Warning, this might contain a few spoilers so if you’re still planning on seeing The Last Templar, you might want to save this till after.
In this four-hour miniseries, based on the novel by Raymond Khoury, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino stars as Tess Chaykin, a Manhattan archaeologist, who teams up with a devote Catholic FBI agent, Sean Daley, to uncover the lost secrets of the legendary medieval Knights Templar. The series aired on the NBC in the United States on the 25th and 26th of January, 2009, and can since be found lurking around the net in one digital form or another. The series follows a growing popular trend of pitting historical truth against scripture. Indy did it. We saw it in the 2001 Antonio Banderas flick The Body, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Britain’s Bonekickers and now it’s come to American Primetime. Of course archaeology and the bible have always locked horns. But enough about that.
The Last Templar succeeds and fails in several ways. Story wise, its crap. It tries painfully to stay grounded in the real world while putting some remarkably unbelievable sights and situations before your eyes. Gigantic tidle waves in the Aegean? Check. Mysterious lava domes covering ancient churches in such a way that you can still enter through the front door? You bet. Ancient paper preserved in the most extreme circumstances for eight hundred years? Twice! The series is also riddled with utterly predictable clichés and atrocious wooden dialogue that makes Hayden Christianson’s Anakin Skywalker performance look Oscar worthy. As in most fiction based around the field of archaeology, there is no real archaeology done, unless archaeology is now classified as digging a hole with a shovel. However, on several occasions, Sorvino’s character does employee the use of a trowel, one up-ing Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. Once again, Hollywood depicts archaeologists as fact-flinging history buffs with a penchant to date artifacts on first sight, not the hypothesizing, trench toiling laborers that most archaeologists really are. Then again, which persona is more appealing?
The Last Templar does take a legitimate swing at making archaeology appear sexy. Exhibit A: Mira Sorvino. While I don’t quite understand what a “Manhattan archaeologist” is, Sorvino does a wonderful job looking pretty and flexing her smarts. If we are talking sexy, you can’t beat around physical appearance bush and I for one would rather have Mira Sorvino playing an archaeologist as opposed to say… Rosie O’Donnell. Sorvino’s character, Tess, demonstrates that knowledge is a key quality in a successful archaeologist in her renlentless attempt at unravaling the historical mystery she finds herself wrapped in. And while I groaned when she turned to Google for answers she shows that technology is taking an ever more important place in a researcher’s quiver. To round it all off, Sorvino’s character continues to impress when it is revealed that she is a single mom and not a moment passes when her child’s safety isn’t paramount. Single parent archaeology isn’t a new trend, but putting in the public eye is (see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Single parent families are on the rise and yes, sometimes mom or dad work as an archaeologist. Show me an archaeologist that hasn’t fantasized rearing their child to be history buff. I for one hope to see my future spawn setting up a two meter grid in the sandbox before playing.
So maybe The Last Templar is an epic fail, but that doesn’t mean Tess Chaykin is. Sexy archaeology is about the person in the profession. It’s the characteristics and qualities that make someone sexy. Tess Chaykin is an intelligent, headstrong and devoted single mom with a broad knowledge of and respect for history, all things we’d want a sexy archaeologist to be. In my opinion she’s the perfect candidate for a Sexy Archaeologist. So what if she threw the artifact over the cliff at the end…
Wait a minute.