Not all archeology work is performed at the Pyramids or historical sites in exotic locations. Before a major real estate project can break ground, a developer must hire an archeologist to probe the grounds. The digger’s unwritten job is to discover nothing of value in the dirt besides a crushed Fresca can from 1974. An Indian graveyard or dinosaur bones will keep developers from slapping up a new strip mall in record time. Bonekickers was about a team of archaeologists bases at Wessex College in Bath, England. They are led by Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham) and Gregory Parton (Hugh Bonneville). She’s intense and focused. He’s rather scatterbrain in his approach. Ben Ergha (Adrian Lester) is their plucky assistant with Viv Davis (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as the naive intern. This foursome doesn’t allow economics or politics to interfere with their dig sites. The series was created by the minds behind Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. Bonekickers covers the six digs aired on the BBC.
“Army of God” proves to be a construction company’s worse nightmare when a dig at a future housing development produces an ancient Arabic coin. Things get more convaluted when they push the dirt away from what might be a significant artifact. This new object creates violence between a fanatical Christian and local Muslims. “Warriors” exposes the bodies of slaves in the Bristol Channel. There’s a conspiracy about this dig that involves a future American president that happens to be African-American. The episodes aired before Obama was elected. “The Eternal Fire” shakes up the Roman Bath ruins. The group investigates the source of the tremors which leads to the truth about who caused the Great Fire of Rome.
“The Cradle of Civilisation” gives a little backstory as Gillian’s old lover arrives on the scene. Who knew she had time for a non-skeleton? He’s an Iraqi archaeologist. He’s come to Bath to recover artifacts that were looted from his country during the recent wars. However the murder of antiques dealer hints that the guy might not be using only legal system in his efforts. “The Lines of War” brings them across the English Channel to France. Their job is to dig out a World War I tank that’s buried in the muck. Since the French authorities thinks there’s also dead German soldiers involved in the scene, this becomes a three country dig. Gillian does not like her German counterpart. Things get messy when it’s revealed that the tank was involved in finding something that would put an end to the War to End All Wars. “Follow That Gleam” gives us the search for the classic English artifact: King Arthur’s Excalibur. Turns out that Gillian’s mother was also looking for the sword. It drove her over the edge of sanity. Shall the daughter end up the same way? Or is she really onto the real deal?
Bonekickers comes off less involving and intense as Life on Mars. The series is missing a DCI Gene Hunt to kick it into a high gear. Instead it comes off as silly like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For all the digging, there’s a superficial nature to the stories. It’s almost like a light weight Dr. Who spin-off without the direct time travel element. Bonekickers works best if you don’t know that it was from the minds behind Life on Mars. That way you can relish the uncovering of a Fresca can instead of expecting the entrance of a Pharaoh’s tomb.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The series was shot on HD and has the same special effects aesthetics as the recent Dr. Who specials. The frame is clean. They get the dirt looking good and brown. The audio is Dolby 2.0. The mix doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue. The subtitles are in English.
“Army of God” contains featurettes that cover the various aspects of what went into the episode. The other five episodes also give insight into what it took to make the show. “Army of God” has The Scrip (2:48), Visual Effects (4:10), The Shoot” (4:55), The Edit (3:19), Production Design (3:02), and The Edit – Live Cut (5:45).
“Warriors” has The Script (4:29), The Shoot (2:21), and The Audio Mix (6:25).
“The Eternal Flame” has The Script (4:32), The Shoot (4:37), The Audio Mix (6:51), and The Colour Grade (2:20).
“The Cradle of Civilisation” has The Script (3:37), The Shoot (1:36), The Costume (4:32), Foley (3:33), and Visual Effects (6:06).
“The Lines of War” has The Script (2:09), The Shoot (5:02), and The Music (7:15).
“Follow the Gleam” includes The Script (4:16), The Shoot (7:36), and “The Music (5:38).
Bonekickers is a light action series with a little history to elevate the dialogue. The six episodes appeal to the folks who get sucked into Da Vinci Code mysteries as the artifacts lead to bigger mysteries. The bonus features explain how each episode comes together. While the series wants to come off as cerebral, it’s doesn’t require too much deep thinking.
Acorn Media presents Bonekickers. Starring: Julie Graham, Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Leste and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Boxset Contents: 6 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 26, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.