On this day in 2010, according to what is written in Triumphs & Tribulations X, I went on a very special tour of Showa Memorial Park with the other winners of the 2010 Yokota Air Base Annual Awards. We toured the perfectly manicured grounds of a Japanese garden, got a very enlightening lesson on bonsai trees, and participated in a tea ceremony. It was an exciting day. But the highlight of that Thursday wasn’t in the Tachikawa green space but rather in the confines of my residence. It was that night—March 4, 2010—that I got my first look at one of the most intriguing television series I’ve ever watched. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Spartacus: Blood and Sand television series.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the series a week earlier. I was in the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s conference room. We were participating in an operational readiness inspection gauging our proficiency in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) response so the conference room was doubling as the unit command center. I was on the very laid-back overnight shift as the Operations Manager and SIPRNet point of contact for the unit. Also on the shift were many of the seconds-in-command of the respective flights and disciplines. One of the guys was the assistant NCOIC of the Electrical Systems shop and he was intently tuned into his personal laptop during one of our down periods, obviously watching something. I inquired and he said he was watching Spartacus. He went on to explain it was one of the craziest shows he’s ever seen, that it had “blood, swords, gladiators, and tits everywhere”. I was intrigued. I wrote down the name of the show and searched for it after the inspection was over. The evening of March 4, 2010, was my first free moment to check it out.
What it meant to me then? In my viewing of Episode 1—“The Red Serpent”—I found myself intrigued by the series. There were some familiar faces to me like Peter Mensah from Tears of the Sun and 300, Lucy Lawless from Xena: Warrior Princess and EuroTrip, and John Hannah from The Mummy franchise. I liked the fighting scenes, the expert proficiency with the swords, and the gruesome nature of the gladiators in their element. I immediately became attached to Spartacus as he felt compelled to survive to see himself reunited with his wife after the betrayal of Gaius Claudius Glaber. I ended up downloading the episodes every Friday night and watching them on Saturdays after my return from the city.
What it means to me now? The first season was very intense and it was some of the best television drama I had seen up until that point. I was really looking forward to Season 2 but the lead character (Andy Whitfield) had a recurrence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and we ended up with the Spartacus: Gods of the Arena prequel as he went through his treatment. Whitfield never recovered and died in 2011 with the series moving on to a replacement character. I tuned in to a few episodes of Season 2, entitled Spartacus: Vengeance but the series wasn’t the same without Whitfield. I stopped watching. But even today, as I’m armed with the Starz subscription as part of my Amazon Prime Video package, I tune into Spartacus: Blood and Sand and find myself enamored by the action. It was really a show ahead of its time.