Series 2, Episode 21: Archaeology Today
INTERVIEWER Michael Palin
PROFESSOR KASTNER Terry Jones
SIR ROBERT EVERSLEY John Cleese
DANIELLE Carol Cleveland
(ANIMATION: a sketch about an archaeological find leads to a caption on screen: ‘ARCHAEOLOGY TODAY’ Interview set for archaeology programme. Chairman and two guests sit in chain in front of a blow-up of an old cracked pot.)
Interviewer: Hello. On ‘Archaeology Today’ tonight I have with me Professor Lucien Kastner of Oslo University.
Kastner: Good evening.
Interviewer: How tall are you, professor?
Kastner: … I beg your pardon?
Interviewer: How tall are you?
Kastner: I’m about five foot ten.
Interviewer: … and an expert in Egyptian ‘tomb paintings. Sir Robert… (turning to Kastner) are you really five foot ten?
Interviewer: Funny, you look much shorter than that to me. Are you slumped forward in your chair at all?
Kastner: No, er I…
Interviewer: Extraordinary. Sir Robert Eversley, who’s just returned from the excavations in El Ara, and you must be well over six foot. Isn’t that right, Sir Robert?
Sir Robert: (puzzled) Yes.
Interviewer: In fact, I think you’re six foot five aren’t you?
Sir Robert: Yes.
(Applause. Sir Robert looks up in amazement.)
Interviewer: Oh, that’s marvellous. I mean you’re a totally different kind of specimen to Professor Kastner. Straight in your seat, erect, firm.
Sir Robert: Yes. I thought we were here to discuss archaeology.
Interviewer: Yes, yes, of course we are, yes, absolutely, you’re absolutely right! That’s positive thinking for you. (to Kastner) You wouldn’t have said a thing like that, would you? You five-foot-ten weed. (he turns his back very ostentatiously on Kastner) Sir Robert Eversley, (who’s very interesting) what have you discovered in the excavations at El Ara?
Sir Robert: (picking up a beautiful andent vase) Well basically we have found a complex of tombs…
Interviewer: Very good speaking voice.
Sir Robert: … which present dramatic evidence of Polynesian influence in Egypt in the third dynasty which is quite remarkable.
Interviewer: How tall were the Polynesians?
Kastner: They were…
Sir Robert: Well, they were rather small, seafaring…
Interviewer: Short men, were they… eh? All squat and bent up?
Sir Robert: Well, I really don’t know about that…
Interviewer: Who were the tall people?
Sir Robert: I’m afraid I don’t know.
Interviewer: Who’s that very tall tribe in Africa?
Sir Robert: Well, this is hardly archaeology.
Interviewer: The Watutsi! That’s it – the Watutsi! Oh, that’s the tribe, some of them were eight foot tall. Can you imagine that. Eight foot of Watutsi. Not one on another’s shoulders, oh no – eight foot of solid Watutsi. That’s what I call tall.
Sir Robert: Yes, but it’s nothing to do with archaeology.
Interviewer: (knocking Sir Robert’s vase to the floor) Oh to hell with archaeology!
Kastner: Can I please speak! I came all the way from Oslo to do this programme! I’m a professor of archaeology. I’m an expert in ancient civilizations. All right, I’m only five foot ten. All right my posture is bad, all right I slump in my chair. But I’ve had more women than either of you two! I’ve had half bloody Norway, that’s what I’ve had! So you can keep your Robert Eversley! And you can keep your bloody Watutsi! I’d rather have my little body… my little five-foot-ten-inch body… (he breaks down sobbing)
Sir Robert: Bloody fool. Look what you’ve done to him.
Interviewer: Don’t bloody fool me.
Sir Robert: I’ll do what I like, because I’m six foot five and I eat punks like you for breakfast.
(Sir Robert floors the interviewer with an almighty punch. Interviewer looks up rubbing his jaw.)
Interviewer: I’ll get you for that, Eversley! I’ll get you if I have to travel to the four corners of the earth!
(Crash of music. Music goes into theme and film titles as for a Western.)
‘FLAMING STAR – THE STORY OF ONE MAN’S SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE IN THE RAW AND VIOLENT WORLD OF INTERNATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY’
Cut to stock film of the pyramids (circa 1920).
(An archaeological dig in a flat sandy landscape. All the characters are in twenties’ clothes. Pan across the complex of passages and trenches.)
Danielle: (voice over) The dig was going well that year, We had discovered some Hittire baking dishes from the fifth dynasty, and Sir Robert was happier than I had ever seen him.
(Camera comes to rest on Sir Robert Eversley digging away. We close in on him as he sings to Hammond organ accompaniment.)
Today I hear the robin sing
Today the thrush is on the wing
Today who knows what life will bring
(He stops and picks up an object, blows the dust off it and looks at it wondrously.)
Sir Robert: Why, a Sumerian drinking vessel of the fourth dynasty. (sings!) Today!!!! (speaks) Catalogue this pot, Danielle, it’s fourth dynasty.
Danielle: Oh, is it… ?
Sir Robert: Yes, it’s… Sumerian.
Danielle: Oh, how wonderful! Oh, I am so happy for you.
Sir Robert: I’m happy too, now at last we know there was a Sumerian influence here in Abu Simnel in the early pre-dynastic period, two thousand years before the reign of Tutankhamun, (he breaks into song again)
Today I hear the robin sing
Today the thrush is on the wing
(Danielle joins in)
Today who knows what life will bring.
(They are just about to embrace, when there is a jarring chord and long crash. The interviewer, in the clothes he wore before, is standing on the edge of the dig.)
Interviewer: All right Eversley, get up out of that trench.
Sir Robert: Don’t forget… I’m six foot five.
Interviewer: That doesn’t worry me… Kastner.
(He snaps his fingers. From behind him Professor Kastner appears, fawningly)
Kastner: Here Lord.
(He snaps his fingers and Kastner leaps onto his shoulders.)
Sir Robert:. Eleven foot three!
Kastner: I’m so tall! I am so tall!
Sir Robert: Danielle!
(Danielle leaps on his shoulders.)
Interviewer: Eleven foot six – damn you! Abdul
(A servant appears on Kastner’s shoulders.)
Sir Robert: Fifteen foot four! Mustapha!
(A servant appears on Danielle’s shoulders.)
Interviewer: Nineteen foot three… damn you!
(The six of them charge each other. They fight in amongst the trestle tables with rare pots on them breaking and smashing them. When the fight ends everyone lies dead in a pile of broken pottery. The interviewer crawls up to camera and produces a microphone from his pocket. He is covered in blood and in his final death throes.)
Interviewer: And there we end this edition of ‘Archaeology Today’. Next week, the Silbury Dig by Cole Porter with Pearl Bailey and Arthur Negus. (He dies.)