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Series / Relic Hunter

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"Welcome to Ancient Studies. I'm not really a stickler for attendance, from time to time I'm called away from the classroom myself."
Sydney's Season Two pre-credits introduction.

Relic Hunter is a television series that ran for three seasons in syndication from 1999-2002. Relic Hunters are adventurers who travel the globe to track down lost or stolen objects and return them to their owners or donate them to museums, sometimes for a fee but never working entirely for profit - unless they're this week's bad guy who'll get their comeuppance at the end.

The tough girl heroine, Sydney Fox (Tia Carrere), is a renowned Relic Hunter, but also has a day job as a university professor of Ancient Studies. She somehow manages to keep her job despite taking a ridiculous amount of unscheduled time off to Relic Hunt (occasionally this is Lampshaded by a boss who complains Sydney is never in, or justified by having her employer send her off on a relic hunt).

Her Hugh Grantesque teaching assistant Nigel Bailey (Christien Anholt) accompanies her on hunts and largely gets used as the comic relief, whilst secretaries Claudia (seasons one and two) and Karen Petruski (season three) hold the fort back at Trinity College. The latter two are respectively played by Lindy Booth and Tanja Reichert.

The show sometimes features bursts of cheesy dialogue and various national stereotypes. There is a large amount of (innocuous) Fanservice but all violence is carefully filmed around with no visible blood for reasons of transmission time.

This programme provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Sydney Fox. Relic hunting can be a dangerous business, and Sydney is an expert in various martial arts. Even when she's back at her office we frequently see her practicing her kicks and punches.
  • Action Dress Rip: At a garden party held by the Greek minister of culture, Sydney gets into a fight with two goons and tears a slit in her cocktail dress in order to be able to kick properly. Later in the same episode, she tears off most of her skirt so she can climb a building, leaving only just enough material to prevent a Panty Shot as the camera zooms in on her from below.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Sydney's life is more often that of an adventurer rather than an academic, as she travels the world in search of artefacts and often gets into conflicts with various criminals. While her academic field is history rather than archaeology, her retrieval of ancient artefacts tends to involve archaeological work.
  • All-Natural Gem Polish: Averted. In the episode "Afterlife and Death", a diamond from 1500 B.C. has an irregular shape and the fact that it has to be cut and polished now to be considered beautiful plays a big part in the plot.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The plot of Fire In the Sky. The alien metal is confiscated by the government at the end to keep the truth hidden.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Quite often such conspiracies center around the relics Sydney is looking for.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Episode 13 features the diamond of Thutmose III, which is revealed to have a refractive index so high that it "absorbs light and doesn't allow it to escape". Apparently, this mostly means it fires a big exploding laser when you shine bright light on it.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sydney is a university teacher who often goes on dangerous adventures in search for relics.
  • Bad Habits: Sydney and Nigel dress up as monks/nuns more than once.
  • Baseball Episode: In "Diamond in the Rough", Sydney has to find the lucky glove of a legendary player that was stolen during the 1946 World Series.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Many of the plots revolve around a mysterious artifact that granted a historical figure amazing powers.
  • Bullet Dancing: Sydney does this to Reiner in "Diamond in the Rough". After Sydney gets Reiner's gun away from him, he grabs Nigel and holds him hostage. Sydney proceeds to empty the gun at Reiner's feet; forcing him to jump while delivering a lecture about why she Does Not Like Guns.
  • Caught in a Snare: Happens to Sydney and Nigel in "The Emperor's Bride" (triggered by Nigel of course). After much squirming, Sydney is able to draw Nigel's knife and cut them free.
  • Clip Show: Season 2's "M.I.A"
  • Countrystan: One episode is set in the Middle Eastern sultanate of Endostan.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Nigel isn't always one but has his moments.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: "Incognito" has Ian Worthington, a relic hunter that happens to look exactly like Nigel. This of course leads to Nigel having to impersonate him.
  • Disguised in Drag: Episode 63 involves Sydney and Nigel dressing as harem dancers to infiltrate a Persian palace.
  • Distressed Dude: Nigel, more than once.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: We get one between Sydney and Nigel in "Treasure Island", a platonic love, but a declaration nonetheless. They do end up surviving.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Sydney doesn't.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: In one episode a monk tricks Sydney and Nigel into helping him unleash a demon which promptly kills him. The "evil" abbot who tried to prevent it happening turned out to have been the good guy all along.
  • Exact Words: The relic of "Roman Holiday", Caesar’s breastplate, makes it so that the wearer cannot be killed by any living man. Sydney is able to sidestep the villain wearing it, leading to him being impaled on the spear of a nearby skeleton. Sydney is quick to point out that the wearer can be killed by a dead man.
  • Expy: A beautiful Adventurer Archaeologist who hunts (frequently supernatural) relics across the globe and fights off goons? Sydney has a lot in common with Lara Croft. The fact Relic Hunter also sounds a lot like Tomb Raider is also deliberate. There are differences, though, including the fact Sydney is American and not an aristocrat.
  • Fanservice: The series is heavy on fanservice, but it is of a rather mild variety with no explicit nudity, and it is often played for comedy.
    • Sydney doesn't have much of a nudity taboo and needs surprisingly little encouragement to take her clothes off, which leads to a large number of Lingerie Scenes, as well as some Toplessness from the Back and some nude scenes with Scenery Censors.
    • Her first scene has her teaching introducing a class on tribal culture by demonstrating Pacific Island-styled dance in a bikini. She spends most of the next scene in her bra, changing clothes in front of Nigel who she's known for all of ten minutes.
    • The opening credits even include a shot of her taking her top off.
    • Even when fully dressed she tends to wear tight and rather skimpy clothing.
    • Nigel also gets ShirtlessScenes, though he's far more reluctant than Sydney to take his shirt off.
    • Claudia often wears skimpy and revealing clothes (mainly of the short skirt variety), though unlike Sydney she tends to keep them on.
    • The episode "Transformation" has Sydney fighting Turley, the female Villain of the Week, in a pit of mud, much to the amusement of the male onlookers. The same episode also has Sydney taking a shower, as well as Nigel searching Turley's bra for a wire. When he's done, she doesn't bother buttoning her shirt but walks around with a Navel-Deep Neckline (and the bra on full display) for the rest of the episode.
    • IN season three Karen tends to wear low-cut shirts and dresses.
  • Flashback: Every episode begins with one, set in the distant or not-so-distant past.
  • Food Slap: In "Diamond in the Rough", Sydney dumps a glass of water into the lap of Nigel's boorish friend Tony (having just flicked hot cigar ash on him).
  • Funbag Airbag: In Season 3's "Mr. Right", Karen almost falls from some steps. When Nigel catches her, he ends up with his head in her cleavage.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Often seen, given the show's rating. A particularly strong example occurs in "Roman Holiday", where the villain of the week is impaled on a spear held by a nearby skeleton.
  • Hollywood Skydiving: On two occasions, Sydney and Nigel get to their location via parachute insertion. Both times they are informed just before jumping. These are apparently Nigel's first and second times skydiving.
  • Hot Librarian: Even though she's not a librarian, Sydney affects this look at her university job.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Run Sydney Run".
  • Identical Grandson:
    • The Thief of Baghdad was apparently an identical distant ancestor of Sydney's. She also had an identical grandmother who was a singer at the Moulin Rouge.
    • In "The Warlord", Nigel encounters Haya, a woman who looks identical to the 15th Century ruler Kahina, her ancestor.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: In "Diamond in the Rough", Sydney knocks out a fleeing bad guy with a perfectly pitched baseball to the head.
  • Improbable Age: Sydney looks like she's about 30 years old in the first season (Tia Carrere was 32 when it was shot), yet she is already a full professor with her own secretary.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Nigel's harem dancer disguise in episode 63 is not particularly convincing, even with the veil over his face.
  • It Belongs in a Museum: Most of the relics do. Sydney's mission often is to ensure they end up there.
  • Job Title: Relic hunter may not be Sydney's official job description, but it is how most people describe her.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Sydney and Nigel get into more than one fight while dressed up for formal parties. The villain of "Nothing But the Truth" also gets into a martial arts fight with Sydney while wearing yellow high-heels, a halter top, and a short skirt, and is winning until Nigel helps out in a Combat Pragmatist fashion.
  • Large Ham: Many of the differing villains might fit this.
  • Lingerie Scene:
    • Sydney gets quite a few of these - not quite one in every episode, but she frequenelty has reason to undress while on camera.
    • One of the most ludicrous examples (which is played mostly for laughs) is when she and her companions hide from their pursuers in a German Laundromat. The proprietor insists that they actually wash something, or leave. Sydney takes off her over-shirt and puts it in a machine, but that doesn't satisfy the proprietor. The entire party ends up standing there in their underwear surrounded by other customers.
    • One not involving Sydney, but the female villain, Turley, in "Transformation". The heroes search Turley for a wire and find it hidden in her bra. Naturally, this requires unbuttoning her shirt, but she doesn't bother buttoning it again and spends the rest of the episode with her bra (and most of her stomach) on show.
  • Lost Will and Testament: Not a will but a marriage certificate, the only proof of a secret marriage performed on the eve of the French Revolution. The aristocrat groom was executed by the revolutionaries minutes after the ceremony, but his pregnant wife was hidden by the priest, and the proof of the marriage will allow his descendants to claim the inheritance in modern day.
  • MacGuffin: Many of the relics Sydney is hunting.
  • Mega Crossover: Part of the epic crossover fanfic "Chicago Convergence".
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Sydney's old teacher who first gave her an interest in relics was murdered to obtain one. Twenty years later. Sydney caught up with the killer.
  • Mud Wrestling: In "Transformation" (s1e7), Sydney's climactic confrontation with the female villain, Turley, leads to them falling into a mud pit and finishing the fight there. To add to the fanservice, Turley's shirt has come unbuttoned to her navel. Sydney lampshades it by asking the bystanders if they're enjoying the show. Check it out here.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Episode 8 contains a scene at a Swedish nudist spa, with about 5 minutes of continuous Scenery Censor, as well as Nigel Digging Himself Deeper while attempting to talk to a sunbathing girl.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the Season 1 Episode "Nothing But the Truth", while Stewie Harper, a man Sydney has had the displeasure to work with previously, while under the compulsion of the Chalice of Truth (the episode's MacGuffin), mentions an incident in Berlin involving a dominatrix and a barbecue chicken claiming that at the time he was either drunk or high on "wacky tobaccy" (or possibly both).
    • In "Memories of Montmartre", while he and Sydney are searching a caberet hall, Nigel remarks about having just seen an woman's act involving a bowling ball and a dog collar
  • No Nudity Taboo:
    • Sydney obviously doesn't have a problem with strangers seeing her in her underwear.
    • As the nudist resort episode shows, she has no problems with them seeing her completely naked either.
    • In episode 2 of season 1, Sydney insists on sharing a shower with Nigel (there is no sexual intent, she is just really dirty and needs to clean up quickly). The scene ends up with a wet and miserable-looking towel-clad Nigel standing outside the bathroom door, with Sydney calling for him to come back in.
    "The Carthaginians believed that communal bathing between the sexes was a soothing extension of friendship. Quite platonic."
  • #1 Dime: In "Diamond in the Rough", Sydney is hired to find the lucky baseball glove of 'Smiling' Jimmy Jonesboro, which was stolen during the 1946 World Series. Essentially worthless (Jonesboro bought for one dollar at a garage sale), he was willing to pay $5000 to get it back in 1946. In the present day, a current major league player is willing to pay a seven-figure sum to locate it, in the hope it will give him the same mojo Jonesboro had.
  • One True Sequence: More often than not, the bad guys and Sydney turn up more or less simultaneously at the place where the relic-of-the-week is hidden. Usually this is not by coincidence: sometimes one party shadows the other, and other times both parties react to a clue that's suddenly made public.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sydney's mother is dead and her father rarely around, Nigel is an orphan.
  • Precocious Crush: In "Treasure Island", Nigel becomes the focus of the affections of Samantha, the teenage daughter of the owner of hotel they are staying at.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Katie from "Emperor's Bride" and Frank Kafka (played by Ralf Moeller) from "The Light of Truth" were the only villains capable of tanking Sydney's She-Fu. In the case of Katie, Sydney disarms her, but she then casually grabs Sydney's wrist. Sydney then throws several punches with her free hand which have no effect (except for gradually irritating Katie).
  • Punctuated Pounding: "Didn't your mother ever teach you to play! NICE?!"
  • Sand Necktie: Seen in "Treasure Island".
  • Sexy Silhouette: Nigel (and the audience) are treated to a back-lit silhouette of Sydney undressing in a tent during a rainstorm in "The Emperor's Bride".
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl:
    • Sydney doesn't seem to mind taking her clothes off in front of strangers.
    • In episode 8, Sydney and Nigel must enter a Swedish nudist spa to search for a medieval runestone. Sydney doesn't appear to have any problem with this at all, while Nigel is plainly uncomfortable and agrees to the plan only after Sydney promises not to look.
    • Then in episode 13 she's forced to undress inside a taxi in order to remove a less-obvious-than-usual listening device, while the driver watches. She does eventually force him to wait outside, at least.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Nigel and Preston.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Claudia replaced with Karen.
  • Thanks for the Mammary:
    • In Season 3's "Mr. Right", Sydney is hanging from a ledge with CIA agent Derek Lloyd holding onto her waist. When she suggests using her as a ladder, he first tries using her shoulder, but pulls her hair. His next attempt sees him try to use Sydney's breast as a climbing hold, much to her annoyance.
    • In "Pandora's Box", Sydney and Nigel are dressed as harem girls. When Sydney puts her hand back towards Nigel, she put her hand of his faux breast.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Other than her field outfit, Sydney seems to have one. So do her secretaries.
  • UST:
    • Sydney and Nigel - played for laughs when they have to go undercover in a nudist colony.
    • To a lesser degree, Karen and Nigel.
  • Valley Girl: Claudia, who at one point confuses astrology and astronomy.
    Sydney: For her, history starts with Marilyn.
    Nigel: Monroe?
    Sydney: Manson.
  • Vine Swing: In "Diamond in the Rough", Sydney has just retrieved a pair of daggers when rival relic hunter Kurt Reiner swings in on a vine and knocks her down in an attempt to steal them.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: In "Diamond in the Rough", Nigel wakes up after a boozy night to find himself in a trashed living room, thinking he has demolished the room during vigorous sex with Sydney. After an attempt to apologize for not remembering and saying how much respected her as a woman, Sydney tells him that he had passed out and the room got trashed when she fought off an intruder during the night.