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Featured TV on DVD Review: Deadliest Warrior: Season One

May 10th, 2010

Deadliest Warrior: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Deadliest Warrior is a scientific examination of the toughest fighters throughout history. It is the intent of the creators to impart real knowledge of what it was like to... okay, I can't continue any longer. Deadliest Warrior is a show for men who argue about who would win in random fights. This is about as scientific as James T. Kirk vs. Han Solo. (Don't get me started on that.) The show does treat the subject matter a little too pretentiously, but let's face it, it's here to entertain. Of course, if they screw up the fights, it hurts the entertainment value. So how well do they do?

The two-disc set has nine fights between warriors, usually generic one vs. one but sometimes historical figures or groups. They tend to follow the same format, first testing weapons while the experts smack talk. We see reenactments of the warriors using their weapons in the historical context. And then after the numbers are fed into the computer, we see a reenactment of what the computer says would happen.

There's a lot of interesting results here, but a couple of serious problems as well. Firstly, a lot of these battles remind me of the German Tiger tank vs. the American Sherman tank. The Tiger is better in nearly every regard, including the skill in which they were built. A well-maintained Tiger could last 20 years in battle conditions. Problem was, the average tank wouldn't last 20 months in real combat. It took so much time and resources to make a Tiger tank that even though they could take on 2 or 3 Sherman tanks at a time, they were usually outnumbered by a far greater ratio. Likewise, Vikings were the main fighters of their army. It was the Ashigaru that were the foot soldiers of the Japanese army, not the Samurai.

Secondly, there is the matter of stealth, which felt like it wasn't even entered into the equation. A Ninja would be able to kill a Spartan without the Spartan even picking up a weapon, because the Ninja would get the first blow and the Ninja would strike when the Spartan wasn't prepared. Also, a Ninja could use a poisoned dart at night and avoid a direct fight completely. The overall tactics used by the participants are not entered into the computer, which kills the realism. They do talk about this in the aftermath of this episode, but they dismiss the problem. 'It's Deadliest Warrior, not Deadliest Assassin." However, if one side would get the first shot in an ambush, that matters. Likewise, the Shaolin Monk would never get the first shot, as they were pacifists. Tactics really matter.

(The first two episodes also made errors when it came to treating armor and shots to the head. When it comes to chopping and crushing weapons, a blow to the head can kill, even if the helmet isn't damaged. For instance, the Apache Bear Club or the Viking War Axe could cause a concussion, even if it didn't damage the armor. And a concussion would result in death, even if it were indirect. Fortunately, they brought in a crash-test dummy with an accelerometer to fix that for later episodes.)

So, while I disagree with some of the science, it's still accurate enough to not impact the entertainment value. And it has strong entertainment value, for the most part. They could cut down on the smack talk, which quickly grew tiresome. Also, because it is a TV show, there's a lot of repetition. Each commercial break has preview of what was to come and a recap of what they showed. It's not as bad as some similar shows I've reviewed, but it was noticeable.

That said, if you have ever gotten into one of these arguments (even if you admit they are pointless) then this is a great show to watch.

Extras include Aftermath, which are the 10 to 15-minute post-game wrap-ups. They did mention some of the complaints I brought up and it is definitely worth checking out. Not only does each episode have these Aftermath extras, but there is also a multi-part first season wrap-up. In total, the running time is more than two hours, which is very substantial. On the other hand, there are no subtitles nor are there proper chapter placements.

The Verdict

Deadliest Warrior is not a show that you should watch if you want a scholarly discussion with 100% accuracy. It's a series of cool "What if" battles between famous historical warriors. It's overly macho at times and I don't think the simulation takes into account all the factors it should, but the slow motion testing is graphic enough to look really cool, and the reenactments have higher than expected production values. Add in all of the Aftermath segments, and there's more than enough on the Season One DVD to recommend to its target audience.

And the Ninja should have won. Poison dart to the back of the neck while the Spartan isn't ready. The fight ends there.

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