Time Team final episode – review

3 mins read

series 14So that’s it! Last night saw the screening of the final episode of  Time Team,  notwithstanding a few ‘specials’ next year and a new project called ‘Dig Village’ currently in development. Sunday tea-times will never be the same again.

Rather than one of the three-day digs for which the Team has become famous, this was a compilation show looking back over the programme’s 20-year history. And what a story it was, tracing their progress from  humble beginnings – it’s amazing to recall that the first episode, at Athelney, didn’t even involve any digging – to ambitious live excavations and increasingly high-profile sites. We  heard about how the show became one of the main funders of research archaeology when the financial crash put the brakes on development-led excavations, and deserved tribute was also paid to their dedication to post-excavation analysis and publishing site reports.

The pinnacle of this success must have been the Big Royal Dig at Buckingham Palace in 2006, a ringing endorsement of the professional cachet the Team by then enjoyed. We saw Tony and Phil meeting the Royal Family before they departed for Scotland (‘Getting out of the way,’ Prince Charles joked), Phil still wearing his beloved battered hat above a smart suit. A few words were exchanged and the camera started to draw back – but not before it caught the Queen’s dubious aside: ‘Are they going to dig up everything?’

Magical moments like this, puncturing grandiose elements with lively humour, are what made the series so enjoyable to watch. Likewise, just when the loving tributes were tending towards the sentimental, Phil Harding (CA Archaeologist of the Year 2013) appeared onscreen to assert in his immediately-recognisable West Country burr that ‘obviously’ it was his ‘talent, good looks, and sex appeal’ that made him a shoe-in for a TV career. What a legend.

The original 'Motley Crew', from series 1Last night’s episode was a nostalgic treat, with archive footage, garish jumpers, and wild hair in abundance. Commentary from the Team, affectionately described by Tony Robinson as a ‘motley crew’, was self-deprecating but proud of what they had achieved, and the love that they clearly felt for the show to which many had dedicated two decades of their lives was still very evident.

It is a shame that relatively few of the main ‘faces’ – and no female members of the Team – were interviewed, however.  Francis Pryor, John Gater, Mick, Phil, and Tony featured prominently, but where were Helen Geake and Stewart Ainsworth? There was also little sign of featured diggers such as Raksha, Matt, and Faye, and none at all of cheeky ceramicist Paul Blinkhorn (who recently featured in his own archaeology series, Pub Dig). It was fun to spend 45 minutes revisiting key digs, but I missed the people who had played such an important role in investigating them.

If this was an affectionate portrait, it was also a fairly uncritical one, ending with the Team celebrating their 200th episode at the end of series 18. No mention was made of the upheaval that followed, during which base camp upped sticks to Cardiff, most of the production team left, controversial changes were made to the format, and Mick Aston departed the show. Viewers were simply told that ‘we marched on for another two series’, with no explanation for why the programme had now come to an end. Perhaps this wasn’t the place to discuss internal politics – certainly there is a lot to celebrate about the show, and series 20 has shown a marked return to form – but for a documentary purporting to tell the story of  Time Team  it felt odd to omit the final chapters altogether.

Tony Robinson, filming a piece to camera at Rise HillNevertheless, in spite of – and perhaps because of – these final wobbles, it was good to be reminded of the show’s remarkable achievements.  In  224 digs,  Time Team  revolutionised the presentation of archaeology on TV (which before had focussed largely on the Classical world), bringing Britain’s heritage into our front rooms – and, in the early series, into our back gardens. With the help of everyman presenter Tony Robinson, who asked for explanations ‘in words a Beano reader could understand’, pottery identification, stratigraphy, and ‘geofizz’ have become household names, and whole generations of archaeology enthusiasts (including both members of the  CA  editorial team) have been inspired to get involved. It is hard not to feel a pang of loss at the show’s passing, but there is doubtlessly much to celebrate.

For more on the trials and triumphs of this ground-breaking series, see our feature: Time Team – the rise and fall of a television phenomenon in CA 274


  1. Great shame Time Team is departed and what’s the thinking behind it, too costly to produce with the cast and team or have they had enough ? , seems like, just fashionable cuts, as some would say the programme does not appeal to the lesser educated beings or generation, wanting reality and trashy TV.to appreciate , of which Time Team is above their understanding and intelligence , and with out Time Team we are less enriched from the searches of our heritage to enjoy……..Also Victor’s drawings and paintings, Mick’s jumper, Phil’s hat, with Tony’s representational wit and the careful digger driver. et al… BRING ALL BACK FOR THE SAKE OF SANITY!

    • As a kiwi 4th generation colonial with my ancestry in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England, Time Team helped greatly in my genealogical format. So yes, I and millions more need digs in the rest of the British Isles to learn about who we are. One thing that saddens me is the loss of dialect. Phil Harding illustrates a lovely west country accent so wouldn’t it be nice if there where people with local accents turning up on each show who would discuss the site being worked on wherever they were digging. Why, you might ask? Because those accents were as much a part of those places years ago as the stuff being searched for by the team. Dig that, from David.

    • Yeh bring time team back I lernt so much about British history, I am a ground worker its my job so every time am digging am looking for roman pot thanks to time team.

  2. Sunday afternoons will never be the same. I really think the powers that be should review their decision in the light of public opinion. Time Team will not return in its old format, but there is a huge place for an archaeology programme with popular appeal on TV. Without one, I fear that things will fade into the past!

  3. I have a feeling that when last nights episode was made Time Team had not yet been cancelled as Tony described it as an anniversary edition. If that is the case then channel 4 didn’t even give it a proper send off. I felt a bit disappointed at a personal level and also for everyone involved with the series. It feels like Time Team has faded away rather than ended! Either way NOT IMPRESSED!

  4. Farewell Time Team! My daughter grew up with you and is about to go to Uni. Slight influence as she has tied History with Politics. A legacy – thanks

  5. From an Aussie it been a wonderful series I always watch it every night but they tend to repeat all the newer digs and dont got back to the early digs which are a laugh with all the hair. Its been fantastic and especially after doing the family tree love to see when they visit villages and arears from my forebears

  6. Well done, Carly Hilts, on an excellent summary of Time Team’s history and we hope to see all the team, young and “older”, back on TV with more archaeology, preferably not Channel 4, who have betrayed cast, crew and viewers. Goodbye and thanks to all our “friends”.

  7. shall miss you all..have become part of our sunday! Phil , Mick, Tony, Raksha, Mat, Stuart, Helen, Faye, YOU, have become our treasures!

  8. wonderful program will be sadly missed ,guess i will have to be satisfied with plenty of repeats. Sunday afternoons will never be the same,farewell to everyone,you have entertained and educated us about our past.

  9. uve sparked my passion for archaeology and while being a bbc political correrspondent, ive done a range of items on heritage as part of the policy agenda.

    thank u all…………………..

  10. What a shame: Time team is even shown here in Australia and I where first introduced to Time team by my mother and before long my children and even my grandchildren where vigilant watchers with my grandchildren running home from school not to watch cartoons but timeteam and now one of my granddaughters (9yrs old) is thinking of becoming as she puts it a bone digger lol

    Thanks to the team your shows will be very much missed….

  11. In our house, the only hour of TV which was reserved for me – (apart from televised Man Utd matches of course). I shall miss it dearly. I am no achaologist, but the thrill of seeing items unearthed which had remained unseen for all that time, and finding out what these often insignificant objects could tell us about a location and the people who had been there before us was a magical thing. Very sad. Lets hope someone has the wherewithall to devise another archaology format which will ‘sit right’ in our television schedules. Time Team I raise my glass to you!

  12. The Channel 4 powers that be have yet to explain coherently why Time Team has been cancelled……..or have I missed the Channel 4 hierarchy’s explanation?

  13. One of the few programs on Tv worth waching has now ended. Programming, planning, and finance are out of touch with what the people really want……So disappointed with channel 4. I will miss my young daughter shouting ” Mum post holes is on the telly “.

  14. My friends & I are lucky to live in the Somerset area and therefore still have opportunities to meet some of The Team, either at a Dig or at a Conference. We shall miss those 20 years of excitement and anticipation when seeing each new series, however, we have a lot to thank our Cable TVs for their daily fixes of repeats!

  15. Loved Time Team.
    What a huge loss to our TV lineup.
    Mick Aston & his wonderful team have a very rare talent – the ability to teach & entertain within one presentation.
    I have learnt so much from him & the rest of the larakins & ladies.
    This type of programme is lacking on our screens. Reality TV seems to be the new catchword.
    Problem is , most folk I know would take Time Team any day over the current trash that we are being force fed by the TV producers & planners.
    Miss you already.
    Aussie Bob

  16. Time Team has always featured prominently in our lives here in New Zealand for the last few years. We looked forward to the programs not only in the evenings but also during the morning over breakfast. We have always been very interested in archeology and find the programs very educational. My wife is UK born and I am a part time genealogist and also interested in local history. I think they should all get together, say enough with channel 4 and try to get funding from Sky as they are always looking for more interesting programs. Don’t forget that Sky has the monopoly world wide. All the best guys.

    Please email me at: [email protected] any time

    Kindest regards to a great team.
    Barry Small
    New Zealand

  17. So very sad to see Time Team end, but! What if we all gang up and persuade the other channels these guys must stay and keep on educating us? Worth a try? I for one am about to sign up to study MA in Medieval History, I owe the programme, it kept my passion going!

  18. Its a real pity, I know a site that I visited more than 50 years ago at a river mouth with castle which was part farm buildings remains and nearby 3 large barrows and watermill remains, river was alive with fish and fresh water muscles

  19. I came across Time Team few years ago and have been addicted ever since. I was shocked to hear it was cancelled.I think it is an even bigger loss than they know. I am so sorry.

  20. Thank you Time Team for providing me with a history lesson with each episode. At school I didn’t do ancient history. What a wonderful way to learn. Here in Australia the various series were always shown later than in the UK and repeats follow on from each series for a short time. I am only thankful that I have eight, eight hour long-play tapes full of past series and episodes and also some of the commercially produced series as well. While the tapes last I will always be able to watch Time Team.

    Farewell with a sad heart
    Jill Roberts

  21. Thank you Time Team!!! I am just finishing my dissertation in Archaeology and you played a big part in exciting my passion. What is wrong with the BBC? Why the dumbing down of TV shows? Do we not have enough ludicrous reality TV shows that we can afford to lose such an intellectual gem? Shame. Shame. I agree with Reggie; come on other stations step up and let’s keep this show going.
    Jean from Western Australia

    • Channel 4 (which has produced Time Team) is not the BBC, Jean. It is a commercial channel, whereas the BBC is not commercial, and is financed by the money we British pay for our television licences. BBC has 4 TV channels plus 5 radio stations. There are many commercial television channels, and many independant programme makers who pitch their programmes to those channels. Since more than 8 months have passed since Channel 4 announced that there would be no more Time Team, it seems unlikely that the programme will be resurrected by anyone. However many of the main contributors are doing other projects which you may like to follow online such as Dig Ventures,and Dig Village.

  22. Just heard in Australia that Mick Aston had died – what a loss and what a fantastic man he was, with his stripy coloured jumpers. We have watched this programme for years and years, and will miss the whole team very much, it was so fascinating.

  23. I am an Aussie viewer who loves Time Team (first saw it on Foxtel – even watch the repeats). Have just learned of Mick Aston’s passing. Sending deepest sympathy to his family, he was a lovely, funny man. Thank you to all the team for a fabulous show and all the best for the future.

  24. sending our deepest sympathy to the family of Mick Aston he was a scholar and a gentleman we will miss his face and humor on tv here in Australia. What a great teacher.

  25. My wife, Ida and I never missed a Time Team show on TV Ontario. Used to tape the early morning ones also. Used to send the tapes to my sister in Winnipeg as she did not get it there.Sadly, they are both gone now. They would have been as sad as I feel aboutl the end of TT. Not much to replace this wonderful program on TV.

  26. Particularly enjoyed Phil Harding and his humor. If they ever have trench digging as a sport in the Olympics, Phil will get gold for the best trench every time for Britain.

  27. please, dont say this is the end , I love time team with a passion, and watch it religiously, especially like phil with the hat, a great chap, to the point, and hard working, please bring it back, I love everything about that programme and record the repeats, to watch again! and again!, come on chanel 4, do the right thing and keep us viewers, entertained.!!

  28. stone a crows! how can channel 4 do this to a decent program.I think the show is brilliant and the team makes me laugh as well as being educating .As we have to put up with rubbish on tv nowadays,channel 4 should bring it back or put all the shows on dvd so we watch them to our hearts content..oh arr

  29. October 10, 2013 at 8pm
    Our Librarian in our small town of Goolwa in South Australia told us about Time Team some years ago, and we have been dedicated fans ever since of a programme that unlocked the wonders of archaeology. It is sad to hear of Mick Aston’s death and to know that Time Team has come to an end. We watch episodes over and over, and enjoy seeing all the familiar faces and the fascinating history that the team reveals.
    Barry Griffin

  30. A big mistake channel 4, one of the best programs on TV. A case of the planners being out of touch with the viewers yet again. Probably done to provide finance for more of the usual banal rubbish shown on TV. BRING IT BACK PLEASE.

  31. Didn’t even realise it had finished (no more to be made) till I found this article TODAY while seeing when the New Series was coming on. My Cuppa Tea and Cake will never been the same on a Sunday. I feel more should have been made of it leaving the Air.

  32. I discovered Time Team this year by reading the articles on the Current Archaeology website and have been watching all the shows on YouTube. I have been an armchair archaeologist for years and am loving the close up views of the digs. I love the members of the team as it is easy to see that they really care and aren’t doing it just for the fame.

    I was very sad to hear about Mick’s death. He was great and will never be forgotten.

    New Jersey, USA

  33. This was such good quality Sunday viewing. I am sure Channel 4 have made a big mistake in cancelling the series. I guess we are all expected to sink to the lowest numty viewing. I hope another channel will run something similar.

  34. Many, many thanks to all involved with making Time Team an absolute delight to watch and learn from. Please bring back Time Team. I dearly enjoyed this program and would rather watch repeat episodes than CSI wherever or any other trash like this.

  35. It’s a shame there’s no more time team as it was a good source of history information for the kids of today, and I like to watch it because it was informal and funny, plus they involved the normal person it’s a shame when great things come to an end ,it was a pleasure to watch and I would like to thank all the people involved in time team and I can just hope they will see that the programme should carry on so good look to everyone that was involved with the program.

  36. There are not very many programs that I get into but, The time team was one of them. It was informative. Since my ancestors was from Ireland, Scotland and England I just love very one of the men and women who work so hard to show what happen to the people who made what we have today. Not very grateful are they. I live in a small town in the USA where some of my ancestor migrated to.
    To bad it had to end it was a great show!!!

  37. Very sad the the show is cancelled, it has always been a great favourite in Canada. Often wished we could have a spinoff program but we have little of comparable age or interest in North America. You are fortunate to kive in a country so steeped in history.

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