A brief digression back to week five to start with, being on holiday at the time and only just catching up; I thought the World War I plot generally worked, apart from the Genius Plan of nudging Germany and France towards peace by finding the remains of Joan of Arc (apparently because they’d been smuggled away from the English by a German monk). Maybe my appreciation of the political situation in 1917 is somewhat lacking, but that seemed a bit like suggesting the real driving force behind the armistice between Italy and the Allies in 1943 was a crack team of bakers who’d been parachuted in to make a load of Garibaldi biscuits as a symbol of the historic links between the nations. Hmm, I have an idea for an episode for series two… I like to think the episode started off with a half-sane plot, but the writer was ordered to crowbar in a reference to a Special Sword, and eventually managed to tone down the initial suggestion of Winston Churchill standing atop a tank, hurtling into battle at 4mph waving Excalibur before leaping off and having a swordfight with Kaiser Wilhelm II, into the Joan of Arc idea.
So on to the finale, and we discover, sure enough, that the Special Sword oh-so-subtly crammed into each of the preceding episodes is, of course, Excalibur, forged from a meteorite in (mumble) BC, passing down through history, but only into the hands of people involved in previous episodes of Bonekickers. Handy, that. There’s also Staggering Revelation II, from the end of episode five, that Magwilde and Viv are sisters, that the audience cares about less than going “ooh, look, it’s that one from Press Gang” when Dexter Fletcher turns up. Then we get a bunch of tedious waffle on Tennyson, Magwilde’s mothers notes, some secret society called The Disciples of Good Use whose primary purpose appears to be to stand around wearing white masks for no good reason and definitely *not* being the Masons or the Illuminati or anyone else who might sue (or send white masked assassins) and a general chase around sub-3-2-1 riddles to find Excalibur, which of course is in a lake. The episode finally picks up pace for the inevitable confrontation between Our Heroes and The Pointless Society, the absolute highlight of the entire series being ‘Dolly’ Parton advancing on knife-wielding cultists shouting a bunch of dates at them (this may seem like a really stupid idea, but it is of course a well-established technique from Fisher’s Guide To Non-Physical Violence) before yelling “don’t mess with me, I’m an archaeologist!” and hitting someone with a torch. Excalibur is plucked from the depths, seized by Chief Bad Guy, and, like every other historical artefact the team have come within a three mile radius of, destroyed when he swings at the team and misses. With the sword shattered, he promptly hops into the lake, and it’s home for tea and biscuits again.
The problems with Bonekickers really start with the main characters, the right team can carry off daft plots, but Magwilde in particular must be one of the least sympathetic lead characters of recent history, with emotions ranging from Quite Cross to A Bit Crotchety. Still, underneath that gruff, angry shell there was a heart of… angry gruffness. Were we really supposed to be rooting for her, or just hoping each week for some catastrophic misfortune? Viv and Ben barely got anything to do past being The Naive One Asking Questions and The Sensible One, the attempt at sexual tension between Ben and Magwilde was laughable, the amazing revelation of Viv being Madwilde’s sister was dull and pointless, only ‘Dolly’ Parton showed a few glimpses of character. Plot-wise… well, the less said the better, really, and that’s before trying to tie Excalibur into everything as a series arc. Still, the utter absurdity kept me watching, if only to find out quite how bad it could get. If it does make it back for a second series, I really hope they scale things back, focus on (some new and watchable) characters more, and less on finding (and setting fire to) AMAZING HISTORY and being pursued by a SECRET CULT for it on a weekly basis. Either that, or just abandon any pretence at even a nodding relation to reality and go with Boudica and Joan of Arc having a lightsabre fight in a lost nuclear submarine in Atlantis.