The warfare series is a staple of The History Channel's programming lineup. The quality of programming focusing on ancient warfare can run the gamut from the innovative, engaging and informative to the gimmicky, pop culture influenced fluff. "Warriors" is a straightforward title for a program that ends up taking a straightforward look at the tactics of a wide variety of cultures; however, rather than get a bunch of experts to narrate stock footage and/or reenactments, viewers are blessed with Terry Schappert, modern warrior and all around fantastic host.
The ten episodes that comprise the debut season of "Warriors" take viewers to familiar places and times, such as ancient Greece, but also stops will be made the Hawaiian Islands to examine the native martial art, Lua. What makes "Warriors" so much of a pleasure to watch is the host, Terry Schappert. Schappert is a Green Beret and combat medic, and he not only acts as the teacher to viewers, but also throws himself into the action any chance he can get. The result is a fascinating, real look at these different combat styles in action and Schappert is never short on genuine enthusiasm or respect for the cultures being studied. I find it interesting, the History Channel fails to advertise that Schappert is an anthropology major as his background here shatters the notion of a warrior only interested in combat. While there is plenty of discussion and demonstration of warfare techniques, there is always some investigation of the cultures themselves, often through the retelling of a famous battle.
The episode looking at medieval warfare stands out as good example of how the series approached familiar territory. We open with Schappert dueling with a modern day sword expert, before the famous battle, Henry V and his army's battle at Agincourt against seemingly impossible odds. As the code of chivalry is discussed and how Henry V would have to "redefine" that code to survive, we move onto more combat demonstrations, this time the longbow and a great example of Schappert's authenticity as a host shines. I've personally shot a longbow with a draw weight similar to the one Schappert fires here, and a big smile came across my face when Schappert admitted the weapon, despite it's simplicity takes great skill and strength. While Schappert's handling of the weapon was greater than mine, he let his humility shine when he admits his bow would have been used by a pre-teen boy, centuries ago. For a man of Schappert's accomplishments, the little things like this make for a show that feels honest and real.
Other episodes take a look at what I'd say are underappreciated forms of warfare, specifically the premiere episode focusing on the Mayans and later season episode focusing on the hand to hand combat of Hawaiian natives. In the Mayan episode, viewers are shown right away, that Schappert is dealing with very real forms of combat, and even demonstrations can be dangerous, as a graze from an ancient club, leaves a brutal gash that leaves our special forces medic host shocked. He doesn't let that injury dampen his spirits and the remainder of the episode is as informative and engaging as every single one that follows. In the end, I learned that the Mayans fought with simple but elegant weapons, were skilled tacticians, fearless, and their culture, while appearing mindlessly barbaric to modern society was well-structured. The reasons for which they fought end up being no different than the reasons other cultures before them and after them fought as well. However, their demise serves as a warning to all cultures: war is a tool and when misused can be irreversibly damaging.
By the time this collection of episodes wraps, we'll have followed Schappert through situations where he looked out of his element (i.e. the Vikings) to a closing episode that highlights modern special forces as well as early special forces in World War II. Even here, when Schappert has ample opportunities to make the focus on himself, the program instead focuses more on the Alamo scouts of WWII. This episode also serves a nice bridge from the ancient weapons used by the cultures examined in previous episodes to the high-tech gadgets of today's warrior. Even seeing the leap in technology from these WWII warriors to the warrior of Schappert's era is almost as astounding as the leap from Viking axes to Samurai swords. However, as Schappert reiterates many times, over all these men share ideals of brotherhood, commitment, and bravery. Last but not least, a respect for culture is threaded throughout the series, not only for the culture focused on, but often for their enemies.
As expected, The History Channel provides viewers with a "historically non-anamorphic" 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. Aside from the obvious antiquated presentation, the transfer is solid, with good color reproduction, a vital necessity as this series explores lush, green jungles in one episode, cold, grey coastlines the next, and the warm colors of Sparta later on down the line. Blacks are handled quite well as evident in an early episode highlighting night combat by barbarians.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track features crisp, clear dialogue reproduction, with a bit of added kick when the supporting score sneaks in. It's a well-balanced track and more than adequate for the type of program featured here.
Unfortunately, the special features department is anemic, consisting of only five, one-minute video reflections by Schappert on the first five episodes of the series. Finally, there is a brief, two-minute look at Schappert's military career; here again, Schappert's humility and natural enthusiasm stands out.
I had a blast watching this first season of what I hope will become a mainstay on The History Channel for the near future and found many of the 45 minute episodes to be over far too son. Schappert is far too good of a personality to let go after only ten episodes and there are many cultures I'd love seen examined. For history buffs and warfare buffs alike, this is deserves a spot on your shelf. Average audiences will likely find the series fascinating, if only initially due to Schappert's great skill as a host and educator, once he hooks you, the reward is the knowledge you'll walk away with. Highly Recommended.