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From left to right: Prof Gregory Parton (Hugh Bonneville), Dr Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham), Dr Ben Ergha (Adrian Lester) and Viv Davis (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)
Genre Serial
Created by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 6
Original channel BBC One
Original airing 8 July 2008 - 12 August 2008
External links
Official website

Bonekickers was a BBC drama about a team of archaeologists, set at the fictional Wessex University.[1] It debuted on 8 July 2008 and ran for one series.

It was written by Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah[2]. It was produced by Michele Buck and Damien Timmer of Mammoth Screen Ltd and co-produced with Monastic Productions. Archaeologist and Bristol University academic Mark Horton acted as the series' archaeological consultant.[3] Adrian Lester has described the programme as "CSI meets Indiana Jones [...] There's an element of the crime procedural show, there's science, conspiracy theories – and there's a big underlying mystery that goes through the whole six-episode series." This is the revelation that Viv and Gillian are related, Viv was put up for adoption by Gillian's mother Karen and this has been kept secret.[4]

Much of the series was filmed in the City of Bath, Somerset, with locations including the University of Bath campus, (which does not offer Archaeology courses).[1] Additional locations included Brean Down Fort and Kings Weston House (both for episode 2), and Sheldon Manor.

On 21 November 2008 Broadcast magazine revealed the show would not be returning for a second series.[5]



Episode guide

# Title Writer Director Guest actors UK air date
01 "Army of God" Matthew Graham James Strong Paul Rhys, Paul Nicholls 8 July 2008 (2008-07-08)
Developers discover an Arab coin (dirhem) on ground marked for a housing development. The archaeological team find this mysterious as the site is a very long way from the Crusades. The subsequent adventure involves modern Knights Templar, a fanatically racist Christian evangelist and the True Cross
02 "Warriors" Ashley Pharoah James Strong Benjamin Whitrow, William Hope, Eamonn Walker,
Doreen Mantle, Frances Tomelty
15 July 2008 (2008-07-15)
When the bodies of presumed slaves are found in the Bristol Channel, matters take a turn for the worse for the team as they encounter a conspiracy involving Maroons, the Siege of Yorktown and a man intending to be the first black President of America. 
03 "The Eternal Fire" Matthew Graham Sarah O'Gorman Shauna Macdonald 22 July 2008 (2008-07-22)
After tremors can be felt through an ancient Roman Bath site, the team go to check what is causing it. This leads to the discovery of the true arsonist, responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, and to a love affair concerning Boudicca herself. 
04 "The Cradle of Civilisation" Matthew Graham James Strong Silas Carson, Darrell D'Silva, Vicky Hall, Matt Rippy, David Ryall, Nina Sosanya, Frances Tomelty 29 July 2008 (2008-07-29)
Kahmil Hammadi, an Iraqi archaeologist and Gillian's former love interest, arrives in Bath with a cultural delegation to reclaim a Babylonian relic looted during the Iraq war. Gillian is suspicious of Hammadi, believing he has a different reason for visiting, and her suspicions are further aroused when an antiquities dealer is found murdered. [1] 
05 "The Lines Of War" Tom MacRae Nick Hurran James D'Arcy, Burn Gorman, Adam James, Patrick Monckeberg, Gabrielle Scharnitzky, Philippe Smolikowski, Frances Tomelty 5 August 2008 (2008-08-05)
A British First World War tank containing the burnt remains of six bodies is uncovered in France, as the team of archaeologists uncover another compelling mystery. The tank has been buried since 1917 and the discovery ignites an international archaeological feud between Professor Gillian Magwilde and her German counterpart, Dr Becker, while bureaucratic French official Monsieur Luc struggles to remain neutral. [2] 
06 "Follow the Gleam" Matthew Graham Iain B. MacDonald Jeremy Bulloch, Dexter Fletcher, Tobias Menzies, Vicky Hall, Frances Tomelty, Rick Warden, David Oakes 12 August 2008 (2008-08-12)
Professor Gillian Magwilde risks her reputation, friendships and even her life on a quest for her deepest obsession,Excalibur, the greatest sword in history, in the final episode of the series. This obsession is steeped in Arthurian legend and the poetry of Tennyson, and it drove Gillian's mother, Karen, mad. Now Gillian needs to end this quest. She must come to terms with her relationship with Viv and the mysterious man who has been trying to contact her, Henry Timberdyne. [3] 




According to unofficial overnight figures, the first episode of the series was watched by 6.8 million viewers, achieving a 31% audience share.[6] This fell to 5.2 million viewers with a 24.3% share in the second week,[7] and 4.6 million with a 21% share in the third.[8] And week four fell again to 4.2 million, a 20% share. Week five dropped to 3.8 million. The final episode saw a slight increase in viewers to 4.3 million.[9]

First night reviews

The series debuted to broadly negative reviews. The Guardian's Gareth McLean described the show as "mind-bogglingly dreadful", with "lame characters delivering abysmal lines",[10] David Chater of The Times thought it "rubbish",[11] and The Independent's Thomas Sutcliffe found it laughable and full of absurdities, while also observing that "Professor Magwilde's approach to archaeology is unconventional. She likes to squat at the edge of the trench and mutter urgently, 'Come on! Give up your secrets!'"[12] In BBC Two's Newsnight Review, the author Kate Mosse asserted it would be "great for teenagers", while the academic and critic Sarah Churchwell said the "execution [was] appalling" and that it was "beyond silly"; John Mullan likewise criticised the show's absurdities, saying that "Hokum has to have its own logic".[13] The New Statesman described it as "dramatic goo".[14] Some reviews were slightly more positive - Patricia Wynn Davies of The Telegraph wrote that while lacking in subtlety, the episode had an "action-packed conclusion",[15], and Lucy Mangan in the Guardian criticised the episode as "arrant nonsense" and "a clattering bag of madness" and found its characters too "shouty", but praised Paul Rhys and overall concluded that the episode was "utterly bonkers but curiously satisfying" and that, as for the series, "keeping the faith for a few more weeks might well pay off". Viewer 'dougsimmons' was one of many to post a comment on Mangan's blog, and disagreed, writing "Shitkickers was a monumental disappointment."[16]

By the end of the series several newspapers were giving it muted praise of the "enjoyable hokum" type.

Academic reception

In line with the broadly negative reviews, the reception amongst the academic community was mixed, with different complaints around technical accuracy. Mark Horton, the academic advisor to the script, answered criticisms on the BRITARCH e-mail list[17].

Viewer complaints

A scene in the first episode which depicted a Muslims beheading by an extremist Christian drew 100 complaints. The BBC expressed "regret" that some viewers had found the scene "inappropriate", but defended the decision to show it. The episode was also criticised for being overtly anti-Christian, pro-Muslim and "typical of the bias against white people and Christians in the BBC". [18]


  1. ^ a b "University-based BBC1 drama Bonekickers to be aired tonight". Internal News (University of Bath). Retrieved 2008-07-08.  
  2. ^ History comes alive in Bonekickers – new "groundbreaking" drama for BBC One, BBC press release, June 13, 2008
  3. ^ First Look: Bonekickers, the BBC's new 'Time Team meets Indiana Jones' drama series, TV Scoop
  4. ^ Warman, Matt (2008-07-08). "Bonekickers". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-07-08.  
  5. ^ "BBC1 drops Bonekickers". Broadcast. 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-11-24.  
  6. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (2008-07-09). "TV ratings: 6.8m viewers dig Bonekickers on BBC1". (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-07-10.  
  7. ^ Davidson, Darren (2008-07-16). "BBC One's Bonekickers sheds 1m viewers on second outing". Brand Republic (Haymarket Media). Retrieved 2008-07-16.  
  8. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (2008-07-23). "TV ratings: Audiences plummet for BBC's Eastenders and Bonekickers". (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-07-23.  
  9. ^ Farey-Jones, Daniel (2008-08-13). "C4's 'Secret Millionaire' hits ratings stride with 3.7m". Brand Republic (Haymarket Media). Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  10. ^ McLean, Gareth (2008-07-08). "Watch this". Guardian Unlimited.,,2289681,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=media. Retrieved 2008-07-08.  
  11. ^ Chater, David (2008-07-08). "Roman Mysteries – Bonekickers – Imagine: Anthony Minghella". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2008-07-08.  
  12. ^ Sutcliffe, Thomas (2008-07-09). "Last Night's TV: Bonekickers, BBC1". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-09.  
  13. ^ Newsnight Review. 30 mins minutes in. Retrieved on 2008-07-07.
  14. ^ The Call of the Weird, New Statesman, 10 July 2008 - accessed 10 July 2008.
  15. ^ Davies, Patricia Wynn (2008-07-08). "Tuesday's TV & radio choices". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-07-08.  
  16. ^ Mangan, Lucy (9 July 2008). "Last night's TV". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-16.  
  17. ^ JISCMail - BRITARCH Archives -
  18. ^ "BBC Bonekickers drama blasted for showing images of a Muslim being beheaded". Mail Online (Associated Newspapers). 2008-07-13. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  

External links


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