Bonekickers episode 3 review

It's only three episodes in but Ryan is already getting frustrated with Bonekickers' wilful disregard for actual historical fact...

BBC drama at its, er, finest: Bonekickers

Britain’s clumsiest archaeologists return for another search and destroy mission through history. This week, an earth tremor in Bath reveals a hidden catacomb. ‘There’s a honeycomb of unexplored areas under the baths!’ team matriarch Gillian Magwilde cries, grabbing her trowel.

If the writers of Bonekickers are to be believed, the whole of England sits atop a network of caves stuffed to the stalactites with ancient relics. Artifacts like belt buckles are pulled from the earth like a lucky dip at a church fete, and before long, Ben and Gillian (archaeology’s Mulder and Scully) have uncovered evidence of yet another ancient conspiracy; it’s discovered this week that Queen Boudica had a clandestine affair with a resourceful Roman called Marcus Quintanus, who also, it transpires, invented the hand grenade and used them to destroy Rome.

Bonekickers‘ plots have unfailingly displayed a wilful absence of logic, and this episode is no exception; Quintanus thoughtfully leaves clues to Boudica’s fate everywhere, even going to the considerable effort of secretly creating a mosaic to celebrate his unavowed relationship.

Even more bizarre is Gillian’s apparent jinx – everything she finds seems to ignite the second she touches it, and priceless artifacts are destroyed without protest or comment. When Boudica’s corpse is discovered (apparently preserved in strawberry jam), Gillian’s initial elation at her historical find quickly gives way to indifference when it catches fire. It’s sort of like archaeology with Attention Deficit Disorder.

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Bonekickers‘ cheesy script is also beginning to form its own unique kind of poetry. You’ve got to admire a show that can throw out lines such as ‘Love is at a forty degree angle and cannot be straightened,’ or ‘Dolly gives good strontium. Watch and learn,’ or ‘Hell’s tits!’

It’s all tacky camp fun, of course, but Bonekickers is already settling down into a rigidly predictable formula. The cycle of clues, conjecture and frenzied digging is already beginning grate, a fact not helped by the series’ signposted plot. Swords are depicted and alluded to with such regularity that the words ‘EXCALIBUR’ may as well flash up on the screen at the end of every episode – these laughably unsubtle ‘clues’ to the subject of the final episode are a prime example of Bonekickers‘ sledgehammer storytelling.

Despite its initial trashy appeal, the series’ joke is already beginning to wear thin; characters may utter, with wide-eyed sincerity, such gems as ‘humans don’t fit into boxes,’ but Bonekickers is starting to feel like a show that should be consigned to history.