Through the combined efforts of Rae Smith (set), Bruno Poet (lighting) and Christopher Shutt (sound), we come face to face with the most powerful character in play - the environment. In 1912, at the time of Captain Scott's doomed race for the South Pole, the world's southernmost continent was no wealthy tourist destination; it still really and truly was the world's last unconquered wilderness. A place of majesty, wonder and also bitter austerity.
The creative team manages to recreate this ultimate of foreign lands but without gimmick, leaving plenty to our vivid imaginations. Smith's manholed plane of black ice flips and angles its way to form sheer drops, barren tundra and precarious cave ceiling, while Poet's twinkling stars and shimmer of an aurora australis and Shutt's howls of winds, seals and cracking ice provide a hauntingly chilly backdrop.
Also to Antarctica's advantage is a talented young ensemble, comprised of Mark Bazeley, Stephen Boxer, Darrell D'Silva, Jason Flemyng, Eddie Marsan and Ronan Vibert. All six men - who play a group cut off from their expedition with no winter clothing, only seven weeks of rations and six months away from the advent of spring and any hope of rescue - are highly watchable and engaging. Amongst the group, Bazeley (as group leader Campbell who, bizarrely at times, tries to enforce rules of Edwardian social protocol) and youthful Alan Rickman-lookalike Vibert (as the doctor keeping the peace) stand out from the rest, thanks to a few lengthier exchanges in their favour.
And what then of David Young's script? Well, on the plus side, it's a fascinating premise to tap into what's described in the programme notes as "one of the great epics of polar survival" and an admirable aim to honour these "authentic" but "forgotten" heroes. But - and here's the rub - the promise on paper belies some big problems in practice.
Like the characters themselves, Young's story is trapped in a cave and going nowhere - very very slowly indeed. The so-called plot is summed up with an initial discussion in which the doctor predicts that the group's biggest challenge will be combating mental torpor. Sure enough, over the next six months (ie two and a half hours), we watch as, one by one, the men lose their marbles - and none too spectacularly either. There's paranoia, a few class-conscious spats and a hint of mutiny; but all of these simmer then subside, never coming anywhere close to boiling point. And, ultimately, the most interesting questions - how exactly were they rescued? what became of them? and why were they abandoned by history? - are never really addressed.
So, for all in its favour, I'm afraid Antarctica left me cold.