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Desperate Crossing
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
@ The History Channel
Review from The Patriot Resource:
This presentation from The History Channel concerns itself with the story of the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving. Having just visited Plimouth Plantation and the Mayflower II in Plymouth, Massachusetts this past summer, this presentation was of acute interest to this reviewer. Using The History Channel's regular formula of relying on heavy use of reactments/dramatizations with only a few scholarly interviews interspersed. Once again, this presentation has the look of solid production values, although the scope of most scenes can be described as intimate with only a few actors per scene.

What is unique to this presentation is Producer/Director Lisa Wolfinger's choice of Shakespearean actors in the main speaking roles as Pilgrims. Who else but Shakespearean actors can speak Old English with right inflection. The role players of Plimouth Plantation who are in character were chosen as some of the supporting characters (such as Miles Standish). As a result, the emsemble cast is strong and settled in the stilted dialect and period constumes.

The presentation juggles three threads: the personal story of William Bradford, whose first-hand account Of Plymouth Plantation is a primary source, the story of the Pilgrims (referred to as Separatists throughout the presentation) and the story of the Wampanoag Indians. The presentation dispels some of the mythical aspects of the Pilgrims and grounds their tale with politics, personal issues and the missteps taken in their relations with the Indians. Like most recent presentations, the Indians are portrayed as noble and mostly gracious and helpful. Unlike others though, this presentation feels more even-handed and enphasized that the Indians had their own motives and were not completely unfamiliar with the Europeans although still näive.

The presentation moves along at a steady pace for most of the three hours (with television commercial breaks) covering the Pilgrims' trials in England and Europe, ocean voyage, settlement in Plymouth and establishment of relations with the Wampanoag. Then in the last segment, the presentation jumps forward to include that first celebration that has become known as the first Thanksgiving. This segment felt somewhat detached and out of sync with the rest of the presentation. Perhaps, this is due to a lack of transition. Obviously, no recounting of the Pilgrims can go without the first Thanksgiving, but that segment felt like an afterthought.

Upon first viewing, the closing statement by Jonathan Perry of the Wampanoag People is a downbeat following the depiction of the Thanksgiving. However, if the final segment about Thanksgiving is removed, then Perry's closing is more fitting. As pointed out by Producer/Director Lisa Wolfinger, King Philip's War would soon follow, but the presentation says nothing of this impending event (unless this reviewer missed it). Though it's not the upbeat, patriotic depiction of the Pilgrims' arrival that we were all taught in school, Desperate Crossing: The Untold Stroy of the Mayflower is an even, well-done and informative presentation worth watching.

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Desperate Crossing
The History Channel DVD:
Desperate Crossing