Vikings (2012)

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Released 6-Feb-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 177:08
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jon Eastman
Rosie Schellenberg
Simon Winchester
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Neil Oliver
Case ?
RPI ? Music Ty Unwin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Neil Oliver is a journalist and archaeologist who has previously presented TV shows including Coast, A History of Scotland and A History of Ancient Britain. In this series, Vikings, he sets out to examine the reality behind the myths about the Norsemen, and the truth about their lives. For example, he points out that the horned helmets, so beloved of Viking films, are a modern invention.

     Presented in three episodes, Vikings is Oliver talking to the camera as he travels, by train and boat mostly, around modern Europe, including Scandinavia, the British Isles, Russia, Iceland and Turkey, looking at the artifacts and treasures the Vikings left behind and examining their legacy. There are a few other talking heads, mainly academics, but their contributions are brief.

     The three episodes are:

Episode 1 (59:11)

     The Age of the Vikings did not just arise from nothing, and in episode one Oliver travels to Scandinavia to look into the roots of their culture and beliefs. The longship was the technological advance that propelled the Vikings across Europe, and Oliver views the Oseberg Ship in Oslo (c.820 AD), but he also travels to the island of Gotland in the Baltic to see rock carvings of similar ships dating from 1500 – 1100 BC as well as the Ansarve Stone Ship (1000BC). Scandinavia has a varied geography, and Oliver visits the fertile, grain producing area in Denmark, including the Borum Eshoj burial mounds (1350 BC) and the 3,000 year old skeletons in the Copenhagen museum, complete with clothing and hair. Clearly, there was wealth in southern Scandinavia during the bronze age.

     While Roman arms and culture dominated most of the rest of Europe and brought law, literacy and roads, the north was unaffected. The wealthy men from Scandinavia did trade with Rome, and Oliver looks at the artifacts in the Hoby Burial Hoard (c.40 AD), but the Scandinavians were outside the spread of Christianity and kept their own religion and their own beliefs; it was a culture where reputation in this life was all important, rather than moral values. The Gamla Uppsala Burials (550-700 AD) near present day Stockholm provide evidence of a centralisation of power. The age of the Vikings was about to begin.

Episode 2 (58:59)

     In episode two Oliver tracks how the Vikings created a trading empire that stretched from Ireland to Constantinople. There were Viking settlements in Russia from 753, a generation before any Viking raids on Britain, and Oliver examines the Viking artifacts in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg before heading for Istanbul, showing on the way how the Vikings portaged their longships when journeying down the Russian rivers. In Istanbul, he points out the Viking runes scratched into a railing in the great church of Hagia Sophia, evidence of Norsemen in the Ottoman Empire. Back in Scandinavia, he visits Birka Island off Stockholm, Sweden. Birka was a trading centre and Oliver examines the evidence of eastern luxury goods, including silk, found in the burial mounds. These luxury goods were paid for, in part, by the export of slaves from the British Isles. Oliver then travels to Dublin, a city founded by the Vikings in 841, in its time one of the largest slave markets in Europe.

     In 793 the Vikings sacked the Lindisfarne monastery in what is the first recorded raid by Vikings in Britain. At that time Britain was divided into 4 kingdoms, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex, and by 873 all but the last had fallen to the Vikings who created the Danelaw, with York as its capital. Oliver visits Oxford, York, Derby and Repton examining artifacts, including skeletons and grave goods, and outlines the impact, including language, the Vikings have had on northern England until the present day.

Episode 3 (58:58)

     While the Swedish Vikings had headed east to Russia and Constantinople, and the Danes to Britain, the Norwegians launched their longships into the North Atlantic. Oliver travels first to Shetland to look at the Viking settlement at Jarlshof (800- 1300 AD) before going further afield to Iceland, and the remains of Viking settlement there (c.872 – 1104). He also samples the food, including rotten shark, in a Viking themed restaurant and discusses the Icelandic Althingi, which first met in 930 AD, as the first example of a form of democracy in modern Europe. From Iceland, the Vikings journeyed to Greenland, Newfoundland and the east coast of America, but there remains no evidence of settlements.

     Back in Scandinavia, the Jelling Royal dynasty in Denmark was centralising power, and building large defensive works such as the Trelleborg Fortress (980AD). As well, Christianity was coming to the north and Oliver examines some of the earliest Christian graves in Scandinavia at Ribe, Denmark dating from 850 D. Then in 970, King Harald of Denmark converted to Christianity and made his subjects also Christian. All the other European kings were Christian, and this act effectively marked the start of the end of the Age of Vikings, and ushered in an age where Scandinavia became part of wider Europe.

     But Oliver does not stop there. By the end of the 900s the Danes had lost control of northern England. In 1013 King Sweyn of Denmark launched a full scale invasion of England, which was successful. His son, Canute the Great (d.1035), born a Viking and a Dane of the Jelling Dynasty, become king of England, Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden, and a player in greater European politics; on his death Canute was buried, not in a longship, but in Winchester Cathedral. The Vikings were now fully integrated into Europe.

     In trying to look at the reality of the Vikings, and their world through their eyes, this series has set itself a difficult task. Outside the orbit of the Greco-Roman world, the Vikings were mostly not literate, so while they are mentioned in Anglo-Saxon and even Arab historical works, they do not speak for themselves. As a consequence, Oliver is required to turn to archaeological remains, artifacts and treasures and interpret what he can. The result is fragmentary, made more so by the spread of the Vikings across Europe so there is the need to tell almost three separate stories, as the Swedes went east, the Danes west and the Norwegians north west. The result is a series that sometimes feels disjointed as it jumps from place to place.

     Nevertheless Oliver is an enthusiastic and engaging presenter. Vikings also is enlivened by some sweeping camera moves across fjords and mountains, some glorious natural scenery and its dramatic and varied music, courtesy of composer Ty Unwin. However, the scope of the series, the lack of written records and the scattered and fragmentary archaeological evidence means that the series does lack some cohesion. In the end we don’t really get a feeling of the reality of ordinary Viking lives as there is just not enough evidence.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Vikings is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a good print. Sharpness, blacks and shadow detail are excellent. Brightness and contrast are consistent while skin tones are natural. Colours are deep and vibrant, beautifully rendering the landscapes of Scandinavia and elsewhere. There is some very minor motion blur with movement but otherwise marks and artefacts are absent.

     English subtitles are available. Subtitles also come on to translate the few sections of non-English dialogue.

     The layer change at 42:43 in Episode 2 created a slight pause on my equipment.

     A good print, perfectly acceptable for a recent TV series.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 224 Kbps. There is also an English Audio Description with the same specifications.

     The narration is clear and easy to understand, even given Oliver’s Scottish accent. This is basically a talking head documentary but the music by Ty Unwin is quite dramatic and is noticeable in the rear speakers, giving a nice feel to the audio presentation. That is not a criticism as the music adds to the visual experience. The sub-woofer is not used.

     As this is mostly direct to camera speech, lip synchronisation is not a problem.

     The audio is good, with better than usual music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is the option for audio navigation when the disc loads. Pressing enter on the remote activates a woman’s voice explaining the menu options. Selecting an episode automatically sets the audio track to descriptive audio.

     There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 2 UK release of Vikings looks identical to our Region 4 release. I cannot currently find any listing of a Region 1 US release. Buy local.

Summary

     In this BBC TV series presenter Neil Oliver travels around Europe to examine the reality behind the myths about the Norsemen. I am not convinced that the series succeeds in its stated aim, but Oliver is an enthusiastic and engaging presenter and the show is enlivened by some sweeping camera moves across fjords and mountains and its dramatic music.

     The DVD comes with good video and audio. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, March 09, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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