I’ve been watching a large number of documentaries on Netflix lately, and since I’ve always been a nerd about historical landmarks, when I saw this miniseries on the Tower of London, I immediately added it to my queue. I’d read that this is supposedly one of the most haunted placed in the world—with all the executions that took place there, as well as the moniker “The Bloody Tower.” A documentary on a place like this would be pretty sweet, right?
Wrong! This is one of the most badly packaged mini-series I’ve seen. I’ve never reviewed a documentary before, mostly because they don’t feature the elements I look for in the storytelling process, but I feel it’s my civic duty to warn anyone who thinks they might learn anything worthwhile when deciding whether or not to watch this.
It feels like one of those old VHS tapes I would have been forced to watch in high school (after the teacher had to borrow the TV-on-wheels from the library). Though the documentary was filmed less than 10 years ago, it looks like it was made about 20. And the audio is so badly mixed that I couldn’t even hear the narrator over the piercing background music half of the time.
While I didn’t expect all eight episodes to feature the notorious crimes that took place there, I also didn’t expect it to show me the hiring process that out-of-work actors went through to become part of The Tower’s working ensemble. There’s 900 years of history to this place and thisis what they decide to discuss?? I guess I did learn something because the Tower of London (which is actually just a few stories tall, surrounded by a large courtyard) employs actors to play historical characters. From what’s shown, they mimic these characters about as well as the actresses imitate the princesses as Disneyland. All it does it cheapen the landmark to a tourist trap. Even the guards it employs, for which it also demonstrates the hiring process, are now mostly ceremonial and serve to act as glorified tour guards. It even details a newly hired guard’s wife’s concern about moving to The Tower because it has a curfew and she doesn’t want it to affect her social life. Is this a historical documentary or a reality show?
Of the eight, there are probably only two decent episodes: the first and seventh. The first explains, naturally, how The Tower came to be and how it has served as both a fortress and castle. The seventh features the stories of bloodshed of show the Tower rose to notoriety. The fourth episode devotes the hour to the building’s wartime history, but it’s surprisingly dull, as it interviews former German Nazi’s who were held captive there during World War Two and reminisced how much they missed their home and families.
Overall, you’d be better off reading about this castle/fortress/dungeon on Wikipedia rather than wasting eight hours of your life watching such amateur documentary filmmaking.