Thursday, November 6, 2008

Whale Wars review (Animal Planet)

As some of you know, I've been exchanging text messages and announcing updates at Twitter. I started following Animal Planet there and won an advance copy of the pilot episode of Whale Wars. This is a Critter News Review.

I was really looking forward to this series since mai primate showed me an episode of Carl Sagan's interstitial science classic, Cosmos, and I learned that whales had a worldwide communication network thousands of years before we cats domesticated ourselves in Egypt. Too bad the engines of most ships are on a frequency that drowns it out. The whale history of long-distance communication makes my little vlog look way lame. But I digress.

The 7-part series filmed over three months in 2007 and 2008 documents the nearly annual campaign of Captain Paul Watson and the crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ship the Steve Irwin as they battle Japanese whale hunters off the coast of Antarctica. The laws in international waters are applied inconsistently by different countries. Japanese whaling ships claim to be hunting in the name of research, even prominently displaying the English word "research" on the sides of their ships. Sea Shepherd contends that the Japanese research vessels are a cover for commercial whaling.

This is not the kind of show you'll be interested in if you view animal rights activists as eco-terrorists. Sea Shepherd was founded by a guy who was kicked out of Greenpeace for being too radical.

In the premiere episode, the crew of the Steve Irwin is almost entirely comprised of newbie volunteers whose first major battle is with seasickness. Once they get their sea legs they go through a series of training exercises in how to throw Sea Shepherd's weapon of choice, the stink bomb, and get a crash course, literally, in freezing water rescue when a training accident goes terribly wrong, sending a few members of the crew overboard and damaging the helicopter they use for reconnaissance, effectively blinding them to the whereabouts of the Japanese fleet.

After 41 days at sea and a few nasty phone exchanges with a rival Greenpeace ship, they receive an anonymous tip that leads them to one of the harpoon ships. The episode starts and ends with a teaser promising hostages and gunshots.

While coverage of controversial subject matter like Whale Wars can easily slip into dry appeals for fundraising or a washed-out overview with little substance, after watching the first episode, this series has been well-presented, as we've come to expect from Animal Planet.

It is:

Educational, but prolly not good for very young children because there are some graphic images of whale slaughter and bleeped swears. If the subject matter is something you want your kids to learn about you should prolly watch it before they do.

Entertaining: The animation wasn't done yet so I can't comment on that, but the crew are a varied group each with their own opinions and they make for good drama with a few chuckles.

Non-preachy, although clearly one-sided because of the nature of filming it doesn't come off as a fundraising attempt.

and as for our wild-paw rating, I didn't want to get up to use the litterbox or get a snack, so one more paw for exciting. I was on the edge of my tower. Thats a purrfect 4-paw rating from Critter News for adults, 3-paws for kids because it gets a little bloody. This is the kind of reality TV I like. Humans actually doing something.

Whale Wars premieres Friday night, November 7th, at 9PM Eastern and Pacific on Animal Planet.

Animal Planet Whale Wars site
Watch video at Animal Planet.
For more on Sea Shepherd, visit their website.