Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Animal Planet debuts Whale Wars: Viking Shores, a quasi-spin-off of its series that follows activists Sea Shepherd as they try to stop pilot whale hunts in the Faroe Islands. Although there won’t be the same kinds of violent conflicts that occur in the Southern Ocean, there will still be drama, thanks to both Sea Shepherd and some Faroese, and here are five reasons to watch its five episodes:
- The Faroe Islands. Watch the cold open for the series below, and you’ll be introduced to the Faroe Islands, a quite small nation between Iceland and Norway that I’d never heard of until Sea Shepherd announced they were going to try to stop the whale hunts that the Faroese have done for hundreds of years. It’s a literally stunning landscape, with grass-roofed houses and coastlines that seem like they were computer-generated.
- The Faroese are fans of Whale Wars. Many people in the Faroe Islands know Sea Shepherd crew members as celebrities because they watch the Animal Planet series. It’s safe to say many were baffled and angry when Sea Shepherd targeted them with their brand of incendiary rhetoric and very public action. That makes for a fascinating dynamic as Sea Shepherd–and the camera crews from the reality series–invade their homes and make the Faroese the stars of a show they regularly watch.
- Sea Shepherd is forced to talk to their foes face-to-face. This is what makes this campaign very different than the one in the Southern Ocean, where, at best, the Japanese whalers are voices on the phone. Sea Shepherd doesn’t engage with them, but here, they have to make arguments face-to-face, and justify their reason for invading the country.
- Sea Shepherd’s actions may backfire. Sea Shepherd has been increasingly effective in the Southern Ocean, but that may not be true here. Some of those I spoke with in the Faroe Islands seemed ambivalent, at best, about whaling, and one man told me that younger people mostly don’t care about whaling, so it’s a tradition that may have been dying on its own–helped by the fact that whale meat isn’t as safe to eat as it once was, thanks to polluted oceans. What will be the impact of Sea Shepherd’s efforts and this series? Will those who were ambivalent or indifferent to the grind–the whale killing–become more dogmatic about defending their way of life and people? Will this inspire actual change? Or is there even something that needs to change?
- You can go behind-the-scenes. I was on board the Steve Irwin for a few days last August, as it circled the islands along with the Brigitte Bardot, and wrote about everything I learned and observed for Playboy, and that full article is now online. The intersection of activism, tradition, and television was fascinating, and I have new respect for the camera crews aboard the ships, especially, who are along for the ride, literally, but also for the activists–and the Faroese people who were willing to challenge them openly. (You can also listen to me discuss the article with the Faroe Islands podcast.)
Watch the beginning of tonight’s debut, and then go read.