I am a great TimeTeam fan. I have seen all the episodes and specials as well as several of the DVD’s, and once I have reached the last one I simply start again from the beginning. The programme cannot be received via Dutch TV (long live the internet!) but some years ago Discovery Holland ran several episodes and then ran them again, and again, in true Discovery fashion. I was hooked. Opinion on the programme amongst the Dutch archaeological community is divided, with roughly equal numbers hating it and loving it. I love it and I think it has done archaeology a world of good.
Sadly, those first Discovery broadcasts were not entirely satisfactory. That had nothing to do with the programme itself but everything with the Dutch subtitles. While I find subtitles distracting when I can understand the original language, I acknowledge their usefulness and simply try to ignore them. But these particular subtitles were hard to ignore, as they were often simply wrong. A respectable Norman church suddenly became Norse (Noors in Dutch), a Roman military site lost a millennium of its age and became “Romaans” (Romanesque in English), and BC and AD regularly changed places, creating an entirely new and interesting British chronology in the process. Trenches, as in “Phil has opened up another trench” became “greppels” (drainage ditches in Dutch), but my favourite was “earthworks”. This was regularly transformed into “pottery”, which may seem miraculous until you realise that pottery in Dutch is “aardewerk”. All those poor Iron Age sites surrounded by huge heaps of pottery……..
I am sure that the Discovery translators are very good within their own field of expertise, but that field clearly did not include archaeology. I myself am fond of the series ‘House’, but I wouldn’t touch its subtitles with a bargepole. My knowledge of English (or indeed, Dutch) medical terminology doesn’t reach much beyond ‘appendix’, and in my hands the patients’ medical problems would become even more mysterious then they already are. I can deal with the dialects of archaeology, history, anthropology and classical music. That is enough. The rest I gladly leave to my esteemed colleagues.