Can you dig it?
Top 10 archaeologists in sci-fi
By JAYSON PETERS
They poke about in places where no one has trod for thousands of years, sticking their noses in where they are least welcome. Often they cause more problems than they solve — but it’s all in a day’s work when you’re delving into the distant past of things that don’t exist!
Here are Nerdvana’s picks for the top 10 archaeologists in sci-fi:
10. Indiana Jones (duh!)
Henry Jones Jr., played by Harrison Ford, deserves honorable mention for inspiring a generation to at least consider going into antiquities, and for saving the world from occult Nazis, Russians and crystal-skulled aliens. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Tempe of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade skirted science fiction (Biblical superweapons, magical stones and immortality are debatably fantastic, I suppose), but the 2008 sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brought the saga firmly into the genre.
9. Henry Jones Sr. (Indiana Jones)
“You call this archaeology?!?” Indy’s dad, portrayed by Sean Connery, was his greatest influence and he sketched a mean Grail Diary. And he’s got a brass pair, sitting in a motorcycle sidecar and demanding that his son drive him into a Hitler rally in the heart of Berlin to retrieve the diary when it is stolen — so there’s something of the ’60s superspy about him … His unwavering faith in the story of the Holy Grail is what inspires his son to solve three deadly puzzles to find the mythical artifact and save his life when he is mortally wounded by a Nazi stooge.
8. Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Although he eschewed a career in archaeology for exploration in Starfleet, the captain of the Enterprise (played by Patrick Stewart) never lost his fascination with lost civilizations, discovering the Iconian Gateways in the Neutral Zone (“Contagion”) and even the origin of humanoid life (“The Chase”). Not bad for a Frenchman. Exploration is in his blood, as his ancestores were some of the first space explorers. He just prefers to do it from the comfort of his ready room with advanced sensor sweeps, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get his uniform dirty. (See #7.)
7. Vash (Star Trek: TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Speaking of Picard’s fascinations, one of them is the beautiful and less-than-honest freelance archaeologist Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), whom he meets on a rare vacation to the pleasure planet Risa that ends in an impromptu archaeological dig for an artifact that is actually from the future (“Captain’s Holiday”). She turns up again to sweep the captain of the Enterprise off his feet during an encounter with the omnipotent trickster Q, who sweeps them all away to Sherwood Forest and makes their romance play out against the backdrop of the Robin Hood story (“Q-Pid”). Vash ends up traveling with Q for a time because he can take her places Picard never can — but the wily superbeing abandons her deep in the distant Gamma Quadrant until she is rescued by the crew of starbase Deep Space Nine, where she continues her wicked ways and tries to auction off archaeological wonders that turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth (“Q-Less”).
6. Alex O’Connell (The Mummy Returns/The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor)
The son of mummy-busting adventurers Alex and Evey O’Connell, little Alex was destined for great things. First portrayed as a child by Freddie Boath in 2001’s The Mummy Returns and later by Luke Ford in 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, he grows up surrounded by the wonders (and horrors) of the ancient world.
5. River Song (Doctor Who)
Alex Kingston (ER) portrayed this character in the fourth season of the current incarnation of Doctor Who, and it’s safe to say that she’s a character like no other. She knows the Doctor, but he hasn’t met her yet — and she knows A LOT about him, like his name (which no one knows) and things about his TARDIS that even he doesn’t know (for example, the fact that he can open the doors to the time-space vehicle simply by snapping his fingers — something he hasn’t figured out in more than 900 years). It is heavily, heavily hinted in the two-part episode “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” that Song is, in fact, the Doctor’s wife — or at least his lover. Say who?
4. Bernice Summerfield (Doctor Who novels and audio adventures)
It’s entirely possible that the character of River Song in the current generation of the Doctor Who television series (see above) is based on another sassy archaeologist from the future — Bernice “Benny” Summerfield, created by writer Paul Cornell for a line of original novels after the first series ended in 1989. Benny has rather taken on a life of her own, starring in her own range of novels and audio adaptations and original adventures for Big Finish Productions (in which she is played by actress Lisa Bowerman). The end of Virgin Books’ line of Who novels even has an ambiguously worded epilogue that could imply Benny and the Doctor share an intimate encounter.
3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Introduced in the 1996 Sega Saturn game Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is a more English, sexier female version of Indiana Jones. She was brought to life in 2001’s film adaptation and its sequel by Angina Jolie. Like Indiana Jones, Croft’s work as an archaeologist and adventurer takes her to exotic locations and leads her into confrontations with all manner of dangerous rivals, creatures and supernatural entities. Her influence as a sex symbol in gaming surpasses that of Samus Aran, who isn’t even revealed to be a woman until the end of Metroid (and only if you complete the game in decent time, at that). With Lara Croft, there’s NO mistaking the fact that’s she’s a hefty helping of modern woman.
2. Adam Strange (DC Comics)
DC Comics in the late 1950s wanted a hero like the main character in the sweaty and sensual John Carter of Mars stories by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, but what they got was more like Flash Gordon. Transported from his work as an archaeologist in Peru via a “Zeta Beam,” Adam Strange finds himself the reluctant defender of the planet Rann. He quickly grows protective of the natives and falls in love with a blue-haired beauty who brings him back time and again. Yes, archaeologists got game.
1. Daniel Jackson (Stargate)
When Stargate came out in theaters in 1994, I laughed out loud at the description of Dr. Daniel Jackson as a “renegade archaeologist.” It sounds absurd, since archaeologists are more likely to be doing paperwork or sorting through junk than causing a stir, but the character — played by James Spader in the movie and Michael Shanks (pictured) in the long-running TV spinoff — was an outcast in his profession for insisting that the pyramids of Egypt were built as landing pads for alien spaceships. Jackson is vindicated when a portal connecting Earth to other worlds is discovered, and it is learned that the aliens (parasites called Goa’uld) will one day return to use those landing pads.
Jackson’s explorations through the Stargate yield him new friends and a hot wife, who he then loses tragically. In the course of these journeys he also ascends to a higher plane of existence for one season, then returns to mortal form naked and amnesiac (this happens at least twice, though he doesn’t lose his memory the second time, just his clothes). Waking up confused and naked — the greatest adventure of them all.