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Literature / Aquila

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"Licat volare si super tergum aquila volat"
Aquila's opening theme (Translation: "A man can fly where he will, if he rides on the back of an eagle.")

A children’s TV show written by Andrew Norriss and based on his book Aquila. Lasted from December, 1997 to December, 1998. A total 13 episodes in two seasons. More information on the writer's websites: and

The show focuses on Tom Baxter (Ben Brooks) and Geoff Reynolds (Craig Vye), two school boys, who find a strange alien space ship, the titular Aquila, buried underground. Along with the craft they find the body of a Roman Centurion who was the crafts previous owner. Upon discovery the boys fiddle around with the coloured controls which immediately responds so the boys think it’s a great idea to steal the greatest scientific/historical discovery of all time for fun because, well who wouldn't?

At the start everything is in Latin (which the boys originally think is an alien language) and they need to hide a car sized, bright red alien spaceship nearby. They later learn that they can change the language of the craft to English and it has a cloaking device so that’s two problems solved. Naturally however the boys still managed to get into trouble every week with a cliff hanger at the end of each episode. The series ends with a massive cliff hanger where they find a "Battle Cruiser" on a visit to space.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alleged Car: It's seen better days and has some minor battle-damage, but it's still very much a Cool Starship.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Every language ever created and going to be created, apparently. It's vaguely implied Aquila might possess a very sophisticated AI onboard, hence how it managed to learn Latin and English so quickly. Another possibility is that it downloaded all Earth languages by logging onto the internet, which it is shown to be capable of on the show.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some of the finds in the cave are baffling to the archaeologists, such as the discovery of a Native American tomahawk, ancient pottery from across the world, a flight-harness... wait...
  • Ancient Astronauts: Aquila originally crashed on Earth at some point thousands of years ago and was found by a Roman centurion, who used it to explore the world and build up an unprecedented collection of ancient treasures.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity
  • Canon Immigrant: In the secondbook the colours of some of the buttons have changed to match the tv series. Tom's mother's boyfriend, his son Dunstan and Geoff's penpal Paige appear in the second book as well.
  • Comic-Book Time: The first book was written in 1997 and is presumably set in that year. The second book (written in 2010) isn't set long after the first one mentions camera phones, DVDs and mp3 players.
  • Computer Voice: Aquila originally had one but due to damage in a previous battle, it can't make any sound. Text on the screen provides the same function.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Murray is a mild example. What does she do when she finds out her next door neighbours have been hiding a space ship? Have a go at flying it, of course.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In the second book the boys think of using Aquila to rob a bank but are scared of what their parents would say if they found out. They end up using it to run several paper routes a day.
  • Deflector Shields: Geoff theorises in the first episode that Aquila might be covered in a forcefield because they don't get covered in rubble when Aquila flies through a wall (keep in mind that Aquila has no doors). This is confirmed in the second book where it says that Aquila's forcefield can withstand anything up to and including a nuclear bomb. So what was strong enough to break through it to cause the scar?
  • Double Aesop: Most episodes feature either an Aesop learned by one boy applying to the other, or one learned by their parents that also applies to the boys.
  • Energy Weapon: It can shoot one that will burn through pretty much anything. From the back in the book, from the front in the TV show.
  • Escape Pod: It was one for an alien battlecruiser.
  • Force-Field Door: It has these for keeping the air in when flying through outer space. They work two ways so that nothing can get in but someone on the inside can reach out and pull something or someone in.
  • Half-Truth: told by the boys frequently to avoid revealing Aquila.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: For most of the first series, Aquila is hidden in Tom's garage, with full permission from his mother... because she thinks it's a prop from a film.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum
  • In Working Order
  • It's for a Book: The main characters told an archaeologist they were talking to someone in Latin online so they could get help with translating the interface on their spaceship. Later on, when they were trying to figure out how much water was needed to fully refuel the ship, one of them got his dad to do the maths for them, claiming it was for school. Also, one of them keeps the scrapbook on the ship by claiming it for something they're writing. Eventually one of the boys' parents finds the log of everything they have been doing and while the boys think they have been caught out, everybody just thinks that it is a book and bring the trope back to basics.
  • The Juggernaut: Tom and Geoff have a major Oh, Crap! upon realising that Aquila's not where they parked it in mid-air, due to some gum that'd previously gotten jammed in the forward control. The good news is that it's moving at a snail's pace. The bad news is that unless they figure out how to stop it, Aquila will going to keep going and will demolish anything that gets in it's path.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: This show was never released on video or DVD but the episodes are all on YouTube.
  • Kid with the Leash: Tom and Geoff are only about 11 or 12 when they first discovered Aquila.
  • Magical Native American: Chief Runningwater
  • Midair Bobbing: Played straight in the TV show but the book specifies that Aquila doesn't shake in the slightest as they get out of it.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Some of Aquila's functions. At the end of the first book, Geoff uses the laser to heat cocoa.
    • Tom is no better, using the laser to collect the top of famous mountains, then adding them to his rock collection. In the television series, Tom mentions that he's started collecting them from the Moon and Mars as well.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Mrs. Murray's Chief Runningwater seems to be this.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The opening credits, which feature the chant "Licat volare si super tergum aquila volat" - "A man can fly where he will, if he rides on the back of an eagle." It doubles as a Title Drop.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown
  • Plot-Sensitive Button: The second book says tasks can be reassigned to any button by asking the computer.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Tom and Geoff have to use trial and error to figure out what each button does. Even if they did, before they figured out how to make the language settings to English, it would have been in Latin anyway. In the book, its mentioned that Tom gave up after discovering that a list of all of the ships functions would take several months to read.
  • Secret-Keeper: Mrs. Murray in the second season.
  • Stock Star Systems: The aliens that built Aquila come from Deneb.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The first book specifies that Aquila can't talk because its speech processors were damaged by a laser, (the discoloured dent on part of its hull). At the end of the second book it can talk through the boy's mobile phones.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: justified. Aquila may seem to have an oddly wide range of functions, considering that it's apparently just an escape pod, but as a military life-raft intended to protect a user in the vacuum of space and help them sneak home through occupied enemy territory, it needs to be rather a cut above your usual capsule. Of course, it could always be the captain's....
  • Technology Marches On: Remember how amazing it was back in 1998 that Aquila was capable of wirelessly connecting to the internet? In the second book the boys have camera phones and mp3 players.
  • The Tell: One of the protagonists' mothers realises he's upset when he begins sorting his rock collection.
  • Trapped in Another World: When trying to think of ways to deal with Bobby, Geoff says Aquila could send him to another dimension.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The farmer who owned the land the caves were on. In the television series, after becoming a millionaire because of Tom and Geoff's finds, he only gives them 50p as a reward. It's unclear if Andrew Norriss knows this, but under the Treasure Act, land-owners and finders are entitled to a 50/50 share of the reward! He's effectively stifled Tom and Geoff out of millions of pounds of money!
  • Unusual User Interface: Aquila draws illustrations to explain things to Geoff, due to his dyslexia.
  • Visible Invisibility: Aquila apparently is completely invisible, but produces a mild shimmer when it moves. In the first book, they notice it has some leaves settle on it after being parked near a tree, while the second book mentions that it looks a bubble when it's raining. In the TV series, Mrs. Murray's Not-So-Imaginary Friend Chief Running Water can sometimes be seen by the viewer, but not Tom and Geoff.
  • What Does This Button Do?: Goes horribly wrong when they discover the laser. In the book, its mentioned that one of the button will turn the atmosphere in the ship to Chlorine. When neither of them understand this, Geoff repeats the question, (having previously asked Aquila to show him information visually, because of his dyslexia), so it draws him an illustration of a man choking to death.