In order to look at The Real Vikings Collection, we have to examine each of the three specials separately, because they have no connection to each other besides their subject matter. The first special – “Foot Soldiers: The Vikings” – strives to dispel common misconceptions about Vikings. The second – “The Vikings: Lost Worlds” – focuses on Viking technology and other innovations. The third – “Viking Terror” – looks at Viking warfare, including battle techniques and weaponry. The latter two specials are legitimately interesting; taking a serious look at Viking life and breaking down what made them such effective warriors. The first special on the other hand, employs moments of broad humor to try to take a fun look at the Vikings and appeal to a larger, younger audience. Seeing Richard Karn (Home Improvement) pretend to surf against a green screen while drawing a thin connection to Vikings sailing across the seas to destroy their enemies is not an example I would use to explain a serious or interesting documentary.
On top of this first special’s content problems, it’s an extremely ugly looking piece of television. I would guess it was produced sometime in the mid-1990s, using awful reenactments of Vikings flaccidly trying to kill each other with swords and axes, as well as archival footage from various films about Vikings. Plus, the documentary special spends a lot of its time trying to convince its audience that Vikings did not actually wear horned helmets. Personally, if a history channel special on Vikings tells me that they didn’t wear horned helmets, and then explains where this misconception could have possibly come from, I’d be satisfied. So, for this to spend so much time explaining how it’s not true, it starts to feel like a high school research paper on the Vikings, where the student is painfully under-researched and looking for any way possible to fill the length requirement. Case in point, the third special, which is hosted by a former green beret also confirms that Viking helmets did not have horns, and where that belief comes from, and then he moves on to walk us through the design of an actual Viking helmet and how practical it was.
Having this third piece hosted by a green beret does make it more fun and interesting than the second special, which is fascinating, but strictly informative. Special 3 on the other hand sees our host, Terry Schappert, getting his hands dirty and trying out the various weapons the Vikings had at their disposal. There’s even a legitimately funny moment when he’s sailing a long boat; he talks about how thrilling it is to feel the wind fill the sail and launch the boat forward, and he says that he can understand why the Vikings set out to conquer with such ruthless passion if this is what it felt like.
No special features.
Available on DVD from Lionsgate on March 12.