The Crusades: Crescent and The Cross

The Crusades: Crescent & The Cross

This 3-DVD (or one Blueray disc) set from the History Channel looks at the first three Crusades, a period that saw the establishment of a series of short-lived Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land, the rise of Saladin, and the famous clash between him and Richard the Lion Heart.

The reconstructions are well handled. The main voice actors are used for the chroniclers, so speak the original (translated) words rather than any cheesy invented dialogue. The narrator speaks over most of the reconstructions, which have an effective stylized look to them, while the expert 'talking heads' are given clear time to themselves (including some sequences recorded in Turkey, Syria and around Jerusalem). Perhaps most impressively in a series that places medieval knights in a biblical setting there are hardly any Python moments (a lone hammer waved from below during the construction of a siege tower comes closest).

The experts are a well balanced group, with members from the United States, Europe and the Middle East, and as a result the programmes have a balanced feel themselves. A good range of topics are covered, including the poor relationship between the crusaders and the Byzantines, and the dangerous crossing of Anatolia. The atrocities committed by the crusaders after their arrival in the Holy Land also get good coverage.

The three DVDs cover the first three crusades and the periods between them, paying most attention to the first crusade. They are refreshingly free of the extended re-caps that blight many TV series and become especially noticeable after the ad breaks are removed. Here the programme makers have assumed that their viewers have a memory!

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