A world wonder so elusive, it must be mythical.
Another installment in the PBS series Secrets of the Dead, this episode, The Lost Gardens of Babylon, takes a bit of a different approach.
The famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered to be among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But unlike its compatriots, the Gardens’ location has never been definitively proven, only speculated. Enter Dr. Stephanie Dalley. Unlike other Secrets of the Dead episodes, this one follows the Oxford professor almost exclusively, with interviews supporting her journey just as much as they support the central thesis.
Dr. Dalley puts forth what many consider to be a rather controversial theory about the Gardens. Her beliefs are the foundation upon around which the documentary is structured. And they are simply that history may have gotten some crucial parts of the mythos of the Gardens wrong: namely the suggested location as well as the king who supposedly commissioned their creation.
The Lost Gardens of Babylon is engaging not only because of my own interest in the subject matter, but also Stephanie’s obvious passion for the topic. Her enthusiasm is what draws the viewer in and her journey helps connect to the audience. We want to see it through to the conclusion right alongside her. Jay O. Sanders’ narration provides the perfect tonal companion to the subject matter, striking just the right balance between interested and overly enthusiastic. It’s unfortunate that the danger of the possible location (current day Iraq) is too prominent to allow Dr. Dalley to go as deep with her investigation as she (and we) would like. It’s a sad commentary on the price of war.
Based on historical data and one of the last true archeological mysteries there is, the trek to learn the actual location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon gets a recommendation.
While the technical specifications are not the highest quality, they are presented in their best light. The disc relies less on CGI than some of the other episodes in the Secrets of the Dead series and that’s for the best in terms of the video transfer. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is well-presented with very little grain or other distortions. The palette is clean if a bit bland, with pops of color appearing during the imaginings of the mystical Gardens. The audio is a Dolby 2.0 track and while it may occasionally sound a bit soft, I never had to adjust the volume. There are no special features.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are forever lost to us as they were. The Lost Gardens of Babylon attempts to bring that long-lost piece of history to life through one woman’s journey into a war-torn land. It’s an interesting theory which warrants a view.