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DVD Review: Battlefield Detectives

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The Acorn Media Group specializes in packaging British television shows for the American DVD market. Of course, that is not all they do – the company also releases a great deal of educational material. In the case of Battlefield Detectives, Acorn has put together a three-DVD box set that offers the best of both worlds.

The Athena imprint is the home Acorn uses for its educational releases. Last year the company put out a couple of excellent documentary sets; The Making of the President: The 1960s, and Joseph Campbell: Mythos III.

Battlefield Detectives could be considered English historical programming. Although the show aired on The History Channel in the United States, it was produced by the ITV Studios – based in both London and Manchester.

The Battlefield Detectives set contains all nine episodes from the first season of the series (2003). As the name implies, the program investigates famous battles fought over the centuries by using three-dimensional computer models, maps, artifacts, and (in later years) actual footage. There are a great many dramatic re-enactments utilized as well.

One of the series highlights is its use of experts in a numerous fields, including geologists, climatologists, firearms experts, forensic scientists, and even psychiatrists. Taken together, all of this information provides very deep background for each of the battles discussed.

The historical sweep of the series certainly cannot be faulted. The first episode “Who Got Lucky at Hastings?” refers to the Battle of Hastings fought October 14, 1066. This was a decisive event in the Norman conquest of England, during which the English King Harold II was killed. Duke William II of Normandy emerged victorious, becoming King William I, the first Norman King of England. Using modern management theory the episode theorizes which of the two leaders was actually the better. 

It must have been quite a task to choose just nine battles from nearly 1,000 years of history. The series progresses through the 15th Century Battle of Agincourt, the sinking of the Armada in 1588, the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War in 1854, Custer’s Last Stand (1876), the Gallipoli disaster (1915), and finally Vietnam War during the 1960s.

There is a wealth of information contained in this set, and it is a truly fascinating way to learn about these pivotal events. Bonus features include a 16-page viewers guide, biographies of the major military leaders featured in the series, and online companion features at Athena.

All in all, this is a very satisfying set on several levels, and as is usually the case with Acorn Media product, very affordably priced. Although I hate the term “info-tainment” and what it implies, in this case it would not be inappropriate. Battlefield Detectives is both educational and entertaining – not an easy task. I am hoping that Athena will release the second and third seasons of this excellent program at some point in the near future.

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