Engrossing survey of sea ships may occasionally drag anchor, but the $ 2.5 mil, six-hour odyssey wends its way with increasing assurance gazing at a variety of subjects. Investigating vessels ranging from Cuban refugee rafts and Norwegian fishing boats to massive warships and awesome superliners, it’s educational TV with a flair.
The producers ably succeed in invading watery regions landlubbers can ogle from the comfort of an easy chair. Viewers get to stare from the captain’s perspective down the length of an unwieldy oil tanker in the Suez Canal and size up a container ship as it plows the Pacific.
Program, finished over a year ago, isn’t above shifting subjects in midstream or leaving stories unfinished; segs take side trips to look at historical figures or examine how jet planes finished off ocean liners, or look at the economic consequences of container ships on U.S. textile workers.
History sifts through the docu. Survivors of the Titanic recall that night when 817 steerage passengers died. Survivors of the Filipino Donna Paz disaster in 1987 remember too clearly how they lost loved ones. Amazingly, there are videotaped scenes of sleeping passengers packed aboard the ship before a tanker hit it; only 26 people out of 4,000 survived.
The romance of sailing wanes because of computers and satellite technology. Reassuringly, there’s an encouraging look at Swahili and Arab traders still plowing their dhows down the African coast to Kenya.
The series, supported beautifully by a score by Michael Whalen, cunningly covers the seven seas. The Beta videotaping is sharp and sometimes stunning.
At one point it’s noted that taking a container ship across the wide Pacific is now like using a freeway. Yet there are oil spills, there are unaccountables, and there’s the sea, which shouldn’t be counted out as Neptune minds his domain.