TV review: Rome's Lost Empire; The Trouble with Aid

From Aid | The Guardian Sun Dec 9 2012, 23:45:01

Was this global romp with Dan Snow and Sarah Parcak a Doctor Who adventure or a documentary? It was hard to tell

Rome's Lost Empire (BBC1, Sun) wasn't so much a documentary as an adventure in time and space. We begin in Alabama, with an awkward proposition. Presenter Dan Snow, channelling a charming mix of Hugh Grant and Doctor Who, has been talking to archaeologist Sarah Parcak for all of two minutes when he pops the question: "OK, this is the thing, Sarah. The bottom line is: are you going to come with me round the Roman empire?"

She is, of course. That will have been agreed in advance. They don't just send presenters door-to-door on the off-chance some historian will agree to tour the world with them. Although one day it'd be fun to watch a documentary where they did. Five minutes in: "So, will you come with me to find the lost city of Atlantis?" "No, absolutely not. I've got a paper to write." "Oh. That's cool." Next hour: presenter in a submarine, forlorn and wounded, sobbing along to Céline Dion's All By Myself.

But Parcak's up for it. So now our Doctor Snow has his loyal companion, and we're off in the Tardis to Rome. Or we would be, except this time it's the companion who has all the technology, and poor Dan Snow who has to gawp and yell: "It's smaller on the outside!" Turns out our Dr Parcak is a pioneering space archaeologist, and the lost Roman empire we're about to discover is buried deep beneath the earth, visible only to her on high-resolution satellites.

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