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The Dark Ages
Reviewed by
Andrew Proverbs
on
The Dark Ages DVD Review. ‘The Dark Ages’ offers an encyclopaedic look at a very turbulent period of history. It tells its story plainly and honestly, sticking to the barest of facts.
Rating:
3.75

Feature 7.5
Video 7.5
Audio 8.0
Total 8.0

Distributor: Magna Home Entertainment
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Reviewer: Andrew Proverbs
Classification: M15+

7.5


The Dark Ages

If you don’t know your European history, here’s a chance to brush up: ‘The Dark Ages,’ a feature-length documentary from the History Channel, sets out to document and summarise one of the most formative periods in the continent‘s past.

 The scope of this program is very large. It takes into account the slow destruction of the Roman Empire, and then relates the events of the next several centuries, including the incredible comeback made by the Byzantines, and the later invasions of Vikings and steppe tribesmen.  

The story is told in a no-nonsense manner by narrator RJ Allison, with the aid of lavish CGI maps and timelines. Each period in time is depicted with the use of actors, often working with elaborate props and sets. Everything is given a suitably grimy and grainy appearance, in keeping with the tone of the subject matter.  

These acted scenes are interspersed with comments from experts in European history, who are always ready to chime in with an intriguing, humorous or downright gruesome bit of information. We are introduced to torture methods with such creatively macabre names as ‘The bloody eagle,’ or ‘the ordeal.’ And just in case you’re wondering, those are just as gory as they sound.  

The series does a good job of stripping away whatever romantic notions you might have had about medieval Europe: In reality, we are told, Knights were not chivalrous gentlemen but thuggish mercenaries. And the purpose of stone castles was less about protecting the kingdom and more about intimidating the local farmers.  

The structure of the narrative can be erratic, because it has a habit of jumping from one century to another and then back again, in pursuit of some tangent or another. Thankfully things becomes less excited and more logical later on, and the show becomes easier to watch. 

Special Features: 

The sole bonus feature is an exploded look at an area that was only briefly touched in the main program: The Plague. This episode continues in the same format as ‘The Dark Ages,’ although it has received a slightly lower-budget treatment. For some reason they’ve opted to go for a narrator who sounds like he should be doing the voice-over for a B-Grade horror movie instead of a serious documentary, but there is still some valuable (if grisly) information to be gleaned. 

Closing comments:  

‘The Dark Ages’ offers an encyclopaedic look at a very turbulent period of history. It tells its story plainly and honestly, sticking to the barest of facts. It has a lot of informative value, and should appeal to anyone with a keen interest in history. Although I probably wouldn’t watch it over dinner. 






 
 



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