Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The Complete First Season

Gory Roman-epic-flavoured TV series lacks subtlety, but wins on detailed visuals

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the ultimate in ‘guilty pleasure’ TV. Never afraid to push at the boundaries of taste and decency, this 13-episode debut season of the rollicking ‘adults only’ take on the historical story of gladiator-turned-slave-rebellion-leader Spartacus is awash with gore, sex and the most ribald and inventive swearing since Deadwood left our screens. That’s not to say that this Starz production is even half as smart as your average HBO series, but it makes up for its rampant dumbness with 300-style action scenes and plenty of naked romping (featuring everyone from Lucy ‘Xena’ Lawless to, gulp, John Hannah). Tremendous fun for lovers of trash TV.

Picture: Spartacus: Blood and Sand wears its visual inspirations on its sleeve – most notably Gladiator and 300 – and as a result it’s one of the most striking looking shows around at the moment. So it’s a bloody good job that this Blu-ray set’s AVC 1.78:1 1080p encodes do such a good job of rendering it in hi-def. Every individual hair, wrinkle and grain of sand is clearly visible, while the colour palette is 100 per cent true to the source. The only real downside is that the extraordinary clarity of the image often serves to reinforce how shoddy many of the show’s green screen effects really are – but you can’t exactly fault it for that.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Each episode in the set comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that is every bit as aggressive and unrelenting as the gladiators that populate the series. Naturally, it’s the many bouts of gladiatorial combat that provide the most powerful and visceral acoustic moments, but even quieter scenes positively drip with taut atmospheric effects and immersive surround elements. It’s not exactly subtle, but for a show as cartoonishly violent as this one, that’s definitely a good thing.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The good news is that there’s a smattering of episode commentaries scattered across the four disc set. However, rather unhelpfully they’re all hidden away in the ‘episode select’ menus, so if you go looking in the Special Features or Set-Up menus, or simply opt to ‘Play All’, you’ll probably never come across them. On top of that, each episode also features a Spartacus Historicus: Pop Up History trivia function, and the final disc houses seven short behind-the-scenes featurettes, a gag reel, a compilation of action scenes and a trailer – all in HD.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: It’s not big or clever, but this brutal series unleashes all the sex and death you could hope for on Blu-ray.

Anchor Bay, Region B BD, £40 approx, On sale now