You Are Alone
Saints & Strangers
National Geographic Channel/Sony Production
November 22-23, 2015
Religious Beliefs (Saints)
Stars: Vincent Kartheiser (Bradford), Barry Sloane (Winslow), Anna Camp (Mrs. Bradford), Michael Jibson (Standish), Ron Livingston (Carver)
Adventure and Profit (Strangers)
Ray Stevenson (Hopkins), Brian F. O'Bryne (Billington), Natasha McElhone (Mrs. Billington)
Raoul Trujillo (Massasoit--Pokandket tribe), Kalani Queypo (Squanto---last of the Patuxet tribe),
Tatanka Means (Hobbamock---Pokandket tribe) Del Zamora (Aspinet---Nauset tribe) and Michael Greyeyes (Cananicus of the Narragansett tribe)
Director: Paul Edwards
Original Script: Chip Johannessen with revisions by Walon Green
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Rating: PG 13 for violence
Running Length: each episode is 120 minutes
The opening photography of the sea gives you an idea of what the Pilgrims went through on their voyage for religious freedom, and for some, a chance at material gain. Photography is beautifully done and, especially, on board the cramped quarters of the "Mayflower," as one sailor states, "It's made for cargo, not passengers." Seasickness is rampant. But there is hope, and soon land, but not where they wanted to go. North, into what is now Cape Cod, and then the building of a new town begins. It is November, 1620 and the 102 passengers have been at sea 66 days.
Why do people travel so far to have freedom of choice? Why not? Going on-board this "Mayflower" was depicted in a subtle way in the film, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," when the astronauts were given a chance to board the alien mothership and travel to another galaxy. Why not? They were the "Mayflower" expedition, too.
Back to the 17th century, and the first chance to exercise freedom of choice is when a new pact has to be made for the new landing spot, soon named "New Plymouth." Both sides, the religious group and the profit group have to give in a bit and seal a new deal. It happens and from there, tiny step by tiny step, trust grows and looking into another's life style and belief system.
Later, we see that food is provided by Native American aid on how to plant crops there. Hunting is food, too, but at first, being sea people from England, there are eels and fish to eat, mussels and clams. Fruit comes later. Houses are built and though the winters are harsh, we don't see it, but know some die.
Women are depicted as mothers and cooks, though the men do ask an opinion now and then. As one says, "We stay here and keep the fires lit while you go and hunt." No need for a clothing budget here, as everyone wears the same clothes until the next supply ship comes.
Native Americans are called "savages" at first, until the groups get to know each other. The dialect is in subtitles. Squanto appears and helps as a translator. His history is remarkable, having had several voyages across the Atlantic Sea already. Someday, his story will be told. Friendships with natives are slowly built and there is a cliff-hanger ending here.
*This episode has wartime violence.
The second part of this story concerns making decisions as to fight or not. New colonists arrive and they are dishonest, moving away from New Plymouth. Also, there is word of the massacre at Jamestown which is alarming, though currently, this area is peaceful. however, more tribes become aware of the settlers and they don't trust people at New Plymouth. This is a time of strife and Bradford has to make military decisions, with help from Hopkins and Billington, who is always ready for a fight.
This is the war-or-make-peace story of survival. Men who didn't think they could fight--do--while Native Americans who didn't think they could befriend and fight with, the settlers, find themselves doing so. Even Native American women form a bond with the settler women. A cooking pot is a cooking pot no matter where you go. The gratitude feast is held at the end of September, with plenty of food and everyone is invited, including Native Americans.
Since part of this section is in the evening by firelight, and many of the men have beards, it is difficult to distinguish one person from another. What is pleasantly noticeable, though, is the enunciation and speech patterns of both the settlers and the Native Americans (the actors were taught the dialect.)
You could close your eyes and listen to the rhythm patterns.
There is bravery here, not only of survival, but of taking a chance and going for it. The person you befriend and the life you save may linger. You stand on your own and there is no way to go home, which was England. Now, home is your own land and what you can do with your own hands. Precious isn't money, it is good tools and knowing your instincts.
Acting is well done, with stand-outs being Vincent Kartheiser as Bradford, Ray Stevenson as Hopkins, Raoul Trujillo as Massasoit, Kalani Queypo as Squanto and Tatanka Means as Hobbamock. In the female leads, Anna Camp as Mrs. Bradford as good scenes in a sympathetic role.
The Native American side is well-depicted with many conversations between the leaders as to trust and motives. There are several tribes around the Cape Cod area and they keep their borders strict and the leaders must be strong to rule. Making alliances and keeping them is no easy feat. There have been contacts with Europeans before and it did not go well. Native Americans were used as slaves, and it was in this capacity that Squanto traveled back and forth across the Atlantic Sea.
"Saints & Strangers" gives the viewer a new perspective on what it was like to begin what we know as America or The United States. In 1620, the word "united" meant your family's fight for survival, or a small unit. Now, it is millions and millions of people who may wonder what the first touch of this soil felt to the shoes of the first pilgrim. Your choice. Your decision. Your new land.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner