The original series was set in Alexandria and followed the adventures of Macky and Portia (pictured above). Macky is a Jewish Christian who by chance befriends Portia, the daughter of Alexandria's Roman governor Tiberius. Series 2 covers a new phase in Tiberius' career. He is now the general in charge of the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 and has taken Portia with him. Macky on the other hand has travelled to the holy city to attempt to find the father of Leah and Rebecca from series 1. As with that series Portia and Macky are caught on opposite sides of the conflict as Macky fights with the rebels stuck in Jerusalem.
On the basis of the two episodes from this series that I've had a chance to see it's difficult to compare this series to the original. That said the animation quality is broadly the same, and the style of the programmes seem to be more or less the same. However, the stories don't seem to carry the momentum of the previous series, though that is an inevitable consequence of watching them out of the context of the series as a whole.
Series 3 brings things to a head as Portia and Macky find themselves in Rome. Macky has connected with the Roman underground church and the prominent Roman citizen, and Christian, Antonius. The series comes to a head with the Roman senate trying to execute Antonius whilst Macky and his new friends seek to free him.
The final few episodes of this series certainly carry the kind of plot tension that made the first series so addictive. In particular the last episode is surprisingly absorbing as Macky attempts to save not only Antonius but a large collection of early Christian writings.
The weak point of the first series was the 3D animated sections of the programme which portrayed the biblical episodes. Four years ago these sections were clearly inferior to the very best work in the medium, but not to the extent that it was a significant weakness in the series as a whole. Alas today, with the advances that have been seen over recent years, the 3D sections do look very dated now, to the detriment of the rest of the programme.
Yet overall the series still exhibits much of what made it appeal to me back in 2007. The way the story bridges the gap between the biblical narratives from the first century and today's culture is still a great way of making the biblical history accessible to younger children. The pacing and 2D animation are still very good. And even though its these final episodes which culminate in the stories of death and resurrection of Jesus, it avoids being preachy whilst still managing to explore difficult issues and challenge its young audience to a better way of living.
Labels: Friends and Heroes