Robert Munro

author • photographer • raconteur

Robert Munro

author • photographer • raconteur



It’s raiding season again

It is that time of year again when we finally get some good telly.

For most people that means the eagerly awaited Game of Thrones but for those of us who have read the books I don’t think it reveals any spoilers to say that it will tend to meander for a season or two. When it comes to a bit of medieval hack and slash the real television is online. The real television is Vikings.

It has not had the liberty of a terrestrial release here in the United Kingdom so it is not that well known. For those televisual connoisseurs who like to hunt down the best of what Uncle Sam has to offer, a la Breaking Bad, then this is a real treat. If you like historical drama, real historical drama, then I would highly recommend Vikings.

You see Vikings is made by The History channel, those nice people who make documentaries. It is their first venture into historical drama, allowing fictional writing to create a scripted work of entertainment that is set in a real historical setting. It turns out that Vikings is set in the period of, well, the Vikings. More accurately the dark ages spanning 750 – 900 AD.


It is actually a perfect age of history to try this sort of experiment. Even the academics will admit that there is a shortage of accurate source material to work with from this period and the fact that the originating material is from legend, primarily Nordic folklore, means that the excellent writing team has perhaps more leeway to wander than the Roman period or the French Revolution. It is not called the dark ages for the fun of it.

Coming from a documentary background means that there is certainly an attempt by the producers to retain some form of authenticity. The sets, costumes and props naturally suffer from modern intrusion but it has a feel to it that production has really made a genuine attempt to recreate that period, at least in terms of what a public audience can assimilate. I had a good look for the digital watch but I think this is a sincere attempt to mix entertainment with real historical learning and I applaud them for it.

Saying that they don’t always get it right. It was the Saxons that fought with a shield wall, not the Vikings. The real strength of the Norsemen was their ships, mobility and raider mentality. If they jumped off their boat and there is a whacking great army in front of them they were far more likely to jump back in the boat and go somewhere else. Pitched battles were not a regular thing in this period but I suppose that doesn’t make good telly. Pillage, rape and then run away is not going to get you much in the way of ratings.

The story itself is based around the mythical figures of Ragnar Lothbrok and his shield maiden wife Lagertha. Their mythical story is one of the pillars of Norse tradition, providing the basis for the first raids west and the core founding legend of the Scandinavian monarchy. Think of a blonde, bearded and more bloody King Arthur.

There is also the addition of the character Rollo. While based on an absolutely verifiable historical figure and played very well by Clive Standon it is an interesting thought that he is the direct ancestor of our very own Queen Liz. Something to think about as he is lopping off the occasional head. The real Rollo lived well outside the period setting of the series but he does bring a certain level of action and intrigue, not to mention a hefty six pack for the ladies.

Worth watching

All of this is very entertaining and very well produced. The scenery is breath taking, the acting first class and the battle scenes brutal and exhilarating. It is not just rippling muscles and blood soaked gore as they have also done a very good job of capturing the mystical elements to the tale. The seer is a revelation.

So definitely one of those box sets worth curling up with for a weekend. The third series will premiere on the 17th of February stateside and it should be available here online around the same time. I catch it on Amazon Prime Video so you can get it here in the UK online. The good news is that there is 20 hours of quality television from the first two series just sitting on a DVD somewhere waiting to be watched.

So break out the battle axe and jump in your longboat. You won’t be sorry. Unless you end up in Valhalla. Odddiiiinnnnnn……

Ragnar Lothbrok Vikings
Ragnar Lothbrok trying his hand at diplomacy