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Forever Knight: Dark Knight, Part 1

“Mind if I smoke a ciggy?”
“Not in my caddy.”


Forever Knight is probably the best Canadian TV show from the 90s about a vampire cop.

The first moments of the Forever Knight pilot are like opening a time capsule. First we see a match lit. Then... another match lit. A sexy saxophone wails out as a title emerges: Crimetime after Primetime. This was a very short-lived moment in 90s television when (supposedly) hot and sexy shows were going to air while the children were in bed.

Of course, these shows were about as tame as a trip to grandma’s house. (Anyone else remember Johnny Bago? Hello? Is this thing on?) But any kid who was sent to bed at 9:00 p.m. remembers hearing the sax from the other room and thinking that we must have been missing out on some cool grown-up stuff.

Once that trip down memory lane is complete, you get to see the old CBS STEREO SURROUND animation, which, if you’re old enough, will trigger some serious nostalgia for the days when we sat on the carpet and watched corny shows on tiny TVs. This ten-second ride only happens in the first episode, so don’t miss it.

So…what’s this show about? A vampire who wants to be human. I know what you’re thinking, you’ve heard that one before, but stay with me.

Back in the early 90s we were still adjusting to the basic idea that a vampire could have a soul. (This is before Buffy and Angel, kids. We’re talking primitive TV vampires here.) Anne Rice planted her flag in the “sympathetic vampire” genre, but Forever Knight was among the first to follow her lead and explore this idea. While the show had a weak budget, it was very creative, starred some fantastic actors, and explored ideas that are now standard vampire lore. So forgive the cheesy effects and concepts that didn’t pan out; Forever Knight was taking big risks and pioneering new stuff, and shows like that always have a soft spot in my heart.

A lot happens right out of the gate. In 43 minutes, we establish the show’s recurring themes:

-Nick, a vampire cop working Law & Order-style cases. He handles the night shift (obvs) and struggles to solve crimes without letting his co-workers learn his secret. His condition (being a vampire) is portrayed like drug addiction.

-Historical flashbacks (the best part) that usually interact with Nick’s modern dilemma.

-Natalie, the coroner who knows about Nick. She's trying to help him in his quest to become human, and she’s obviously in love with him. Trying to cure vampirism with science is an idea that’s rarely explored.

-Janette, the lovely vampire friend who thinks Nick’s crusade is silly, but she loves him anyway. She is the most fabulous person in Toronto, and her outfits turn every head in town. Janette and Natalie, representing both sides of his world, pull Nick apart like a whimpering wishbone.

-La Croix. Not the drink, but the evil vampire who brought Nick across 800 years ago. He’s disturbingly possessive of Nick and will do anything, or kill anyone, to stop Nick from finding his humanity. La Croix never fails to show up and foil Nick’s plans, keeping a normal life just out of reach. Sometimes calls himself the Nightcrawler.

The pilot treats us to a nice mystery that’s actually interesting. Someone’s killing the homeless, but one of the murders doesn’t quite match the others. Also, the bodies are drained of blood. Since Nick isn’t making any progress, he gets saddled with partner, an annoying but experienced detective named Schanke who masterfully pushes every one of Nick’s buttons.

Nick saves the day a few times by “vamping out,” and barely keeps anyone from noticing his powers. It’s a tough balancing act. He’s also depressed and dealing with withdrawl like a drug addict, retreating to his loft to pout when he can’t have nice things.

And we also have Nick’s first visit to The Raven, a goth club run by his friend and fellow vampire, Janette. He stops by once an episode, like a Catholic going to confession, and it’s usually the best part of the show. Because Janette.

In typical 90s style, the pilot is a movie length-episode cut into two halves for syndication. A lot happens, but by the time the credits roll we know that Nick hates his new partner, a murderer (possibly a vampire) is on the loose, and his old master, the wicked La Croix, is stalking him from the shadows.

Quotes:

“I don’t think Betty Ford takes vampires.”

"Is this the same guy that came to me begging to help him change so he could see the sunrise?"
“Screw the sunrise. Give me the bottle."

"Three weeks in this town and I still haven't seen my old friend. This next song is dedicated to you Nicholas, my brother, my child...the Nightcrawler's waiting for you."

Flashback:

The inaugural episode treats us to Nick's conversion. 1228. Catacombs. His master, La Croix, and his lovely companion, Janette, bring him across and watch him feed on a helpless woman. These scenes show up throughout the series.

Little Bites:

-Vampire lore: Nick shows all the classic vampire traits. Hates garlic. Sunshine hurts (but he seems to have some resistance from time spent in a tanning bed). He gets weak if he doesn’t drink blood. He can fly, but it strains the effects budget. He sees in the dark... sort of. Doesn’t age.

-Fashion Police: Natalie, the coroner, is seen wearing the largest ball cap known to man. It's the most baffling aspect of this show about Toronto vampires.

-Making waves: La Croix has a creepy radio show in the middle of the night where he says weird stuff and plays spooky notes on the violin. I guess he is a big donor to the local public radio station. Due to their mystical connection (I think) Nick can’t help but tune in and hear his master calling out to him.

-Familiar faces: If the charming homeless girl looks familiar, that’s because she’s played by Nicole de Boer, famous for her role as Ezri Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and as the smart kid in Cube. A lot of big stars will show up in these episodes.

-Speaking of Cube, the lead of our show, Geraint Wyn Davies, starred in the sequel, Cube 2: Hypercube. His character gets hungry and eats a guy, so it was familiar territory for Davies.

-Speaking of big stars, Nigel Bennet (La Croix) and John Kapelos (Det. Schanke) were both in The Shape of Water.

-Of course, lots of you would recognize Kapelos from his role as the janitor in The Breakfast Club.

-That museum where the guard is murdered is the Royal Ontario Museum, probably the best history museum I’ve been to.

-If you’re old enough to remember Due South (the one about the polite mounty from Canada), these shows were filmed in the same city around the same time. They sometimes share sets and locations, and I have often wished they would have done a true crossover. Someone in fan fiction needs to get on that.

Final Analysis: Strong opening. Lots of ideas woven together without being confusing. A few bits don’t make sense and Natalie wears a gigantic, stupid hat, which brings us down to three out of four tanning beds.

Adam D. Jones is a writer, musician, and medievalist who feels a kinship for vampires because his sensitive eyes that make it difficult to go outside during the day.

10 comments:

  1. I give this review 4 out of 4 tanning beds, and now feel compelled to watch this series (I was a huge fan of the 80s Beauty & the Beast series with Linda Hamilton, so it’s not a stretch…)

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  2. Anonymous, I named one of my cats Vincent after B&tB. :)

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  3. Love this series so much that I've written a (thusfar) two-novel fan fiction crossover series that received two article write-ups in VENTS Magazine online

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  4. Adam, welcome to the site!

    I have never seen this show, but one of my professors in grad school kept telling me I would love it. (He knew how much I loved Buffy and Angel.) So whenever anyone mentions it, he is the first person I think of.

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    Replies
    1. I love how many people know about this show in random ways.

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  5. Long time lurker of this site, first time commenting, but I HAD to post something about this. I have been a big Forever Knight fan forever (pun intended), and no one I know even knows of this show. By the way, it had one of the best TV intros and best TV themes of all time. Thank you for this!!!

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  6. Love it! Yes, the show has an epic intro and I'll never forget as long as I live. Glad to have you along for the ride.

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  7. The victim, the street kid Topper, was played by Zack Ward, who was the evil yellow-eyed Scut Farkus in The Christmas Story. He had a guest star role in Lost and I talked with him at a Lost Hollywood party in 2005. He said a lot of unprintable stuff. :)

    https://www.douxreviews.com/2005/04/lost-party-secrets-at-beach.html

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