Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is really, really relaxed after powerwatching these. Wake him up next week.
"We, too, may have just had a glimpse of paradise."
Travelogues may be presented as educational, but let's face it: they're a form of escape, not just entertainment but escape from stress and daily woes, imagining yourself in some bustling foreign city or on a mountaintop looking over the grassy plains below. If you've had a heavy duty bad day, you might want some heavy duty tranquility. I'm talking about beautiful vistas shot from above, a gentle score with a touch of new age, and soothing narration. I'm talking about Visions of Britain and Ireland, a DVD set with four episodes of the soothing public television series.
The tour starts at Dover with Visions of England, with scenes including a roller coaster at Blackpool and Cambridge's American Cemetery. Next, it's on to Visions of Scotland, where storm clouds hint at the country's stormy history, but more time is given to deer running in the countryside as a Robert Frost poem is read and the grown-over ruins of an abandoned castle.
Visions of Ireland includes Galway's Eyre Square, Giant's Causeway, and Little Skellig, where birds fly over rocky outcroppings—and tourists are banned. The last stop, Visions of Wales, shows that small land's "variety so unique and dramatic," with sights including Porthcawl, "an entire seaside trailer town," Mount Snowden, Portmeirion, and a beach packed with sea lions.
The show is pretty much as you'd expect. The narration is pleasant, although I noticed a couple of lines getting lost under music in the England episode. Still, I didn't miss it when it was skipped in the bonus features. The scenery is beautiful, panned slowly and gracefully for the most part and capturing a variety of angles. The music is generally well-chosen.
Bonus features, on all but the Wales segment, include more beautiful scenery, although I'd say England was the only one in which the bonus footage yielded stuff that was better than in the episode, since it included Sherwood Forest and the Lake District, and the quaint towns in England, featured prominently in the episode, tend to blur together. In a couple of places, the bonuses were surprising, because they showed just how beautiful a quarry, a port, or a ruined castle can be with the right cinematography. Note that the closed-captioning is only available on the Ireland and Wales episodes.
Wales turned out to have the most striking scenery, thanks to a coastline that makes everything look better and an odd tendency to have ancient castles surrounded by modern cities. It also might benefit from familiarity, since I'm a fan of three sci-fi shows that use Welsh locales (I'm still wondering how a tour of Portmeirion could fail to mention the show that was filmed there). I suspect that Geraint W. Davies, who does the narration for that segment, is Geraint Wyn Davies of Forever Knight, furthering the sci-fi angle. If you like modern architecture (or if you don't), take note that the aerial photographers for all of these shows love it, and you'll get to see plenty of unique waterfront buildings.
The pace is slower than a similar series I reviewed, the half-hour episodes of Sky View. If you're simply looking for relaxing, comforting travelogue views, Sky View would likely satisfy you, while this one would be more for viewers particularly interested in the British isles. Both are done well, and it boils down to a matter of choice. Either way, I wouldn't suggest watching these all at once; there's such a thing as too much relaxation.
Not guilty. They make a good escape; Number Six would have loved a copy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
• Bonus Footage
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