The Discovery Channel series "Treasure Quest" ("The Historic-est Catch"?) follows Odyssey Marine Exploration, which is an incredibly ambitious company that combs the bottom of the oceans in search of buried treasure and historic shipwrecks. The crew - made up of scientists, technicians, archeologists, engineers and many others - heads out with state-of-the-art equipment in order to try and hunt for history (and riches - not long before the show was filmed, the company managed to find a site that contained half a billion - yes, billion - in lost treasure.)
The find sent the company's stock soaring (albeit briefly), but then caused it to run into trouble with nearby governments (which I have to imagine is not an uncommon problem for those in the treasure hunting business - 15 minutes into the first episode, a French navy recon plane starts aggressively and what appears to the crew to be an intentionally intimidating fashion, flying over the ship in a way that violates law. Several episodes later, yet again, their ship is approached and questioned by a French coast guard ship. On some occasions, the details maps or computer screens are blurred, and one would likely believe that this is done to blur location details.
The episodes are structured similarly, with the crew - lead by company CEO Gregory Stemm and Tom Dettweiler (operations director of Robert Ballard's team that discovered the RMS Titanic) - heading out on a fleet of ships with the latest in exploration technology. The team is made up of a wide variety of individuals, from scientists to technicians to archeologists to technicians and many others. They have an ambitious goal for the season of finding two major shipwrecks.
The episodes watch as the search for the particular wreck highlighted in the episodes proceeds. Early on, the episodes often provide a background of the history of the ship, complete with CG visuals or other material (such as a look at the story of U-Boat 988.) From there, the crew discusses the situation and prepares a plan for the best way to approach the site without disturbing it or causing other problems with the wreck.
Advanced radar and visuals filmed by ROV's (remote operated vehicles) allow the crew to get a better idea of what they are dealing with. As seen in nearly episodes, operating the remote controlled vehicles is a delicate and tense process. Additionally, later in the episodes, we often see members of the crew inspecting finds and trying to investigate the history of the piece - in one scene, we follow a lead ingot found by the crew as it goes back to the states for analysis as to whether or not the ingots are valuable. Soon after, the crew gets the news: the ingots found may be worth as much as $3M or more. In a remarkable episode late in the season, the crew comes across a ship full of old champagne bottles - bottles that are sealed and may be valuable.
While the end result and process of looking for historic artifacts and/or treasure is often fascinating, shows in the past have occasionally been overly dry or have been edited in a way that's too loose (or focused too much on the downtime moments in-between exploration). "Treasure Quest", on the other hand, is tightly edited and tense, moving from one aspect of the exploration to another smoothly and quickly, without bypassing the insights and information. Additionally, the fact that many crew members are characters also helps.
"Treasure Quest" is a terrific show, providing an excellent balance of entertainment and education. Hopefully the series will continue for a second season.
• Season 1
1 1-01 15/Jan/09 The Merchant Royal
2 1-02 22/Jan/09 Pirates!
3 1-03 29/Jan/09 The Legend
4 1-04 05/Feb/09 Return to the Legend
5 1-05 12/Feb/09 Turning Lead Into Gold
6 1-06 19/Feb/09 U-Boats
7 1-07 26/Feb/09 Lusitania Revealed
8 1-08 05/Mar/09 Malta
9 1-09 12/Mar/09 The Liberty Ship
10 1-10 19/Mar/09 Mysterious Cargo
11 1-11 26/Mar/09 The Silver Queen
12 1-12 02/Apr/09 The Curse of the Black Swan
VIDEO: Image presents the Discovery Channel series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality remains consistently superb, as sharpness and detail were above-average at all times. A little bit of shimmer was seen on a few occasions, but the picture otherwise appeared smooth and stable, with rich, well-saturated colors.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, although the series - as one might expect - doesn't offer a particularly aggressive sound mix. Surrounds do kick in with the occasional ambience during the outdoor scenes or other background details. However, the audio is otherwise largely spread across the front speakers. Audio quality is quite good, with clear, well-recorded dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: A series of included webisodes ("We're Rolling What?", "Zip-Tie Animals Contest", "Hawk: The Hawkologist", "Bomb on Board", "Bowling and Beer Don't Mix", "Production Crew Confessions", "Doris the Sub", "Halloween Pranks", "Zeus", "Techie Tools" and "Lucifer's Hammer") are frequently goofy and rather forgettable (as one can tell from some of the titles - like "Halloween Pranks"), although some good behind-the-scenes technical details and insights on day-to-day work are found.
Four newsreel clips are also offered: "Odyssey Scours Ocean for Deep Sea Wrecks", "Top Technology Finds Piles of Treasure", "Ancient Treasure Restored in Modern Day Lab", "Cool Jobs: Shipwreck Explorer" offer some good insights. The newsreel clips are quite interesting - especially watching workers going through the restoration process in the lab - but don't go into great detail.
Final Thoughts: "Treasure Quest" is a terrific show, providing an excellent balance of entertainment and education. Hopefully the series will continue for a second season. The DVD set provides excellent audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Highly Recommended.