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Case Number 21635: Small Claims Court

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Secrets Of The Dead: China's Terracotta Warriors

PBS // 2011 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // June 25th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Roman Martel wishes to be buried with 80,000 terracotta anime catgirl statues!

The Charge

The first Emperor of China never did anything small.

The Case

Back in 210 BCE the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, wanted his own personal army built, literally built. He wanted to take this army with him into the afterlife. Since they didn't have Legos back then he decided to order his master craftsman to build the army out of clay. Oh, and they all had to be life size and numbering about 8000 strong. And so China's Terracotta Warriors were born.

An army of craftsman and artisans got to work making sure each figure was unique in build and facial features. All of them were painted and then buried when the Emperor died. They remained buried until 1974 when some farmers stumbled across them while digging for a well.

secrets of the dead—terracotta warriors

This episode of Secrets of the Dead goes over the history of the terracotta figures, and the reasons for their construction. Then dives into the theories of how so many figures were created in just about 11 years—an amazing feat for BCE technology.

Modern replica makers attempt to craft figures using old fashioned methods while archeologists and scientists attempt to preserve the artifacts for future study. All the while the voice over repeats itself. You begin to realize that it seems like the whole episode is running out of steam. Surely with something this extensive and amazing there would be more material?

secrets of the dead—terracotta warriors

There's some interesting stuff here, but a lot of it has been covered before. I know a bit about these amazing statues and even had the pleasure of seeing them at a local museum several years back. Much of what is contained in this documentary was covered in that museum visit. The final part about the Chinese purple pigment was new to me, but it seems the documentary creators were stretching the material to its limit. Yet there were so many elements they missed out on. They mention weapons found with the statues but they never elaborate on them. You see terracotta horses in much of the footage, but they are never discussed. I was hoping for a bit more insight on the armor and clothing design of these figures.

The show uses a combination of interviews, location shooting, recreations, computer simulations and archival footage to tell the story of this unusual army. The recreation footage is fairly well produced, but there is so little of it, that you keep seeing the same shot of the same Chinese craftsman throwing down the same slab of clay over and over again.

secrets of the dead—terracotta warriors

PBS continues with the basics here. The widescreen image is nice and clear, providing good detail for the beauty shots of China. The stereo sound suffices. Still no extras, and that's a shame considering how slight this episode felt.

If the story of these statues is new to you, check this out. Otherwise, pick up a book about these guys instead.

The Verdict

Just barely not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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