1066 The Battle For Middle Earth Review: Bloody Good Show

May 18, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

THE BATTLE FOR MIDDLE EARTH, Channel 4, Monday 8th May, 9pm Alert Me

If you think English football hooligans are bad, you obviously don’t know much about the Vikings – the original away-day nutters. Nearly 1000 years ago, Viking raiders from Norway landed on these shores and literally went berserk taking over the north of the country. And we wonder where we get it from?

In 1066, three almighty battles changed the face of England and its people forever. It’s a period in English history that rarely gets a mention so Channel 4 have gone all Lord of the Rings in an attempt to recreate the period in a dramatic and stylish format.

However, it’s less Lord of the Rings and more Lord of the Low Budget. There’s fake blood by the bucket load and lots of screaming and sword clanging in forests but I couldn’t help but think that with a bit more to spend on extras, to make the battle scenes actually look like battles, this could have been something pretty spectacular.

In the first part of the two part series, we meet a group of lowly Anglo-Saxon farmers with names like Ordgar, Leofric, and Tofi. Having been recruited to guard the south coast from a Norman invasion during ‘fighting season’ all they now want to do is get home to their wives. But wouldn’t you believe it; word gets through of a Viking invasion in the North and those hundreds of miles of forests aren’t go to run themselves. Gutted.

What these lowly peasant folk and country bumpkins find when they reach Cleveland is a terrifying tribe of trained warriors and skilled tacticians who find the English to be a pushover bunch of nancy-boys. Their first clash with the English at Fulford was chronicled in the Dark Ages bestseller, Sagas of the Norse Kings; ‘The ditch at Fulford was so full of men that the Norsemen (Vikings) could go dry-foot over them.’

But what the English lack in size and ferocity they make up for in numbers and, some of the bloodiest battles ever fought, the Anglo-Saxons eventually emerge victorious. But as we all know, battles are like buses and while we were defending our northern shores guess who slipped in through the back door? That’s right brave men; put your running shoes back on. We’ve got a country to defend.

The Fight for Middle Earth is a very well delivered history lesson for those who don’t like being talked at by academics. Sure, some of the death scenes are over the top and there’s a lot of screaming, but if you found yourself in a forest in the middle of winter dressed in a skirt and facing a big bearded barbarian wielding a bloody axe, you’d probably scream too.

Jack McKay

Judith Tillson says:

I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment of the three famous battles through the eyes of the foot soldiers. It makes a refreshing change to the usual focus on top brass and royalty. I warmed to the characters and actually hated the Normans and felt poignancy at imagining what it would have been like for the Anglo Saxons to fight for their way of life. I loved the historical accuracy: they even used ‘destrier’ horses (carthorses) in battle.