I loved the Black Sails TV series done by Starz, it just finished its fourth n’ final season. My life revolves around piracy. I think about it, work it, n’ live it full time. I try to visit pirate landmarks, pirate events n’ see what people make fer the pirate industry. Below be the reasons why me thinks it be the Best Pirate TV or Movie every made, arrrgh!
Time: Longer be Better, More Time to Enjoy Maties! Black Sails be the longest running pirate TV series with 38 Episodes of 49-65 minutes each, fer about 38 hours total. The 1958 Adventures of Long John Silver only be 26 episodes of 30 minutes apiece. The 1986 Return of Treasure Island only be 10 episodes of about 12 hours total time. The five Pirates of the Caribbean movies series be a mere combined total of 12 hours run time.
Realistic: Who Said Pirates Be fer Kids? Most pirate programs cast the pirate as a good guy, but history has shown time n’ time again that pirates be self servin’ criminals. Up till now, most pirate programs be made up, n’ followed pirate mythology o’er history. Pirates in media come with made up or embellished tropes, like parrots, eye patches, hooks, buried treasure, walking the plank, crew blindly following the all-powerful captain.
Points of Interests: Walking the plank be a myth made up by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. Hollywood decided to popularize the plank o’er keelhauling (dragging someone along the bottom o’ the ship.) I believe that Black Sails be the first program to realistically portray of keelhauling, when Woodes Rogers killed Black Beard.
Pirates wrote up a Code that stated the rules fer discipline, division of stolen goods, compensation fer injury, as well as voting fer a captain. The only time a captain is truly in charge is when the crew had voted to fight or plunder. There be a lot of politics involved n’ not all of it could be solved at the point o’ a sword. Black Sails did a grand job of illustrating many of these points.
African Slavery n’ the Maroon Rebels: Sometimes pirates treated black slaves as just cargo to be sold. Other times they could be invited on as regular crew member with a right to vote n’ earn shares o’ plunder. Black Sails showcased both scenarios, but not the third option of working them on the ship as slaves with no vote or a share. It were common that some pirate crews did use both press-ganged sailors n’ slaves; so the regular crew would do less work n’ gain more plunder. It was a dangerous practice howe’er, if ye got too many disgruntled workers they would often mutiny.
Black Sails did address the topic of maroons, who were escaped slaves from the Caribbean Islands. They banded together to create hidden communities, which threatened the British Government’s control o’er important regions in the West Indies. Jamaica itself experienced multiple Maroon uprisings in the 18th Century. The first Maroon War began in 1731, with the ending around 10 years later with the British government recognizing their freedom n’ some territory in Jamaica as long as they would support the British against foreign invasion.
Sexuality n’ Prostitution: Most other programs show nude women as 2 dimensional show pieces, while Black Sails give their prostitutes more character n’ real plots in the story line. They also give screen time to both women n’ men nudity, as well as addressing gay, lesbian n’ bisexual roles from minor to major characters.
Business End of Piracy: The purser counted up the plunder to calculate the shares after expenses, instead of the more common dividing of plunder piece by piece on the deck. They also show the selling of plunder to a merchant at a pirate friendly port that would ship it off to sell at a pirate unfriendly port for more profit. Without these kinds of intricate business relationships, piracy could not survive.
The Action: Black Sails showed more variety than the standard swing across on rope boarding action which end with the two captains having an empty deck to fence on fer 10 minutes. They showed surrendering without a fight scene as well as showing barricading down in the ship hull stand offs. Black Sails shows more than just cutlasses n’ pistols. They used muskets, blunderbuss, cavalry lances, hammers, daggers n’ boarding axes as well. I would just add more Boarding pikes.
Even though Black Sails gets a whole bunch of things right, they still get a number of things wrong.
Costumes be much better than the 1950 pirate movies, but they still mix clothing from 1650 with 1775 with 1815. The program is set in 1715, so almost none of it be correct. I know this happened because movie prop houses have a lot of stuff left over from doing Revolutionary and Napoleonic war films. They changed thar garb to be more distressed and dirty to fool the audience to believe that it is historically accurate. Fashion aged just as quickly in the 18th Century as it does today. Wearing an outfit from the 1600s in 1715 would still be like wearing 1980’s clothes today in terms of fashion!
The size of the ship that pirates normally used be smaller single masted sloops which were fast. They might be 85 feet long with eight cannon and a crew of 120. Many of the ships featured, be three masted, First or Second Rate Man o’ War ships with two or three decks of guns. They be around 200 feet long n’ be needing a crew of 750. Those types o’ ships be so slow they wouldn’t be able to capture any prizes. Pirates went after lightly armed or unarmed merchant ships.
Conclusion: I don’t think Black Sails got the exposure that it should’ve, as I believe it to be a far better program than Game of Thrones. This be partly due to the fact that HBO network has more pull than Starz network. Overall I was impressed with the flow of the story, the character arcs of characters like John Silver going from nobody to pirate hero and Charles Vane from villain to leader of a rebellion. Black Sails is the first media program to portray pirates in a realistic n’ adult manner. I hope that it not be the last of such a portrayal. Until then, I’ll have some more rum n’ watch 4 seasons of Black Sails on my Blue Ray collection.