking about the final episode
ofChernobyl.-Thank you, Craig.
-CRAIG: Thank you, Peter.