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Michael Colefield is unwillingly thrust into the nightmarish world of vampires when he discovers a secret government organisation operating undercover within the police when his friend Jack disappears under suspicious circumstances on the eve of his wedding. Written by
Mark Smith <email@example.com>
You might want to sit down. Ultraviolet is stylish, smart and dare I say it - British
British science fiction has a bad reputation with the people who commission programmes for television. It has often been lumped in with children's programming, or consigned to a minority channel with a minimal budget. With no chance of filming spectacle, the writers fell back on plotting and characterisation, it may have looked cheap and nasty, but the glory always lay in the writing. However, up against an endless supply of glossy, vacuous American imports British SF was an endangered species.
Fortunately, Channel 4 were willing to take a risk when they commissioned Ultraviolet. They chose to make a series that subverted the staple police drama with vampires.
Mention vampires to people and they may think of Christopher Lee in a cloak, a Californian teenage girl's extracurricular activities or the foppish dandies of Anne Rice's novels, but the legends go back into the depths of mythology. The vampire mythos has been in and out of fashion for the last couple of centuries. It was popular in the Victorian era in a society coloured by the grim world of the newly industrialised cities, infant mortality and mass illnesses. It languished for most of the last century, only to come out of the shadows with the onset of AIDS and worries for the environment.
Ultraviolet takes the mythical vampire and gives it a twist. This is a world recognisably our own, but with a dark core. These vampires live in the shadows not only the physical darkness of night, but they are also lurking in the gloomier parts of society. They have interests in cancer, AIDS and the outcasts of society. They manipulate society to their own ends through human servants willing and otherwise.
The Catholic Church in connivance with the British government has set up a team to investigate suspicious events and where necessary to destroy the vampires. This is a long way from Buffy's stakes and a spell in the library. This team comes equipped with SWAT commandos, guns, grenades and all the latest scientific equipment.
Jack Davenport plays a policeman who falls into this alternate world when one of his colleagues goes missing.
The episodes do feature an ongoing thread which reaches a conclusion in the final episode. However, most of the plot of each episode is self-contained, so even if you chance across an odd episode you will be able to pick up the story. Ultraviolet is not suitable for children as it contains discussion of such topics as paedophilia and abortion both subjects are sensitively handled, but are bound to offend some people.
The makers chose to use actors that could do justice to the material. If you tuned in halfway through an episode without realising what you were watching you could easily believe it was a glossy detective drama. Dialogue is well handled and understated they act and sound like government officials, not bit players in a Hammer Horror film.
Visually it looks superb, it was shot on film and the screen glows with cool colours not normally seen outside of big budget productions. The producers took advantage of the London scenery, daytime scenes are set in the leafy suburbs, whilst night shots feature the seedier side of the metropolis amusement arcades, grim tube stations and lonely streets. Special effects are used sparingly and are competently handled to propel the story forward.
Six hour long episodes were made. Part of me would like to see more of this dark world, to see the development of the grand plot and the characters, but another part says that it would have been impossible to maintain the standard without repeating some of the plot lines.
A minor classic.
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