"Our free range days are over."

Ultraviolet, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, was a slick action thriller about high-tech vampire hunters. It was also, in my humble opinion, the single best vampire series ever made.

Y'know, after Buffy of course.

Let me take you back to the 1990. This was the age of The X-Files. It was a time when moody conspiracy thrillers were everywhere, although few enjoyed the same level of success as the exploits of Mulder and Scully. Ultraviolet was, sadly, one of the ones that didn't. Only a single series comprised of six episodes was produced. Fox attempted to produce an American remake (even roping in Idris Elda to reprise his role) but the project never went beyond the pilot stage. Nonetheless, even with all the loose ends left dangling in the final episode, these six episodes still work effectively well as a one-off mini-series.

While investigating the mysterious disappearance of his partner and best mate, Jack (a pre-True Blood Stephen Moyer), DS Michael ‘Mike’ Colefield (a post-This Life, pre-Coupling Jack Davenport) finds himself drawn into the murky world of modern day bloodsuckers. Soon enough Colefield is recruited into a paramilitary vampire ‘death squad’ alongside scientist Angela March (a post-Pride and Prejudice Susannah Harker), ex-commando Vaughan Rice (a pre-Wire Elba) and Pearce Harman (a post-Javert Philip Quest), catholic priest and head honcho.

The series was the brainchild of Joe Ahearne, a young writer/director who cut his teeth on the BBC drama This Life and would later go on to work on the first series of Doctor Who and create the short-lived exorcism drama Apparitions. First airing in 1998, the series took vampire mythology and treated it as hard science fiction instead of Gothic sex fantasy. This was a show that asked what would happen if vampires were real? How would we react to the existence of such creatures and, more importantly, how would they react to us?

What was great about Ultraviolet was the way it took everything we knew about vampires and gave them a bit of a sci-fi twist. The show stripped away every shred of the supernatural and Gothic. These vampire hunters might be led by a priest and funded by the Vatican, but they don't see the vampires as mythical beasties. In fact, the word vampire is never once uttered. They’re always referred to as Code 5s (the Roman numeral for 5 being V). Harman’s squad substituted stakes and garlic for carbon bullets, gas grenades with concentrated Allicin, UV lamps and guns fitted with specialized sights that used video cameras since vampires were invisible to recording devices.

The vampires themselves were equally high tech. They moved around in cars with UV resistant glass and caskets with time locks for long-distance air travel. They used speech synthesis software to communicate over telephone lines since their voices, like their image, could not be pick up by electronic devices. These bloodsuckers were not just random monsters. They were highly organised and they had a master plan, one that was slowly revealed bit by bit across the series. Oh, and I loved the way they sort of implode/explode when staked. It might looked dated by today's standards, but it is still a great effect.

Davenport, hungry to get away from the spectre of Miles Stewart and that haircut, is terrific as Mike, with Harker, Elba and Quest all providing stellar support. There really isn’t a weak link in the cast, even the guest stars are excellent, although Moyer’s hair is very distracting. Do you think Bill Compton had hair like that back in the '90s?

Four out of four Milla Jovovich's movies you should most definitely not confuse this series with.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really cool show and gone too soon. Can understand Davenport wanting to get away from that moron Miles. Pity there wasn't more but it sure worked.