Captain Sir John Franklin was the Captain of the HMS Erebus and the leader of the failed Franklin Expedition. A British Royal Navy Officer and Arctic explorer, Sir John was a devout Christian and servant of the Empire, with his loyalty to both being the driving forces of his life. As an officer Sir John was well liked by many, however his past failures, namely his failed arctic expedition and his dismissal from the governorship of Van Diemen's Land, have led many of his colleagues to lose respect for him, something Sir John seeks to rectify by successfully navigating the Northwest Passage.
Sir John's past is slowly revealed through flashbacks and conversations between the crew. Sometime before the Franklin Expedition, Sir John had led a prior expedition to the Arctic on foot. The expedition however ended in failure, with numerous men dying from starvation or the cold and Sir John himself only surviving by eating his shoes and scraps of wildlife. Despite this failure however he was appointed to the governorship of Van Diemen's Land. Later however he was dismissed from office, allegedly due to a rival "playing politics" against him. Following his dismissal Sir John lived in disgrace and failed to achieve in notable posts until he was offered leadership of the latest expedition to the Arctic. Surprised and thankful to be offered this position due to his age (Sir John was 59 years old when he was offered leadership) Sir John viewed the expedition as his last chance at redemption and towards reestablishing a good reputation. Thus Sir John sought to succeed by any cost necessary, as the success of the expedition was his only chance to rebuild his reputation.
Sir John lived with his wife and niece, acting as a father to her. This caused him to develop a strained relationship with fellow arctic explorer Captain Francis Crozier who was courting Sir John's niece but whose propositions had been turned down repeatedly. At one point Sir John, at a family dinner, commented on how Crozier (being an Irishman) was unfit for marrying into their family. This comment was overheard by Crozier himself, who exchanged a stare with Sir John before leaving his manor.
In the Show
His first appearance is in episode one at the bow of H.M.S Erebus, walking port side down the ship being greeted by various crew members, then James Fitzjames tells john that daily compass observations are becoming bizarre, and Sir John tells him that its fine because the magnetic North travels miles every day, then a few seconds later second master Henry Foster Collins says that H.M.S Terror is signaling for an ice report by Francis Crozier, after that he says to not send James Reid but Erebus' officers will have dinner on Terror, later he greeted by Edward Little on to Terror; next he is seen when James Fitzjames is telling his story of how he was shot in by a Chinese; then Sir John is talking about how upcoming ice isn't apart of summer ice break up, and gives the strait that they are taking should be named after Sir John Ross, after David Young's cough attack he is explaining to Francis Crozier about how scurvy isn't a problem for now, following this Alexander McDonald walks in to the room to tell Sir John that he gave Dover's powder, resting, controlled David's spasms, also that he has blood in his digestive system; shortly after he is loading himself on to a whaleboat, after we see David with Stephen Stanley he is seen with Graham Gore informing him of the damaged propeller on Erebus, afterward is seen at a play for a short time; he makes his next appearance when Henry Foster Collins is in the diving suit, then is seen congratulating him on what he has just done; after some time he is seen with the lieutenants discussing the ice, H.M.S Erebus' propeller, and Crozier idea to go for broke, after Young's burial he is seen giving a speech to the crew of Erebus; then is seen eating with Fitzjames pull a piece of lead out of his mouth, also is seen looking out into the frozen wasteland, he is last seen in episode one giving orders to Henry Le Vesconte to raise the anchor, James Reid to find out where they are in relation to king William Island, and John Gregory to draw the steam engine for winter.
He is first seen in episode two when he is with John Gregory talking about the state of the steam engine on H.M.S Erebus, but then is talking with James Fitzjames about who's sledge party [ Graham or Le Vesconte] to find open water, and to put the locomotive in Sir John's journal, then he is seen in the background heading of the ships to see the sledge parties. He is later seen with Francis Crozier on H.M.S Terror to talk about summer break up, Crozier avoiding Erebus, to repair their friendship, and how Francis is worried about his ship. After Henry Goodsir is suggesting that they should find tracks of the alleged "bear" he is seen talking to James Fitzjames about how Crozier is resisting both of them, then blames himself on why Crozier is this way, seconds later John Bridgens walks in to the cabin to tell both of them that George Hodgson's lead party is back, also tells Sir John about the rotted tins, and how some of the men are with Stephen Stanley; then looks over the port side to see some of the crew playing football or soccer, after that is seen with lady Jane franklin, and Sophia Cracroft talking about Francis Crozier trying to marry Sophia. Afterwards he is seen look at Gore's lead party asking where Graham Gore is, he is seen a few scenes later when Henry Goodsir is operating on Lady Silence's father, after he dies Sir John tells James Fitzjames to take Silence off the ship, tells Stephen Stanley to restore the sick bay, tells Francis to stay on Erebus until they know what happened to Graham Gore, and is last seen when he calls in Henry Goodsir for interviewing.
His last appearance is in episode three when he first is mentioned when Henry Goodsir when the Shaman is thrown down the firehole, then is seen eating with the officers, but notices the absence of Graham Gore, then flashbacks to before the ships departed from England, afterwards Sir John Ross confronts him on the preparations for the expedition like if the ships are stuck in ice, a rescue plan; but quickly cuts to Lady Jane Franklin onboard H.M.S Erebus showing of Jacko the monkey, then back to Ross telling Sir John that nothing in the arctic grows or lives, and how he will eat worse then his shoes, after cuts back to Jabne reminding him of Van Diemen's land, in addition to that is how he was a great Governor, next is Ross telling him that death is slow where the expedition is going, also how that could cause mutiny, finally Jane tells him that when he comes back he will be better that everyone else, then he looks at his officers informing them of a divine service tomorrow on both ships, except for the ones in the hunting blind, we see him writing a note to Graham Gore, but when Francis Crozier walks in he asks permission to send a sledge party the Fort Resolution Sir John says no, but also gets angry at Francis because he thinks the sledge party will lower the mens morale, later he gets more angry at Francis for risking eight mens lives, next is seen approaching the hunting blind with Henry Goodsir with two undefined crew members; he is seen taking a photograph with David Bryant, Solomon Tozer, William Heather, also with those two undefined, when they go back in to the hunting blind he tells the marines present with him to be merciless to avenge Graham, also asks Goodsir to leave or stay, Goodsir decides to stay, but then David Bryant is lifted in to the air and thrown over the serac while the men fire at the Tuunbaq, afterwards Sir john starts calling for Erebus, so thats when James Fitzjames, and Crozier send marines, seconds later he is being dragged to the firehole having memories flashback to him has his legs ripped off then is thrown into the firehole, afterwards James is trying to save him but it is futile, later his leg is being bandaged up for the funeral, the funeral happens, and that is the end of Sir John Franklin.
Sir John, as a devout Christian and loyal British subject, was very well liked by his companions. However his previous failures had lost him their respect, and this caused him to believe that his last arctic expedition would be his final chance at glory and redemption. This influenced his decisions during the expedition itself, as often Sir John would refuse to delay or halt the expedition even if it was the safer option. This led him to make the fateful decision that stranded both ships in the ice, as Sir John, rather than reverse course and spend the winter in a Canadian harbor (which would delay the expedition) made the risky decision to continue forward and hope to get through the ice before the winter froze it solid, a decision which later resulted in both ships getting stuck. When presented with the option to send men to get help, Sir John also refused, as this would mean admitting his expedition was a failure. Sir John's refusal to admit the expedition was failing led him to place emphasis on trivial matters over important matters of safety, such as when rather than sending men to get help he instead dedicated himself to writing a eulogy for a dead crewman.
Sir John's dedication to his religion also led to him making some foolhardy decisions. His faith that God would see him through often led him to make irrational choices based on the belief that God would help him succeed no matter what. This often led him to comment that God would help him or his crew when faced with difficulty. For example, when Sir John and Commander Fitzjames heard the strain the ice was putting on the ship Sir John reassured Fitzjames they would succeed and commented that "Our loving father will see us through, whatever morning brings."
- Currently the whereabouts of Sir John's body is unknown.
- One of Sir john's medals, the engraved butt of a pistol, four spoons and five forks are the only remains that have currently been found of him