Plot: What’s it about?
The world has produced some incredible empires and structures, even in ancient times. The pyramids, the Parthenon, the temples of Greece, and Carthage’s naval force are all historical marvels, but how were the civilizations able to do so much with the technology available to them? In Engineering an Empire, host Peter Weller guides us through the world’s greatest empires and we learn how these empires crafted such impressive creations. The show combines on location photography, expert interviews, digital graphics, and even historical re-enactments to show us how these civilizations were engineered. Not just how they built structures either, but how they built the infrastructures of their societies. From Egypt to Rome, from the Mayans to the Aztecs and beyond, Engineering an Empire is a tour de force of history’s greatest empires and how they worked. This six disc collection houses all 14 episodes, so the entire series is contained in one release.
If you have even a slight interest in history, you will love Engineering an Empire. I sat down to watch one or two episodes, but ended up running through the entire series, it is that engaging. The show is able to bring the empires to life again, through a mixture of location footage, interviews, CGI animation, and re-enactments, which combine to provide an insightful experience. We see how the civilizations were able to construct amazing creations, from the planning process to the actual construction. We’re shown how the technology within the empires evolved, allowing these advances and how the civilizations were impacted. I was interested in the more mundane sides of the empires, such as basic infrastructure, an element which is also well covered. Even the host here is great, as Peter Weller is not the typical celebrity host. He has great knowledge of the historical topics and unlike most other celebrity hosts, seems natural and not just reading cue cards. Engineering an Empire is an excellent series and with all 14 episodes included, this release is highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 non anamorphic widescreen. I am glad to have the show in widescreen, but I do wish it was enhanced for widescreen televisions. The shows still look good, but they would benefit from being anamorphic, if just to add some minor refinements. Even so, the visuals here are clean and sharp, with no serious problems. I’ve watched the show on television several times and this is a marked improvement, so that’s good news. So the show looks good, but let’s hope to see anamorphic transfers on future releases from The History Channel.
Audio: How does it sound?
I’d have to say this sounds just like it does when broadcast, but that isn’t bad at all. The audio is clear and error free, but don’t expect much in terms of depth or presence. This is a documentary series, so the focus is on dialogue, whether via narration or interviews. The vocals are crystal clear too, so no insights are lost due to harshness or distortion. The rest of the sound effects are fine too, but as I said, this is a rather reserved soundtrack, as per the material.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We have promotional featurettes on the Rome episode, the Egypt episode, and the first season in general. Not too insightful, but brief and brisk, so they have some worthwhile moments. Three more featurettes include a look inside how the show is produced, extra content on the Egypt episode, and a From the Director’s Chair piece. All in all, you won’t find a lot of in depth material here, but I am glad some bonus material was included.