DVD: Ultraviolet (1998) – UK TV series

January 1, 2013 | By

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Film: Very Good/ DVD Transfer: Good/ DVD Extras: Good

Label: Palm Pictures/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: June 26, 2001

Genre: Horror / Science-Fiction / Supernatural / TV

Synopsis:  A detective must join an elite team when he discovers the government is being infiltrated by a new race of vampires.

Special Features: Disc: Previews / Episode Summaries / Personal Files / UV Directory / Audio intervirw with series creator Joe Ahearne




Joe Ahearne’s Ultraviolet may never had a chance to succeed as a low-level conspiracy / Big Brother / vampire mash-up because even by the final sixth episode one can feel ideas were still being worked out while the series was in production.

Not unlike U.S. series Kindred: The Embraced (1994), Ultraviolet has humans and vampires living uneasily together, albeit with a deliberate power struggle of Darwinian proportions, but Ahearne kept details more vague to tease audiences, and perhaps give himself more wiggle room for future seasons that unfortunately never materialized.

On the one hand, the British model of mapping out a series over 6-8 episodes per season gets rid of any fat and padding: what’s supposed to be filmed are the essentials with pre-determined arcs unaffected by the rampant bullshit that permeated The X-Files when its creator kept saying yes to a seasonal renewal.

In keeping things vague, the audience does discover as much as its lead character – Det. Michael Colefield (Jack Davenport) – learns when he makes the choice to join an elite team and seek out the leech-like vampires, creations stemming from a viral attack which physically transforms humans into immortal bloodsuckers, but it also leaves potential fans frustrated and in mourning when the sixth and final episode end, with no other resolution available because Ahearne’s vision was never completed.

Like Kindred, Ultraviolet was doomed by the cancellation axe, although it’s worth noting how the former was steeped in far too much myth, whereas the latter kept it murky, giving viewers just little tidbits with each episode’s fairly character-oriented storylines. The viral-based the vampire condition (never uttered, and branded as a “Code Five” condition) does give its reborn humans immortality, and causes skin to burn when exposed to sunlight (albeit with permanent scarring). More unique: vampires can avoid surveillance detection because they’re invisible to electronic media – neither images nor voices can be seen and captured, making it difficult for the elite squad to retain proof of what may be humanity’s greatest enemy.

And perhaps borrowing a bit from Highlander (1986), Ahearne has his vampires explode into a fireball of light and sound when they die, although they can be revived if their remains – a reddish genetic powder – is combined with the right organic material – a concept perhaps appropriated from Star Trek, if not the final reel of Batman: The Movie (1966).

Equally similar to Kindred is the idea of humans sometimes willingly ‘crossing over’ into a Code Five state, which lets Ahearne torment his hero with a love interest, Kirsty (diamond-eyed Colette Brown), who may ally herself with the vampires. Unlike Blade (in comic book and film form), the humans who work with the vampires – either by choice, blackmail or greed – don’t experience as many casualties, but the relationship of cooperative humans can also be traced back to Larry Coen’s The Invaders (1967-1968)– perhaps the key source of Ahearne’s ambitious concept.

Regardless of its antecedents, Ultraviolet had plenty of well-developed characters, supporting characters with the potential for growth, and compelling relationships to survive a second season, but the farthest the show ever went was via U.S. network Fox – ironically, the home of Kindred and X-Files – who bought the concept for an American variant. (Idris Elba, who played Colefield’s new partner, participated in the unaired pilot, but a full series was never developed in spite of being reportedly announced as part of Fox’s 2000-2001 season.)

Perhaps due to languishing U.S. interest, Ultraviolet’s British supporters felt the series was good and dead, and the series was released on DVD in both Region 1 and 2, but like Kindred, it remains a peculiar artifact of a dynamic genre hybrid that ought to have had a better chance, particularly within the conservative, yearly  6-episode British model.

Davenport had appeared in Ahearne’s cult series This Life (1996-1997) prior to Ultraviolet, and is best-known as the jilted lover Norrington in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Ahearne’s work remains largely within the horror & sci-fi realm, penning the TV movies Shockers: A Parent’s Night (2001), directed episodes of Doctor Who (2005), and Apparitions (2008), and dramas such as Perfect Parents (2006) and This Life (1996-1997).

Brown would move on to Holby City (1999-) and The Doctors (2000-), whereas Susannah Harker (who plays the Agent Scully variant Dr. Angela March) popped up in a pair of Waking the Dead episodes. Philip Quast, the squad’s quietly suffering leader, is best-known for a long run in Sons and Daughters (1982-1987), and more recently playing Saddam Hussein in The Devil’s Double (2011).

Elba has consistently worked in film and TV in the U.S. and U.K., appearing in The Losers (2010) and the hit crime series Luther (2010).

The DVD’s transfers are decent, but lack a certain crispness in picture clarity, and the audio flips to mono on the last reel of Episode 3. Extras include a stills gallery, cast bios, and a promo short that features an assortment of money shots designed to attract interest. The Region 1 release includes an audio interview with creator Ahearne.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


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