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Case Number 20596: Small Claims Court

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Secrets Of The Dead: Slave Ship Mutiny

PBS // 2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // January 29th, 2011

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All Rise...

The last movie that Judge Roman Martel watched with the word "Mutiny" in its title also had the word "Space."

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Secrets Of The Dead: Lost Ships Of Rome (published February 12th, 2011) and Secrets of the Dead: The Silver Pharaoh (published January 2nd, 2011) are also available.

The Charge

The only hope of escape was rebellion.

The Case

In 1766 a slave ship, the Meermin, left from Madagascar with a hold full of human cargo. The final destination was Cape Town in South Africa. At that time the city was controlled by the Dutch East India Company also known as the VOC. Cape Town ran on slavery, both in its day to day operations, and as a source of income. Once a ship reached Cape Town, any captured humans were destined for a life of eternal servitude.

Through a series of bad decisions and poor planning by the Meermin crew, the slaves rallied around a leader and courageously rebelled. Nearly half the crew was killed and the rest were driven into the gun room. But that story is only beginning. The slaves must decide how to return home. And the ship's crew has to figure out a way to survive and still make a profit.

This episode of Secrets of the Dead follows a similar format as the The Silver Pharaoh episode. It combines recreations, interviews with researchers and archeologists, and location shooting in Cape Town to give viewers an investigation into the events unfolding during the the summer of 1766.

What makes this especially interesting is that the VOC were meticulous in their record keeping. Many details relating to the ship, the mutiny, and the trials afterward were tracked; so the show has plenty to work with. This allows this episode to move along at a great pace, and provides a good story as well as a solid dose of history.

The presentation by PBS is decent. The widescreen format shows the beautiful location shooting in South Africa, as well as some of the less stellar blue screen work during the recreations. The Dolby 2.0 sound is adequate and clear. Unfortunately there are no extras. It would be nice to hear more about the marine archeologists efforts to find the sunken Meermin, but please see our Accomplices section for a followup article.

I found this episode of Secrets of the Dead to be a bit more compelling than the previous one, and can easily recommend it to any history buffs out there.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 86

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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