Is National Geographic’s latest hit drama series ‘The Hot Zone: Anthrax’ a true story based on real world events or is it a work of fiction?

National Geographic may not be known for their drama series, but the likes of Barkskins, Genius and most recently The Hot Zone is now changing that perception.

The first season of The Hot Zone aired back in May 2019 to a fabulous global reception, returning for its latest story ‘Anthrax’ earlier this week.

The six-episode miniseries concludes this evening on National Geographic, but is The Hot Zone: Anthrax based on a true story?

National Geographic’s THE HOT ZONE | ANTHRAX Trailer

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National Geographic’s THE HOT ZONE | ANTHRAX Trailer
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How to watch The Hot Zone: Anthrax

The Hot Zone: Anthrax is exclusively available to watch through National Geographic and the Hulu streaming service.

Viewers who miss the television broadcast at 9 PM Eastern Time can catch up through the National Geographic website.

You can find more information about the number of episodes and finale here.

Is The Hot Zone: Anthrax a true story?

Yes, The Hot Zone is based on real events i.e., the 2001 anthrax attacks and subsequent investigation, although some scenes have been added for dramatic purposes including Daniel Dae Kim’s character Mathew Ryker.  

In the weeks following the 9/11 terror attacks, multiple letters containing anthrax spores were sent to several media outlets and senators, five people were killed and 17 others were infected.

Tony Goldwyn plays Bruce Edwards Ivins, who was a real microbiologist that was suspected by the FBI to be the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Ivins initially became involved in the investigation for his expertise in microbiology, examining both the real and hoax letters in mid-October 2001.

With the season finale of The Hot Zone: Anthrax set to broadcast later this evening, November 30th, we don’t want to reveal the entire story and spoil the series – there is a biography called ‘Mirage Man’ for those interested.

Speaking with EW on filming The Hot Zone: Anthrax during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Goldwyn said that “the fact that we were living through a pandemic while we were making a show about this was surreal.”

“There was a very interesting biography written about Bruce called Mirage Man, so that was my primary resource. Then there were three or four other books that focused a bit more on the investigation.” – Tony Goldwyn, via Entertainment Weekly.

How has The Hot Zone: Anthrax been rated?

With the final two episodes set to premiere later on this evening, The Hot Zone: Anthrax has received a decidedly mixed reaction from both fans and critics.

The miniseries is currently scoring an underwhelming 40% on Rotten Tomatoes 56%, on MetaCritic and a series average of 7.3/10 on IMDB.

The response from critics echoed a similar sentiment, with Indie Wire calling The Hot Zone: Anthrax “formulaic look back at the anthrax scare with nothing new to say.”

Despite low scores and unsatisfying reviews, the series has been loved by those who have stuck the initial few episodes out.

“It’s an interesting show because it showcases: 1) the lack of preparation to deal with a pandemic/epidemic situation (clearly hasn’t changed); 2) the uncertainty surrounding an initial outbreak relating to the actual agent, the measures of protection, the possible treatments… Really interesting to watch after COVID and I honestly can’t wait for the forthcoming season.” – User ‘inelr’, via IMDB.

By Tom Llewellyn – [email protected]

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