Mention “Vikings” and we envision big, burly men with thick beards – wearing metal helmets with horns on the sides rather like the roughneck he-men in 2010 animated movie How to Train Your Dragon. However, History Channel’s new drama series, VIKINGS, deals in no such stereotypes, showing us men of strength, curiosity and adventure instead.

The channel’s most ambitious and first scripted drama production, costing US$40 million (S$50 million), takes place in early medieval Scandinavia, a time of feasts and booze but also of uncertainty and corruption. The 9-part drama series follows farmer and family man Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), who’s tired of being ordered to head east for the men’s annual summer raids by local chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). Besides, not much can be gained as the eastern isles are as impoverished as Ragnar’s town.

This time, Ragnar and his men discover new lands in the uncharted western isles, rumored to be filled with treasure, and do battle to secure more land and riches. With its rather gruesome fight scenes (think slightly less violent than Game of Thrones), you might think this is a testosterone-filled show more suited for the guys. But ladies will rejoice that it has its share of strong female characters, notably Ragnar’s wife, Lagertha, a fiery shieldmaiden who can easily hold her own in a battlefield of men. In fact, even in the Viking Age, women had as much power as the men, and were allowed in the battlefield, to own land and ultimately, rule.

VIKINGS is created and written by Michael Hirst – who also wrote the Academy Award-winning Elizabeth and the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated series, The Tudors. Hailed as “one of the premier historical story-tellers in the industry”, Hirst put much research into the development of the series. In fact, the character of Ragnar was based on a literary figure of the same name, found in old Norse poems and sagas. However, it’s unclear whether Ragnar himself existed.

The US$40 million-budget went into (among other things)a pair of 17m-long Viking ships built in Czech Republic, and commissioned custom furniture sourced from India were used as props as they were similar in design to the original artifacts.

But the efforts paid off. VIKINGS aired from Mar 3 till Apr 28 in America, with a total of 8.3 million viewers for its first episode — the #1 Cable Series Premiere of the Year according to TV by the Numbers. This is no small feat, too, since shows like Game of Thrones[] and Spartacus setting the bar so high for historical dramas of war and saucy drama.

But with its engaging characters and visuals (the gorgeous backdrop of Ireland’s lush greens and mountains especially), VIKINGS is a spectacle and a story definitely worth watching.

The series has already been confirmed for a second season, where Alexander Ludwig (Cato in The Hunger Games, and Seth in Race to Witch Mountain) will play Ragnar’s teenage son, Björn.

For a chance to win a Harley Davidson motorcycle, like History Asia’s Facebook page and click on their VIKINGS app!

Catch VIKINGS every Sunday from Sep 29, at 10pm on the History Channel (StarHub TV Ch 401) and History HD (StarHub TV Ch 455).