The new BBC1 drama Bonekickers was supposed to be Time Team (or possibly CSI) meets Indiana Jones. They lied. Bonekickers is speed archaeology WITH DIGGERS meets The Da Vinci Code (which isn’t a good thing, just ask Stephen Fry).
Totally spoilery spoilers follow, don’t carry on if you’ve got it recorded or are intending to catch it on iPlayer, but if you missed the first episode here’s a quick recap:
So Time Team is already fairly “sexed up” (possibly not quite the right description for a programme featuring Tony Robinson and Phil Harding, though there’s doubtless a fanfic site devoted to it) as archaeology goes, but even so spending three days and turning up a series of low walls and a couple of fragments of pottery isn’t going to work for a drama, so Bonekickers kicks off (if you’ll forgive the lack of a pun) with “I’ve DUG a HOLE and found DAMASCENE STEEL SWORDS and BONES and SARACEN COINS and STUFF”, they’ve uncovered the site of a battle between Saracens (not the rugby team) and Knights Templars… in BATH! (The city in Somerset, not some jacuzzi, though the latter would have made about as much sense.) “But that’s unpossible!” exclaim our team. “You’re not kidding!” exclaim the audience. I’ll gloss over the character introductions (Scary Archaeologist, Posh Archaeologist, Baby Archaeologist and Other Archaeologist), as the writers did the same, and get straight onto the hunk of wood they pull out of the ground. “I’ve run some tests and it’s a hunk of wood from the Holy Land dating back to 34CE of the sort that, ooh, say, the Romans might have used to make crosses for crucifixion and by the way it’s got some blood soaked into it”. “It looks in pretty decent nick for something 2000 years old that’s spent 700 years buried near Bath” says absolutely nobody as the team chuck it around for giggles.
Then! We get to the Da Vinci Code bit, where a modern-day Fundamentalist Nutter has built an army of modern-day Knights Templar Nutters (is “army” the right word if there’s two of them?) to wage holy war and drive other religions out of England. He’d quite like a big ol’ cross to rally the faithful to his cause. Cue some rushing around of Knights Templar Nutters With Swords trying to get hold of the hunk o’ wood and find the rest of the cross (which wasn’t at the original dig site), inexplicable acquisitions of 14th century texts (one seemed to be in a second hand bookshop where the “14th Century Monk Books” section was helpfully next to the Len Deightons and Jeffrey Archers, our heroes found a second that Mr Nutter had bought by the devilishly cunning method of wandering up to a receptionist and saying “Univesity of Wessex, we’re here to ransack your bosses office”).
Anyway, I lose track of the exact chronology for some mysterious reason, but at various points the programme morphs into That Bit From A Police Drama Where The Detective Needs 48 Hours (“Dammit, Scary Archaeologist, the builders want to get on and build and someone else is buying the land and stuff” “Give me 48 hours, chief!” “Dammit, the DA’s got my ass in a sling over this!”), and Highlander (Knights Templar Nutter swings a sword at a random heretic, the head flying neatly off in one clean sweep, not sure if it was a monofilament sword or he’d carefully selected a victim with no spine and a neck made of tissue paper), and then we build up to the dramatic climax.
First, we discover that the Saracens in the original battle weren’t Saracens at all, but English mercenaries hired by a bunch of Random Monk Types to wipe out the Knights Templars, and they covered their tracks by leaving Saracen weapons and coins around the place, a plan so devilishly cunning nobody even batted an eyelid, as we’re told every five minutes there’s no record of a battle in the area (“Hey medieval peasant #2, a bunch of dead Knights Templars and some Saracen stuff scattered around, shall we pass word of this on through local legend and stuff?” “Nah, medieval peasant #1, not worth mentioning to the others back at the village, and we definitely won’t bother taking any of this stuff”). It’s a good job there happened to be a survivor of this battle who fortuitously turned out to be a 14th century blogger who wrote everything down, though obviously nobody had read it since (probably hadn’t finished everything by Len Deighton, so hadn’t got onto the next shelf). The Random Monk Types had taken the cross to… some old Abbey! LET’S GO!, everyone piles in the Range Rover, while elsewhere a Knights Templar Nutter just *happens* to find the clue pointing to that Abbey at the same time.
Range Rover pulls up in a village, “Hello country bumpkin villager type, we’re looking for the church” “That big church looking thing with a whacking great steeple RIGHT THERE?” “Why yes! Don’t suppose there’s any secret hidden vaults under it, HA HA HA HA HA!” “Ha ha ha ha no, definitely no secret vaults around here, but if you like churches why don’t you look in this dovecot” “It’s designed to hold SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX DOVES!!1!!1! And look! A well, that somebody has covered up with a couple of small pebbles! No wonder nobody bothered to look at in in the past seven hundred years!” Two of our heroes descend into a MASSIVE CATHEDRAL SIZED VAULT, which is chock full of crosses. “Hmm, the Templars can’t have known which was the One True Cross, so they brought them back wholesale”. A torch (battery operated) stops working. Our heroes follow the approved procedure for such a situation (not, as you may think, shouting “has anyone got another torch?”, but tearing off a random piece of clothing, wrapping it around a twig and setting fire to it. You can tell it’s standard procedure, as the clothing is obviously pre-soaked in petrol, the way it instantly bursts into life as a nice torch (flaming).) But oh no! The Knights Templar Nutters have arrived! Chief Fundamentalist Nutter abseils into the vault looking like nothing so much as Batman (or BatFundamentalistNutter, as the case may be), a struggle ensues, and in a turn of events that nobody could possibly have foreseen the flaming torch vaguely brushes a cross which, also being soaked in petrol, instantly bursts into a raging inferno. Meanwhile, Highlander Knight Templar Nutter is descending on a rope, Scary Archaeologist is halfway up an adjacent rope trying to escape, and the two engage in a bizarre-o swinging rope sword fight type thing while BatFundamentalistNutter chases Baby Archaeologist around the burning crosses. Baby Archaeologist stumbles, she’s lying there helpless, BatFundamentalistNutter raises his sword… and… Baby Archaeologist sings “Jerusalem” at him. This is obviously a foolish thing to do, she should have shouted “MATTRESS!” to make him put a paper bag over his head (you stand in the tea chest and sing Jerusalem to get him to take it off again), but it bought just enough time for someone else to shove the nutter into a pile of burning crosses, whereupon he, like everything else, instantly burst into flames. Guess that’s what comes of wearing a cheap polyester suit and using petrol instead of hair gel. Second Knight Templar Nutter gets an attack of conscience (I *think* what swayed him was Other Archaeologist telling him that the original Knights Templar used doves to tax peasants, so it might not have been at attack of conscience so much as beaten into submission by a barrage of non sequiturs), cuts the rope of Highlander Knight Templar Nutter who plunges into the blazing inferno, the archaeologists leg it and they all go down the pub. The end.