10 March 2008 | silverblue-4
The Thoroughly Modern, enthusiastic series for "Generation Y"
A sad fact of life these days seems to be a lack of interest displayed by "Generation Y" for historical studies. There has been a noticeable decline in the numbers of High School students who wish to continue studying history into tertiary level; the events of 200 years ago seem remote and uninteresting - anything further back is too far to look.
The reason why Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery is so important is that it is intended to speak to these young people; to help enthuse and excite curiosity about events which were and still are so important to the history of the world. It is a series which is clearly not meant to satisfy died-in-the-wool historians, with, for instance, detailed analysis of the workings of late 18th century sailing ships. For example, Vanessa Colleridge refers to the rigging of the Endeavor as looking like a "Spider's party". Cringe! As someone who enjoys the wonderful writings of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series of books I find this somewhat frustrating. However, information on the Endeavor's rigging can be found elsewhere, and I know where to look.
The insights provided by the likes of Professor Andrew Lambert and Emeritus Prof. Robert Clancy add valuable ballast to the programs. Fortunately Colleridge allows their opinions to flow without the ignorant interruptions which can so often destroy the value of having such people included. The overuse of hyperbole and an occasional drift into the shallow waters of cliché can jar and the sudden switches in location can be confusing. However, I cannot fault Colleridge's depth of knowledge, and her enthusiasm is obvious and infectious. The quality of the re-enactments is high-class and the overall production is very good, with the locations chosen providing good background to the historical content. As for the overwhelming PC-ness which has been claimed elsewhere? PC has itself become a comfortable, politically correct term which is nowadays mostly abused and overused by people who don't like certain points of view. There is nothing overwhelmingly PC about admiring a woman who had to stay at home and watch several children suffer and die, with her husband thousands of miles away. Even historians should be allowed some degree of compassion and empathy.
IMHO Vanessa Colleridge has succeeded in creating a series which, it is to be hoped, will engender an interest and enthusiasm amongst the intended "Generation Y" audience for further study of the life and times of Captain James Cook, and his all-to easily overlooked wife Elizabeth. For this reason the series deserves a good pass mark