Plot: In this three episode mini-series, historian David Starkey explores two of the greatest leaders in British military history, Winston Churchill and his distant relative, John Churchill. While Winston became a high profile historical figure for his leadership role in World War II among other things, John hasn’t enjoyed that kind of spotlight. But in The Churchills, Starkey looks into John’s military record and finds that perhaps he is due to be given some credit for his relative’s success. Before he was Prime Minister, Winston had a staggering interest in history and his own family tree, penning a huge biographical tome about John. A close look is taken at not only that book, Marlborough: His Life and Times, but how John’s life and tactics might have influenced Winston in substantial ways.

Entertainment Value: I appreciate documentaries that examine lesser known aspects of history, but in the case of The Churchills, it takes a well known figure and supplements the rich knowledge involved. Winston Churchill is obviously a well studied element of our past, especially in terms of his involvement in World War II, but here some new doors are opened and explored. Of course, if you’ve read Marlborough or learned about Winston’s intense link to John, then perhaps some of this is old hat, but in either case, this is a well produced mini-series. Starkey draws a lot of direct comparisons between the battle tactics of the Churchill leaders, most of which seem to have some real basis, while others are a little bit of a reach. But the show also acknowledges that, so it isn’t like wild claims are made with no mind to the facts involved. By taking an interest in a stretch of Winston’s life that isn’t as well known as his other exploits, we get to see a different side of the man and in turn, perhaps get some insight into some of his tough military decisions. If you appreciate historical documentaries, The Churchills is a well made, interesting mini-series, well worth a look.

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