Wednesday, July 09, 2008


There was a time when, whenever Time Team started, I'd turn the sound down and hum the theme to The Avengers, because I thought sometimes that this was the feel Time Team was going for. For Bonekickers, the new BBC1 action-drama about a team of dedicated archaeologists, I guess it should be the music from Torchwood (if it was more memorable).

And that's basically what Bonekickers is - Time Team meets Torchwood. There are plenty of visual references to both shows. In terms of archaeology, there are a few authentic touches - points are scored early for telling people not to stand at the edge of the trench. This and other similar moments are no doubt down to archaeological adviser Mark Horton, who has lent the show the authority of his name, and apparently his wardrobe, to judge from how Hugh Bonneville is dressed.

But anyone whose had any contact with real archaeology departments will soon notice the differences. For a start, the show promulgates the Time Team myth that all archaeologists have limitless supplies of top-of-the-range equipment. And I've never been to a black tie do-cum-book signing-cum-professorial welcome do. And certainly archaeologists, even on rescue digs, don't work round the clock unless there's a really good reason to do so, and never have their labs open all night.

And they don't have silly adventures either. But then Bonekickers wouldn't be much of a drama otherwise, I suppose. It's not that it's particularly bad - it's no worse than Torchwood. It's just not particularly good. And there is a problem with shows like this, or Channel 4's unlamented Extreme Archaeology, that try to make archaeology breathlessly exciting. Archaeology's excitement is not of the adrenaline-rush variety; it's much more cerebral. You can communicate this through television - just ask Mortimer Wheeler, or (since Sir Mortimer's dead) Julian Richards. But I can't see Bonekickers succeeding, or getting a second season.

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