At the gate and threat­en­ing

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Graeme Blun­dell

The His­tory Chan­nel has cer­tainly shrugged off its once de­risory la­bel as the Hitler Chan­nel, earned when it seemed to fea­ture noth­ing but black and white World War II doc­u­men­taries. It’s worked hard to change its im­age with trendy scripted se­ries such as Vik­ings, Hat­fields & McCoys and Sons of Lib­erty. Not all have been suc­cess­ful but they are cer­tainly am­bi­tious entertainment.

The lat­est is Bar­bar­ians Ris­ing. Pre­mier­ing across 185 ter­ri­to­ries, it’s am­bi­tious, lav­ish and com­pelling view­ing, a kind of pe­riod doc­u­men­tary pro­pelled by re-en­act­ments done in the sexy style of Game of Thrones. It’s the story of the fall of the Ro­man Em­pire told from the per­spec­tive of the bar­bar­ian lead­ers who de­stroyed it, a se­ries of im­pro­vised re­bel­lions against the na­ture of ab­so­lute power.

Bar­bar­ians, de­tested out­siders with­out civil­i­sa­tion ac­cord­ing to Rome, were great war­riors led by revered lead­ers such as Han­ni­bal, Spar­ta­cus, At­tila and the less well-known Frit­igern, the Goth who handed Rome its worst de­feat in cen­turies at Adri­anople, and they launched an epic bat­tle of re­sis­tance.

The first bar­bar­ian leader drama­tised is Han­ni­bal Barca, who chal­lenges Rome by march­ing his forces, a united army of dis­parate tribes, across the in­hos­pitable alps and into Italy.

The bat­tle scenes are won­der­fully chore­ographed and shot, the hun­dreds of ex­tras well-re­hearsed and the lead­ing ac­tors all de­liver their scripted lines with the ap­pro­pri­ate grav­ity. And the talk­ing heads who oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­rupt the ac­tion are an amus­ingly eclec­tic lot, not only his­to­ri­ans but arche­ol­o­gists, mil­i­tary lead­ers, Amer­i­can civil rights fig­ures and a chief ex­ec­u­tive who speaks about con­fi­dence in lead­er­ship.

Bar­bar­ians Ris­ing, Mon­day, 8.30pm, His­tory (611)

Han­ni­bal Barca is the first of the bar­bar­ians to be fea­tured in the His­tory Chan­nel se­ries Bar­bar­ians Ris­ing

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