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Case Number 17542: Small Claims Court

Buy Treasure Quest: Season 1 at Amazon

Treasure Quest: Season 1

Discovery Channel // 2009 // 522 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // October 22nd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Dylan Charles is watching DVDs that have been under the sea for decades.

The Charge

Sail with one of the world's leaders in recovering sunken treasures.

Opening Statement

Littering the floor of the English Channel are millions of dollars in gold, silver, and artifacts, there for the taking. The trick is knowing where it is and then having the ability to bring it up once you've found it. Odyssey has the equipment, personnel, and the money to do the job and Discovery tags along for the ride.

Facts of the Case

For Treasure Quest: Season 1, Odyssey Marine Exploration searches for shipwrecks in the English Channel. They scour the ocean floor looking for everything from merchant ships to World War I and World War II era U-Boats to an Eighteenth Century British warship, and the Discovery Channel is there to capture it all.

There are twelve episodes on three discs:

Disc One
• "The Merchant Royal"
• "Pirates!"
• "The Legend"
• "Return to the Legend"
• "Turning Lead into Gold"

Disc Two
• "U-Boats"
• "Malta"
• "Lusitania Revealed"
• "The Liberty Ship"

Disc Three
• "Mysterious Cargo"
• "The Silver Queen"
• "Battle for the Black Swan"

The Evidence

Odyssey Marine Exploration made headlines when they found millions of dollars in gold and silver coins. It made even more headlines when the Spanish government accused them of being pirates, sued them, and kept their ships blockaded in Gibraltar.

Two years later, the fight is still going on, and the courts have yet to decide who gets the booty. Odyssey is out to prove that they're not pirates or mere treasure hunters. With the Discovery Channel following them around wherever they go, they certainly have the opportunity to do so.

They focus on a wide variety of shipwrecks and keep everything interesting by doing so. It's not all about the treasure. Odyssey takes on a variety of wrecks that hold a purely historical interest. They investigate everything from the Lusitania to helping the German government identify sunken U-boats to letting a British sailor take a last look at a ship he helped save during World War II. They go through a huge span of time, from the latter days of exploration looking for massive sailing ships up to more recent times, where they hunt for cargo containers that were washed overboard during storms.

Even the treasure takes many different forms. It's not all about the gold doubloons and silver coin. There are lead bars and opiates and bottles of expensive champagne littering the ocean floor. Maybe, that is. Everything needs to be tested, researched, tested some more, and finally tasted. At least, in the case of the champagne it's tasted.

It's a fascinating blend of underwater archeology, maritime history, and forensic science. Whatever your interest is, it's bound to be addressed at some point.

While there's a lot of information about the ships and the history, the show is also very much about Odyssey and its ships' crews. There's a tight focus on a few crew members, allowing the audience to become more connected with the crew and their trials.

Discovery has thrown in some extras in the form of mini-episodes and news clips. The news clips didn't really show anything new or anything you wouldn't find out from the show itself. The "minisodes" were generally funny little snippets from different aspects of the ship, whether focusing on a specific crewmember or on the zany wackiness a bomb threat can provide. There's even one where the cameramen sit in front of the cameramen and tell of the horrors they suffered at the hands of the crew.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Treasure Quest's biggest problem is the chronology. At times, it doesn't seem like there was any real attempt to create a consistent narrative. It can be a little jarring at times. The biggest example of this was when they decide to bring up a huge cannon from the HMS Victory. They pull it off and move on. A few episodes later, they show the same mission, but framed in a different way. What's weirder is the latter episode would have a lot more dramatic tension if they had reversed the order of the episodes.

Then there's the matter of the Black Swan treasure. They talk about it incessantly all season, but it's only in the last episode that the whole story about the Black Swan treasure is told. Since the event took place a whole year before everything else in the season, it's a little odd that they chose to stick it on the end of the season.

Closing Statement

Treasure Quest has enough maritime fun and facts to entertain and educate. The choppy chronology keeps the audience from really investing in the lives of the crew, keeping everyone at a distance. Since the show isn't just about the history or the technology, this distance keeps it from being a truly great experience. Still, it's worth checking out, if only to see how someone reacts when they drink wine that's been sitting on the ocean floor.

The Verdict

Not guilty of piracy, thievery, and treasure hunting.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Discovery Channel
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 522 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Reality TV
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Minisodes
• News Clips

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