In The ShowEdit
Irving first appears in episode 1 having dinner with Terror's officers and later attends a meeting discussing the pack ice ahead while playing with Jacko. In episode 2 he discovers William Gibson and Cornelius Hickey the hold of Terror to which Gibson replies they were searching for one of the ship's cats. Irving summons Hickey to caulk the captain's seat of ease due to a draft and leaves. Gibson is afraid Irving might report what he suspects might be homosexual behavior but Hickey believes a devoutly Christian man like Irving will be afraid to do so. He later appears to inform Captain Francis Crozier that the last of the lead parties searching for open water has been sighted and he is surprised to see the captain sharing a drink with Hickey.
In episode 3 Irving attends a meeting with Crozier and his fellow officers and Lieutenant Edward Little is concerned that the death of a Netsilik Shaman accidentally caused by Sgt. David Bryant will incur the native's wrath but Thomas Blanky assures him the Netsilik are too busy staying alive to wage an attack. Later Gibson confesses to Irving about his sexual relationship with Hickey but claims he was forced into it by Hickey. Irving later confronts Hickey and tells him he offered clemency to a man who was abused by a "devious seducer". Irving preaches to Hickey about how man's worst urges can be satisfied via Christian pleasures and being in the Arctic is an opportunity for Hickey to fix himself. After Sir John Franklin is killed later in the episode, Irving attends his funeral along with many other members of the crew.
Sometime before the beginning of episode 4, Irving checked on the canned provisions and discovered some had become rotten due to the poor soldering which Thomas Jopson informs to Crozier. Irving later attends a meeting with Crozier, Little, Captain James Fitzjames, and Dr. Alexander McDonald regarding the nature of the Tuunbaq and Irving remarks perhaps the indigenous people would know more about the creature. After Lady Silence is brought back by Magnus Manson, Thomas "Tom" Hartnell, Thomas Armitage, and Hickey without orders, Irving is present when Crozier restores order after hysteria breaks out due to her arrival. All of them except Armitage whose involvement remains secret are later sentenced to be lashed before the men which Irving attends. Afterwards he reports to Crozier about a poll Little took regarding how many men from Terror would like to berth on Erebus due to the increasingly precarious situation and states that all but 10 men will be transferring.
In episode 5, Irving orders Manson, Hartnell, and Hickey to put Frederick John Hornby's corpse in the dead room but Manson refuses due to hearing the voices of William Strong and Thomas Evans who were killed earlier. Irving tells Manson if he does not do as he's told, Irving will lock Manson into the dead room until he learns ghosts do not exist. Irving tries to get physical with Manson but Hickey steps in and assures Manson all he needs is more light. Later when the Tuunbaq attacks Terror, Irving and other men try to go up to assist Blanky who went up earlier but Irving is unable to get the door open as it has jammed due to falling debris. Eventually he and the others exit via the other hatch and help take down the creature with a cannon.
In the next episode, Irving briefs Fitzjames and some of the other officers regarding the remaining provisions and supplies how it is scheduled to run out within a year. Fitzjames orders Irving to inform the cooks to begin emphasizing salt meats in their menus more and not the canned foods and begin preserving all things portable for the eventual decision to abandon both ships and walk overland to safety. Fitzjames proposes a carnivale to celebrate the first sunrise of the new year and Irving later attends the festival singing "Hampstead is the Place to Ruralise". Crozier soon attends the carnivale himself where he makes the announcement to abandon both ships come spring and that the trek south to safety would around 800 miles. As Irving and others are listinging to Crozier's speech, a crazed Dr. Stephen Samuel Stanley immolates himself and sets the tents on fire.
In episode 7, the order to abandon both ships are given and Crozier orders Irving to give the word to start moving forward. Eventually Irving and the main group catches up with an advance party lead by Little and camp is set up. Later that night, John Morfin is in great pain and begs to be killed. He grabs a musket which promotes Irving and others to aim their weapons at him but Crozier attempts to diffuse the situation. Morfin intentionally fires his weapon almost hitting Fitzjames and is in turn killed by Tozer. The next day Crozier holds a command meeting in which he explains hunting parties are to begin as the canned foods are slowly killing them via lead poisoning. Little volunteers to head south while Irving goes East. In order to make up for a shortage of officers, Crozier promotes Jopson to Lieutenant much to the surprise and delight of Irving and the other officers.
Irving accompanies Lieutenant George Henry Hodgson and his hunting party but decide to split up to cover more ground. Irving takes Hickey and Thomas R. Farr with them and soon spot a group of Netsilik. Irving decides to approach them alone as to not scare them and there he introduces himself and speaks with their leader Koveyook. Koveyook gives Irving some fresh seal meat and in return Irving gives him his spyglass. Irving runs back to inform the others but find Hickey crouching over a downed Farr. Irving asks to know what happens but Hickey violently stabs Irving numerous times and smothers him. The episode then flashes back to before the expedition departed to which Irving welcomes Hickey on board and asks if he's ever been on a ship before.
Irving's mutilated corpse later appears in episode 8 which Hickey claims the deaths were caused by the Netsilik. Crozier asks Lady Silence if mutilating bodies like Irving's is how her people kill enemies to which she denies. Irving's stomach is later cut open by Doctor Henry Goodsir and the seal meat he was fed earlier is found proving Hickey's claims were a lie. Hickey is to be hanged for his crimes but an attack from the Tuunbaq throws the camp into disarray and Hickey along with his mutineers are able to escape.
In The NovelEdit
- John Irving's body was found by American army lieutenant Frederick Schwatka in 1878. It was later returned to the UK and buried in Edinburgh.
- A fork and a spoon belonging to Lt. Irving were recovered between 1854 and 1859.
- Ronan Raftery looks slightly similar to the real John Irving.