Review of Operation Stonehenge, Part 1

Earlier this evening, I watched the first installment of Operation Stonehenge on BBC 1, and it will surprise few of you who used to follow my Eternal Idol site to learn that my expectations for this production hovered somewhere around the zero mark. After everything that had gone before, in the form of mainstream documentaries on Stonehenge, I’d found the offerings to be so utterly abysmal that I was on the cusp of simply not bothering to watch anything new that involved contributions from the British archaeological establishment.

Operation Stonehenge, however, exceeded my wildest expectations, which were admittedly very muted, but I have to say that it was the single best programme on Stonehenge that I can ever remember watching and that’s by a country mile. The bar for such productions was previously so low that it might have been at ground level, but to my mind, Operation Stonehenge was just about everything that a well-presented, informative and thought-provoking documentary on our greatest prehistoric monument should be.

I had a few minor quibbles, the most significant being that at the start of this programme, great emphasis was laid on answering what were framed as “the big questions” about Stonehenge; the question of the precise nature of the ceremonies that took place there in remote prehistory was notably absent, however, and for me, this is arguably the biggest question of them all and one that absorbs me virtually to the exclusion of all else.

Having said that, I thought the commentary was faultless, as were the re-enactments and the use of CGI. The visual and spoken content was dramatic enough to speak for itself, without the guest presenters being forced to lapse into hyperbole in an attempt to grip the viewer. I particularly liked the contribution by David Jacques, while I suspect that his presentation of a stone that turned a vivid magenta pink after it had been taken from the waters of the sacred spring is probably the most dramatic “Stonehenge revelation” that has ever been presented on television. I would personally have described the stone’s colour as purple, but that’s probably due to my inability to grade colour accurately, along with a gut feeling about the power and antiquity of the colour purple that I can’t articulate or substantiate, certainly not here.

I could write about all this for a good while yet, but as far as Stonehenge productions are concerned, my winter of discontent has become a glorious summer and I’m very much looking forward to the next installment. There’s never been any shortage of engaging material on Stonehenge to present to a public eager for information and insights, but thanks to the director Jeremy Turner, I’ve finally been able to sit on front of my television set enthralled by what I’ve witnessed, rather than sneering in contempt and disbelief before reaching for the Off button.

Operation Stonehenge was superb.

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9 Responses to Review of Operation Stonehenge, Part 1

  1. Excellent! Thanks for that Dennis. My expectation was so low that I didn’t bother to watch it. I did record it though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      Jonathan,

      It’s a very sorry state of affairs when Stonehenge enthusiasts such as you and I are so completely disillusioned with documentaries on the site that one of us couldn’t be bothered to watch it, while the other – me – could barely summon the willpower to turn the television on. However, I did watch it and aside from a few predictable quibbles, I thought it was just about as good as it could possibly have been. When you watch it for yourself, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

      Like

  2. Neil says:

    I thought the pits at either end of the cursus aligned on the solstices etc was fascinating, but I couldn’t work out how they fitted in with the structure of the cursus itself – were they contemporary etc. Perhaps it isn’t known yet, but I agree Dennis, it was excellent compared to other offerings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      Neil,

      I think there was some degree of wishful thinking and jumping the gun as far as these pits are concerned, but as Carl Sagan said “Imagination takes us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere” and I’ve done this myself on occasion. Otherwise, I’m glad you thought it was excellent, especially compared to the other lamentable offerings.

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  3. eternalidol says:

    If it isn’t already obvious, it doesn’t matter in the least whether or not I agreed with all the views put forward in this programme. What impressed me so much was the way that the whole thing was presented and I was very pleasantly engrossed from start to finish.

    Like

  4. Aynslie says:

    I just had a chance to watch this first installment on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cAKbdC-jCw). Now I see what everyone is talking about. Lots of fascinating information. When I visited SH with Austin back in June, we walked there from Amesbury and my first sight of it was from a ridgetop to the south from which we could view the stones set in the middle of the plain like a majestic centerpiece in the middle of a vast table. I was immediately and keenly aware of the interconnectedness of the many landscape features I could see from that vantage point — not to mention truly surprised at how close they all were to Stonehenge, so it was no surprise to me that this fact was stressed again and again throughout the program, and no surprise that there was so much more than the eye can see there, as well.

    I hope you grace us with a post on the second part of Operation Stonehenge when you get the chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      I’m very pleased you got a chance to watch Operation Stonehenge Part 1 and that you enjoyed it so much, Aynslie, while it’s also great to hear that it chimed with your tour around Stonehenge with Austin earlier this year. I don’t recall ever being asked to grace anyone with anything before now, but I’ll certainly do what I can as far as your request is concerned.

      Like

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