Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bonekickers: The Lines of War

Two more episodes of Bonekickers to go, which I must get on with before Dave breaks into my house to steal his DVD back...

Someone runs across muddy ground in Verdun, France, 1431, while someone recites pretentious sounding prose about hope over the top. We are told this is ‘577 years before the Hypermarket’ – coz, you know, none of us can do maths ourselves. The man is a monk who arrives with something at a nunnery and says, in German, 'Ich habe sie' - I have it. Then the camera cuts abruptly to dead, staring faces in a World War One trench and we are told that this is ’91 years before the Hypermarket’ (so, 1917). It’s snowy and some soldiers are coughing in a sickly manner (one of them is the rather handsome James D’Arcy – good name). The we cut to some French builders in much sunnier weather (though still pretty cold judging by the trees) and are told it is now ‘8 months before the Hypermarket’. We get it, they’re building an hypermarché. Move on! The French builders find something in the ground that makes one of them look very shocked. Title sequence.

As an interesting aside, as our guys drive through France on the wrong side of the road, the subtitles (which I’ve put on so that I catch all the French) list the wrong song – they think our guys are listening to Bohemian Rhapsody. They’re not. I guess they couldn’t get the rights to it…

Apparently they've come because the Commonwealth War Graves Comission requires that a British team excavate a British find. They find a buried British tank (that, again, no farmer doing the ploughing, or, for that matter, soldier with grenades in World War Two found in the whole ninety years since it was left there) with 'Joan' written on it, which Taggart explains is because of a habit the British had of writing women's names on their tanks. AL reckons the tank has been deliberately buried, which is definitely a bit weird. Then we get a bit of random trivia about the history of tanks and Taggart is mean to Viv again. Taggart reckons the fact she's being stalked gives her the right to yell at Viv, partly because she seems to think Viv has something to do with it.

NIJ accidentally sets off a grenade. Oops. Except it doesn't go off. AL seems to think that a dustbin can will protect him from a grenade going off. And this man has at least two degrees??!! Do the French not have a bomb disposal squad?

There's a bunch of bodies, burned, in the tank and NIJ gives Viv a talking to about how this isn't history because it's too recent, so it still counts as an atrocity. NIJ identifies the bodies as British because he finds traces of marmite. In the burned out tank. Marmite = totally fireproof - who knew?!

There's some obligatory banter with a smartly dressed Frenchman about the French surrendering all the time. Clearly I am the only person in the world who thinks that that joke has gotten really old. A German woman arrives, who Taggart does not seem to like, and who insists that if NIJ comes near her, he must be muzzled - I like her. Taggart acts like a child on the playground, insisting that it's her dig.

AL points out that Verdum was a French/German line and the British shouldn't have been there, but Viv insists the marmite proves it, because apparently it's impossible for two allied sides to exchange tanks or yeast products. They also discover that a German shot at them in the tank, which Viv thinks is horrible - maybe someone needs to explain the concept of war to her (it's all horrible).

There's a whole bunch of antagonism between the Brits and Germans, which is ridiculous - football fans may behave that way, but classicists and archaeologists are generally all for greater contact across Europe and German was the language of Classics (and science) for years. If I had handed in a thesis with no French or German books on the bibliography, I would not be doing very well. Taggart tries to claim they only hate the one German (the woman, Becker, whom I will refer to as she-Boris from now on, after my favourite tennis player and first crush from when I was about five) but the whole narrative set=up is really pathetic. Taggart accuses the French and Germans of looking for glory - Taggart, meet this black kettle.

They get some skin off the corpses because it was preserved by peat (which is really gross) and finds a tattoo of the cross of Lorraine, a French heraldic tattoo. The soldiers were shot in the back of the head, execution style, so Taggart says they must be looking at a war crime.

She-Boris thinks history is a puzzle too, so she just went right down in my estimation. Viv finds a picture of the tank and some soldiers in an old issue of King and Country (recommended by Blackadder as 'soft, strong and thoroughly absorbatn') and oh my goodness, it's Owen from Torchwood. No offence to Burn Gorman, who I'm sure is a lovely person, but Owen (and the others, except Tosh and the lovely Captian Jack) annoyed me so much I've only ever bothered to watch two or three episodes of Torchwood. NIJ can apparently tell he was 'a nice fellow' from the photo though, so that's me told. One of the men in the picture survived the war and wrote for King and Country, which NIJ reminds us was propaganda, but Viv says this particular writer wasn't so into that.

Captain Jack, Tosh and Owen in Torchwood

AL tells she-Boris whats going on at last. Taggart's mother is sick, so she starts yelling at Viv again and says she can't go home and see her until they get the bodies back to England - which is utter nonsense, the others could do that perfectly well without her and she could head home on the next flight. Viv is reading the pretentious prose from the beginning, which it turns out was written by the lovely Mr D'Arcy.

In flashback, Owen tells the other soldiers in the snow that the French and Germans are both pulling back and there's no one else left, then Mr D'Arcy offers him some marmite brew - just in case we, the viewers, are so incredibly stupid that we haven't worked out that these are the soldiers we're dealing with. 'Joan' is apparently stuck in the mud and Owen doesn't like Winston Churchill. Owen carries a book he 'found' while doing a research thesis which apparently reveals the weapon that will end the war, which Owen reckons he has.

Back to Taggart, moping. A sinister shadowy figure tries to put us all out of our misery by setting her tent on fire, but she's rescued by someone from the MoD. Taggart thinks the Germans did it, while a French girl accuses AL of killing her dog (it was actually the shadowy figure) and NIJ insists that accusing someone of killing your dog constitutes a declaration of war. Seriously, who these people? I know all workplaces contain elements of the playground - little cliques, gangs, gossip, sadly sometimes bullying - but this lot are ridiculous. They seem to think they're all still in primary school, just with a slightly better knowledge of history. MoD guy, unsurprisingly, is the only sensible one. He's an archivist, come to document their findings. He's also the only person who doesn't keep hand-wringing about how terrible it all is and doesn't insist on jumping to conclusions at every tiny detail. I really like him.

One of the bodies is a German called Grüber - surely not Lieutenant Grüber??!! No, wrong war (though it is in a tank...). Our guys realise this might be a British war crime. (Why are they so obsessed with this anyway? There's no one left to bring to trial. It's interesting, sure, but not that nail-bitingly stressful. And why oh why isn't Taggart on her way back to Britain to her sick mother? She's not a soldier, she's an archaeologist - she doesn't have a duty to dead bodies!).

Flashback again. A body is hanging and Mr D'Arcy finds it. The we're in the woods and a German walks towards our guys, who turns out to be a dear friend of Owen. The two of them (and a third, who has a moustache) want to find a weapon that will 'stop the killing overnight' - what is it, the Ring of Power? More Viv reading the pretentious prose over film images from World War One, one showing a very slim Winston Churchill - I wonder if these are real? That would be cool.

Mr D'Arcy, it turns out, had been a corresspondant of Winston Churchill, and spent his life after the war in an asylum, possibly because he started wittering to Winston Churchill about the lost Weapon of Lorraine (not the Ring of Power after all). Owen and his friends knew each other at Oxford. The media whore just wants to bury the bodies, which makes him a pretty rubbish archaeologist, while MoD guy wants to take over the site to stop Taggart causing another war.

Too late - outside, the French and the Germans are fighting because someone has hung up what looks like a guy from Guy Fawkes night with a Lorraine cross on it. If that person is found, they will be sent to bed without any supper. Then she-Boris goes off on one about the Brits and the French seeing the Germans as monsters, so I think we've moved into a different war entirely.

NIJ is humming Flight of the Valkyries - how very inappropriate. Meanwhile, someone has got rid of all their evidence, and the media whore says they have to go. As they prepare to leave, Viv discovers that our guys, including Grüber, were archaeologists - I hope she remembers what early 20th century archaeology was like. Oh right - it was like Bonekickers, but without the excitement. They were all obsessed with Joan of Arc, so we get to see Joan being burned alive at the stake.

Engraving of Joan of Arc in battle from Le Brun de Charmette’s L’Orléanide poème national

Suddenly, we see the monk and nun again while Taggart and NIJ give us a quick history lesson on Joan of Arc, then declare, on the basis of no evidence, that the French and Germans conspired to move her bones to Lorraine. Apparently the incredible weapon that was going to end the war was.... some relics. Uh-huh. You can totally end a massive war with some old bones. Oh yeah.

AL finds Owen's book in the pigeon carrier in the tank (where else would you keep a pigeon carrier?!), which is written in medieval Latin but has some co-ordinates pencilled in, showing our guys where to go. And oh look - another hole in the ground that no one has looked into in ninety years, even while there was another war going on around them. The flashbacks are mingled with the modern stuff. The soldiers are all convinced that the bones will make the French surrender (I really, really don't understand why that would be the case) and Owen says he has saved his country, along with everyone else's from more slaughter, while Mr D'Arcy calls him a traitor for letting the Germans win. If only there was someone there to tell them that some ancient Catholic relics will not make the slightest bit of difference to the war. Mr D'Arcy thinks if Germany win they will annexe Britain - wrong war again. According to Mr D'Arcy, the war will be over but Britain will be crushed. What, the entire British empire? Which, at this point, covered about a quarter of the globe? They seem blissfully unaware that there were other countries fighting with Germany as well, but I guess that might be the result of British propaganda, so I should give them that.

Owen is suddenly convinced by this speech and starts looking very suspiciously at his German friends. Then everyone pulls their guns out, Owen shoots a German, Grüber swallows his nametage to enable identification of his body and Mr D'Arcy executes all the Germans.

Why on earth would tje bones of a heroine make the French surrender? No, I really shouldn't give it that much thought.

Our guys reach the tomb and find Joan (who really ought to be in a reliquary). And a British bullet. Then MoD guy turns up and it turns out he was sabotaging the dig to try to stop the story coming out (which is as surprising as a bear sh*****g in the woods, being as he was the only obvious suspect for the pyromania etc). The whole cover up was orchestrated by Winston Churchill, who was told by Mr D'Arcy and the military have been covering up ever since.

Then there's a bunch of political stuff about the current war, which won't make a whole lot of sense to future audiences. MoD guy thinks a ninety year old scandal will destroy the reputation of his regiment and decides to execute them, though he first explains to Taggart that three soldiers were shot in the crypt, three in the tank - Mr D'Arcy shot his own men to cover it up. Our guys think their number is up - so Taggart is finally nice to Viv - but MoD guy buggers off.

NIJ is all excited that he might have discovered Joan of Arc. Hehe. Taggart apologises to she-Boris. Back in the UK, she and Viv visit her mother, and Viv reveals that she is actually Taggart's half-sister. Taggart stomps off. The End.

Well, that was... that. Um. Burn Gorman's character was actually less irritating in this one. Definitely glad I didn't decide to watch this on Remembrance Day. I think the rest of it speaks for itself, really. Just when you thought you'd hit rock bottom with Bonekickers, you find another 50 feet of rubbish. Next time, thankfully, the last episode, which involves lots of blood (sadly not Taggart's) and, I am led to believe, King Arthur. Sigh.


  1. Mama! That's my life! A life in ruins! Mortuary archaeology is a dead-end job!

  2. YOU LOVE IT!!!


  3. Well, I'm loving the intriguing Viv/Taggart plot development - totally bizarre, like suddenly we slipped into a soap opera!


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