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Whale Wars: Viking Shores

Sea Shepherd/Animal Planet

Whale Wars: Viking Shores Sea Shepherd members in this Animal Planet series on Friday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Earnest Sailors Drop Anchor Among the Enemy

By 
Published: April 26, 2012

One of the hallmarks of “Whale Wars,” the Animal Planet reality series about conservationists doing battle with Japanese whalers on the high seas, is the anonymity of the animal lovers’ faceless and mostly silent enemy: crouched on the decks of its ships, seen at a distance through the mist and spray.In the spinoff series “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” beginning Friday night on Animal Planet, that distance is erased. When the earnest, often hapless environmental warriors of theSea Shepherd Conservation Societyarrive in the Faroe Islands to try to interfere with a traditional whale hunt called thegrindadrap — reminiscent of the dolphin hunts in the documentary “The Cove” — the residents are right there on the dock, talking back in their Nordic-accented English. They’re close enough to the intruders to shake their hands, or throw beer bottles at them, or stick a whale knife in their ribs.

Those last two things don’t happen in the premiere episode, but what we see is shot and edited in such a way as to lead us to believe that they might. Where the original “Whale Wars,” which will return for a fifth season on June 1, is presented as naval warfare, “Whale Wars: Viking Shores” is a combination of social-problem drama and low comedy.

After an ominous opening featuring broodingly beautiful Faroese landscapes and a horror-movie montage of images from past grindadraps — grisly affairs in which hundreds of pilot whales are herded onto beaches, killed and gutted, turning entire harbors blood red — “Viking Shores” settles into some typical “Whale Wars” patterns. One of the Shepherds’ boats is stuck in port in Scotland, a familiar problem for this rag-tag fleet. The other boat reaches the Faroe Islands, but a crucial delivery of sonar equipment is bungled, leaving the crew without a plan for disrupting the hunting season.

What’s new, and reasonably entertaining, are the dockside clashes between the prickly, insular Faroese (the descendants of Vikings) and the stubborn, more-than-a-little-obtuse conservationists. The foreman of the whale hunt, a bear of a man who makes threatening remarks that seem pitched more to the cameras than the Sea Shepherds, says, “It looks very barbaric, but it’s not like that.”

The captain of the Shepherds’ boat, immune, like all of his crew, to pleas based on history, culture or traditional diet, replies, “How can it not be like that?”

A crew member sums up the young eco-warriors’ discomfort with having to listen to an adversary: “To actually have to come face to face and have these conversations, it’s a little bit challenging.”

The results of the Sea Shepherds’ campaign in the Faroe Islands, which took place last summer, can be found online. We won’t spoil them here, other than to say that the five episodes of “Viking Shores” may continue to lack the kind of maritime confrontations that the franchise normally provides. And in that case, “Whale Wars: Onshore Bickering” will run out of gas pretty quickly.

Whale Wars: Viking Shores

Animal Planet, Friday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Produced by the Lizard Trading Company for Animal Planet. Liz Bronstein, executive producer for the Lizard Trading Company; Lisa Lucas, executive producer for Animal Planet.

A version of this review appeared in print on April 27, 2012, on page C17 of the New York edition with the headline: Earnest Sailors Drop Anchor Among the Enemy.

Link: The New York Times

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