2021 | Docuseries | 4 x 45′ |  Kriegsschiffe - Tod auf See (2021) on IMDb

The History of Warships

If you want to rule the world, you have to rule the oceans. To rule the oceans, you need warships – the best, the most, the strongest – and the right people to lead them into battle.

Warships are the most expensive of weapons. Building them promises prestige and power – but using them always means taking a huge risk. Naval battles can decide the fates of nations in a matter of hours.

For millennia, warships and naval warfare hardly changed. And then, in the 19th century, wood was replaced by iron and steel, and sails by steam engines. This is the moment where our series begins. In four episodes, “SEAPOWER  – The History of Warships” welcomes us aboard some of the most famous battleships in history, as we tell the story of warships from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Through the eyes of real-life characters, we experience some of the most significant battles, the most catastrophic accidents, and the most fateful missions.  They share their private photos, and their private thoughts. Those who are no longer with us kept meticulous diaries, recording their insights, their memories, and their hopes and fears. And those who are still with us gave exclusive interviews – some for the last time. We see the fear and pride in their eyes and hear the emotions in their voices as they bring us into their worlds, their wars.

We illustrate their stories with archival footage, some of which has been painstakingly restored, as well as personal footage, and newly shot footage of preserved warships.

First-class experts give their stories context. They give us the information we need to comprehend warships as fascinating technical marvels and at the same time destructive war machines. In addition, we use animation to explain what lies at the heart of naval warfare: ship types, how their weapons and technology work – making the complex comprehensible.

In chronological order, the four episodes recount some of the most exciting chapters of naval warfare .

In the first episode, “Giants Awakening”, we witness how warships become a major cause of World War I – and how sailors ultimately help put an end to it. We have a front-row seat for the biggest naval battle of the war and feel the horrors of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In the second episode, “A World in Flames”, we witness the demise of the Imperial German fleet – and the rise of Japan as a major power. Against the backdrop of the deadliest war the world has ever seen, we learn how submarines and aircraft carriers change naval tactics forever.

In “The Chase Begins”, at a moment where a new weapon has potentially made warships irrelevant, they become more important than ever. We are there when nuclear weapons first go to sea, and balance on the knife’s edge of mutually assured destruction.

In “A Limitless War” we venture a glimpse into the future. We see new powers rise – and witness an old power reborn. Finally, we ask ourselves and our characters: In a world where David can take on Goliath, what is the future of warships?


Executive Producer
Regina Bouchehri, Gunnar Dedio

A co-production by
LOOKSfilm, ZDF, Imagissime

In association with
RMC Découverte

Writers & Directors
Florian Dedio, Michaela McMahon, Marie Perrin, Anna Schwarz

Creative Producer
Veronika Christmann