Whale Wars season six: a two-hour special only

Whale Wars sixth season will consist only of a two-hour special that will air Dec. 13 on Animal Planet, following four Sea Shepherd boats as they attempted to stop Japanese whaling last winter, though this time without leadership from the organization’s founder, Paul Watson.

The special will debut about six months after new seasons typically debut, and represents a significant cut in the number of hours of content. Animal Planet licensed footage shot by Sea Shepherd to create this season.

Liz Bronstein, the show’s executive producer, said there were 2,500 hours of footage, adding that it was “really great footage. For a non-professional crew, they did a really, really good job despite the technical issues that we had to overcome,” which included having to spend 5,000 hours of work importing and grouping footage shot on five separate formats.

The show was delayed six months in part because “Sea Shepherd wanted to review all the footage before they gave it to us. Normally, we would get the footage by March first, but we didn’t get the footage until August,” she said. Sea Shepherd’s 2012-2013 campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance, concluded in March.

For the previous five seasons, independent, professional production crews documented Sea Shepherd’s actions with access granted Animal Planet’s agreement with Sea Shepherd allowed them access to film. (While Whale Wars itself has not been produced this way, that is similar to the one-hour special Whale Wars: Operation Bluefin, which was produced by Lizard Trading Company from footage shot by Sea Shepherd.)

Bronstein said the special is “maybe the best two hours that we’ve done” because they could “really develop characters in depth more than we’ve ever done before.” That’s because the two hours are “the story of four captains, captaining four Sea Shepherd boats, and for the first time they do not have Paul as their captain or admiral, and Sea Shepherd is tested in a way they never have been before.”

Watson resigned as head of the organization as a result of a court injunction; he also was facing other legal challenges.

The number of episodes have varied throughout the show’s life: season one had 7, season two, 11; season three, 13 (plus a special about Pete Bethune); season four, 10 (including a special hosted by Lisa Ling); and season five, 8 episodes. There was also a five-episode spin-off, Whale Wars: Viking Shores, that I observed in person and wrote about in Playboy.

There was lots of drama during the campaign last winter, including collisions and other conflict documented by Sea Shepherd and The Institute of Cetacean Research. In May, Sea Shepherd released this trailer-like video that includes footage from it and an interview with Paul Watson:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.