HBO's latest miniseries has been a veritable hit since it released. Chernobyl tells the compelling and tragic tale of the real explosion that occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Since the show is based on an actual event, there are key moments that reflect real-life happenings. Characters are based on living persons, locations are artfully recreated, and extraordinary actions are replicated for the average viewing audience.
However, since it is a television show, there are also moments, characters, and details that have been fabricated. Chernobyl, despite being a phenomenal story, is still a story. In order to provide tension and great depths of feeling, the show occasionally dips into the fictional. These "fake" parts don't necessarily detract from the series, but the average viewer should know when such parts occur. Read on if you want to know about the things Chernobyl got right and the things it completely made up.
20 Moon Rovers Helped Clear Out Debris (Got Right)
When Valery Legasov and Boris Shcherbina struggled to come up with a way to remove radioactive debris from Chernobyl's rooftop, they thought of an outlandish idea. They used moon rovers to shift the broken chunks of graphite from the roof. The rovers were light enough to move the material without breaking through the roof. This occurred in real life.
19 Legasov Attended The Trial (Totally Fake)
The climax of the miniseries occurs when Legasov attends the show trial of Anatoly Dyatlov and explains how the Chernobyl explosion happened. He makes a compelling case for how Soviet philosophy contributed to the disaster. In reality, Legasov never attended Dyatlov's trial.
18 Vasily Ignatenko Perished In That Manner (Got Right)
Many might wonder how dramatized the death of Vasily Ignatenko was in Chernobyl. The manner of his death was not that far off from the truth. The real Vasily perished from acute radiation syndrome, just like his fictional counterpart. That kind of death is not pleasant.
17 The Demise Of The People On The Bridge Of Death (Totally Fake)
The very first episode of Chernobyl terrified viewers with the "bridge of death" scene. After the explosion, people from the town of Pripyat watched the fires from a bridge not too far away. It is heavily implied that every one of those persons passed away. However, this has never been entirely confirmed.
16 The Exclusion Zone Was Only 30 Kilometers (Got Right)
After the Soviet government was forced to admit that the Chernobyl accident was more dreadful than they initially thought, they set up an Exclusion Zone, an evacuation area, if you will. In the show, the zone is set at only 30 km, and this is an actual fact. The initial Exclusion Zone was that small.
15 Zharkov As A Person (Totally Fake)
After the explosion, Soviet Party members discuss what the fate of the power plant will be. One older man, Comrade Zharkov speaks up in favor of keeping the people in the dark. This man was never a real person. He is a fictitious character. He was created as a sort of embodiment of Soviet ideals at the time.
14 The Divers' Lights Went Out (Got Right)
There is a troubling moment when three divers have to enter the lower levels of the Chernobyl power plant in order to drain some water. They only have flashlights to light their way, and the episode closes with each of their lights dimming and going out. Apparently, the real divers had to contend with this darkness as well, which only goes to show how scary that part of the series really is.
13 Legasov Was An Expert In Nuclear Power Plants (Totally Fake)
Valery Legasov is painted as a nuclear power plant expert in the miniseries. In actuality, Legasov was a renowned chemist. His area of expertise did not really lie with RBMK reactors as the very first episode highlights to viewers. In terms of story-telling though, it makes sense to have your protagonist able to explain scenarios to other characters and viewers at the same time.
12 The Miners Stripped Their Clothes (Got Right)
The doughty miners that were introduced to viewers of Chernobyl did exist, and that shocking moment when they took off their clothes while working around the power plant really happened. How much of their clothes they stripped off while working is still under contention.
11 Ulana Khomyuk As A Person (Totally Fake)
Ulana Khomyuk is presented to viewers as the voice of reason and truth throughout the entire miniseries. However, Khomyuk was never a real person. Her character was intended to embody the scientific community that was determined to alleviate the situation at Chernobyl after the explosion.
10 The Dog-Killing Task Force (Got Right)
The most heartbreaking part of Chernobyl for pet owners was when we spent time watching the Soviet forces tasked with exterminating the local animal life. Because of the radiation spilling out from Chernobyl, contaminated animals had to be eliminated. This "liquidation" really occurred after the explosion.
9 The Helicopter Crashed Because Of Radiation (Totally Fake)
While it is true that a helicopter crashed above Chernobyl (there is even footage of it), the miniseries made it appear as if severe levels of radiation downed the chopper. In actuality, the helicopter's blades caught on a nearby crane and that is the reason it fell down. Chernobyl elected to dramatize this moment.
8 Boris Shcherbina's Passing After Chernobyl (Got Right)
Boris Shcherbina started Chernobyl as a rather unlikable character, but his dedication to fixing the problem using the Soviet Party machine eventually won us over. His death did, in fact, occur four years after the Chernobyl accident. However, since Soviet doctors were not allowed to cite radiation as a cause of death, it is undetermined what caused Shcherbina's demise.
7 Lyudmilla's Location At The Start Of Labor (Totally Fake)
After her husband's death, Lyudmilla has to go through her pregnancy alone. The show places her at a park bench when she begins to go into labor. In reality, Lyudmilla was visiting her husband's grave when she began to experience those first few pangs. This is one instance where reality was infinitely more dramatic than its dramatization.
6 Layout Of The Chernobyl Power Plant (Got Right)
In terms of appearance, HBO's Chernobyl excels. The details of the nuclear power plant, the outfits of the characters, the geographical locations, all maintained a high standard of realism. Whatever liberties the series took with events and characters, the actual physical aspect of things was remarkably adhered to.
5 Divers Speed Through The Water (Totally Fake)
When the divers enter the power plant to drain the water, viewers have to shudder as they slowly make their way through the flooded hallways. Apparently, the characters' pace was much too sedate for the actual divers. One of them who watched the series stated that they moved through the hallways much faster than that.
4 "Biorobots" Shoveled Debris Off Roof (Got Right)
When the moon rovers eventually failed on top of Chernobyl's rooftop, Legasov and Shcherbina had no choice but to send humans up there. They termed them "biorobots," and these "biorobots" actually did exist. People loosely garbed in protective gear were sent to the roof of the plant for a limited time to shovel graphite and other bits of debris off the roof.
3 Protection For Lyudmilla Against Radiation (Totally Fake)
While Vasily Ignatenko died from acute radiation syndrome, the radiation he himself gave off was not as potent as the show might have led you to believe. The plastic sheets that appeared to "protect" Lyudmilla from Vasily's radioactivity were, in actuality, most likely there to protect Vasily's poor immune system.
2 Beam Of Light After The Explosion (Got Right)
After the explosion of Chernobyl, an eerie discoloration in the sky highlighted the dangerous radiation leaking into the air from the broken power plant. This occurrence was not fake. While it might have been focused on in the series to a heavy extent, the strange color of the light has been documented and studied.
1 Radiation Caused Spontaneous Bleeding (Totally Fake)
Chernobyl indirectly leads viewers to believe that highly irradiated objects can cause instantaneous bleeding. This is not entirely accurate. It is more likely that high temperatures caused workers to suffer external bleeding upon contact than high radiation. Those moments when the plant worker and the firefighter start to bleed are slight sensationalism.