The Smithsonian Channel will explore the evolution of weapons throughout history and how they changed the course of mankind in the new documentary series WORLD OF WEAPONS. Weapons comprise an ever-evolving arsenal that has transformed combat – helping build empires, destroy them and deter aggression. This ten-part series highlights some of the world’s most important and innovative weapons and how and why they work, what problems they solve on the battlefield and give fresh insight into their role in history. Along the way, renowned international experts look at weapons and war as a way to explain human progress and how they may determine our fate. WORLD OF WEAPONS premieres Sunday, March 15 at 9 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.
In the premiere episode, RANGED WEAPONS, experts demonstrate the most important long-range weapons in history. The pilum, a most ingeniously made spear, was the high-tech weapon of the ancient world used in the Roman Empire to disable the enemy in battle. In the medieval times, England becomes the most feared superpower with the longbow, which caused massive damage to opposing forces and especially Europe’s aristocratic knights. During the nineteenth century, battlefields become even bloodier with the emergence of the minié ball, creating more accurate precision for firing at a distance.
Subsequent episodes of WORLD OF WEAPONS are:
ATTACK FROM ABOVE
Premieres Sunday, March 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Warfare enters a new dimension with the attack from above, transporting war up in the air. Early on, archers besieged with devastating incendiary arrows, and long before airplanes were invented, smart medieval army commanders designed rockets. Bomb attacks have become a significant part of vicious war tactics since WWI, and as A.I. becomes increasingly independent, war drones could soon autonomously decide when to strike.
Premieres Sunday, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Melee is likely the most original type of close combat, but over time, armies have developed more effective close combat weapons. In this episode, experts test the physical and psychological impact of the three most important melee developments of our time. The Roman short sword and the medieval war hammer cause severe damage, while bayonets rely on the deterrent effect – but an exoskeleton gives superpowers to the soldiers of the future.
WEAPONS FOR ALL
Premieres Sunday, April 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Weapons designed for everyone are an advantage at war, but they can also be extremely devastating. Experts test the three most important weapons that can be learned quickly. The crossbow transforms peasants into warriors that suddenly become a threat to the knight; learning to use a pike is easy but requires bravery. The Kalashnikov is considered the world’s deadliest weapon due to its rare simplicity, but if 3D printed guns go into mass production, world peace will never be the same.
FASTER THAN THE ENEMY
Premieres Sunday, April 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Speed has become a decisive factor in warfare, and in this episode, a team of international experts use experiments to show the most significant weapons where speed made a difference. The chariot brings mobility to the battles of the ancient world, small handguns like Samuel Colt’s revolver launch a new era of war and the weapon considered as the one symbol for asymmetric warfare is the sling. Will the future laser cannon change warfare with the speed of light?
THE POWER OF DESTRUCTION
Premieres Sunday, April 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
International experts test the catastrophic effects of the most destructive weapons that shaped the wars of the 20th century. Machine guns kill entire units within seconds, while the hand grenade has enormous power and can easily be carried in a backpack – but the most powerful war machine ever invented is the tank. Military scientists seek ever more demolition with least effort – does the Russian ‘father of all bombs’ finally reach all limits of conventional destruction?
WAR AT SEA
Premieres Sunday, April 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
War at sea: a new form of warfare with exceptional challenges. In this episode, weapons expert Stephen Bull tests three significant weapons of the sea. The Byzantines guarded the Greek fire as the secret super weapon that kept Constantinople safe for over 800 years. Experts build an original replica for an experiment that will demonstrate the thunderous force of a ship cannon. One of the most devastating missiles ever invented is the torpedo, and a subsonic torpedo might be ruling sea battles in the future.
Premieres Sunday, May 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Attacking the enemy in an ambush is a devastating advantage at war. The Ambush explores weapons that stayed undetected until their very strike revolutionized warfare. The caltrop brought down the cavalry when it made entire battlefields impassible. Being able to load and fire a rifle from a lying position made a huge difference during warfare. The insidious landmine weakens every leftover moral of the enemy’s army. What if future soldiers’ cover becomes invisibility?
Premieres Sunday, May 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Wars become even bloodier as new technologies keep evolving. An international team of experts tests the deadliest weapons upgrades in the history of warfare. Designed to penetrate solid armor, the Scorpio makes use of the power of torsion. With the long sword, European knights slaughter their opponents on the medieval battlefield and Henry’s rifle changed future wars with a revolutionary design: the lever action. Looking forward, a futuristic image of a combat robot army can be the next generation of infantry.
CIVILIANS ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Premieres Sunday, May 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Often times civilians suffer from waging a war – in this episode, experts track down three weapons that were used to recklessly attack civilian populations. With no regard for civilian casualties, the trebuchet hurls heavy stones against solid castle walls. Deploying biological weapons is a chance to conquer a fortress without destroying it. Designed to put an end to World War II, the atomic bomb embodies fear and terror to this day. Now, a cyber war could be most devastating, affecting everyone’s reality.
WORLD OF WEAPONS is produced by Story House Productions for ZDF and ZDF Enterprises. Producers for Story House Producers are Jens Afflerbach, Carsten Obl?nder and Arnd Piechottka. Joy Galane and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.