First aired: 2009
Okay, so I was doubtful when I gave my First Impression, believe me the show that had persons smiting supernatural creatures went from worse to worse, episode on episode. All I can say is, thank God its over – pass me the keyboard and let me smite the damn thing already. Bram Stoker, bless your heart, you must be rolling in your grave. BBC (in respect of Torchwood) and Josh Whedon (in respect of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I hope to God you are talking to your lawyers about suing over this piece of garbage.
This is about the last Van Helsing, Luke (Christian Cooke), and as such you would think that vampires play a major role. Think again – there is a vampire in every episode (though we don’t know it until episode 4 out of 6, that is we don’t know it if our brain cells are more corrupted than any claim of originality in this show), the villain from episode one, Gladiolus Thrip (Mackenzie Crook), is also a vampire, though we really would not be able to tell and we get a couple of vampires failing to act like vampires in episode 4. There is no actual vampiric behaviour until the last 2 minutes of the series.
To cover ourselves, when I raise Torchwood and Buffy, let me illuminate… take character Rupert Galvin (Philip Glenister, embarrassing himself with the worst dialogue and faux-US accent I have heard for some time). He is the mentor, like Rupert Giles in Buffy. Oh wait Giles was English and he is American – so like anti-Giles… wait a second… initials RG, not just the first name but the initials are the same… The American accent is reminiscent of Captain Jack and the stacks (the not so secret HQ), well it kind of is the hub (from Torchwood) meets the library (from Buffy) but in the sewer (frankly, were it belongs). Luke gets super reflexes etc, a bit like Buffy got Slayer powers, and this makes the show feel less Dracula based and more akin to Van Helsing as a character source.
Let me take issue with just how little respect the writers of this had for the source material. Now, understandably, I am a little defensive of the novel Dracula. In episode 1 the writers distanced themselves, when Luke protested that he was not related to a character from a novel and Galvin stated “Identity theft, Bram Stoker stole your name.” This fairly much poo-poo’d the novel, especially as Galvin claims that Jonathon Harker was the original Van Helsing’s assistant rather than his character in the book, and yet in episode 4 Galvin gives the book to Luke; the original and the best, he then claims.
That is our vampire episode though anyone who hasn’t realised that Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper) must be a vampire is obviously not well versed in the Dracula story, given that she is a main character from the novel. Why she would be blind is beyond me – when she vamps out she can see, otherwise she is blind, the programme does not state why – but the fact that she looks in her 30s when she would be over 100 gives the game away. She represses her vampire tendencies with dialysis it seems.
So Galvin has given Luke a copy of ‘Dracula’ and he passes it to Ruby (Holly Grainger) to read and she, like Luke, asks whether they should just watch the film. Now before we continue with the disrespect the writers showed Dracula let me just mention how poor a character Ruby (named solely so a certain song by the Kaiser Chiefs could be used in episode one, it seems) was and how badly acted – though maybe it wasn’t entirely the actress’ fault as her dialogue was so consistently poor. Anyway, having claimed it to be boring she eventually reads said book. Ruby then accuses Mina of being a slapper (UK colloquialism for a slut). Now, I know that Mina was bitten – so assaulted and victimised spring to mind. Stoker, who clearly cared for the character, may have been adding, on a Freudian level, sexuality in respect of the vampire bite and, as such, she was also raped. That does not make her a slapper and the fact that the writers would intimate such… well, enough said.
One thing I did like was the fact that the bad vampire was Quincey (Ciarán McMenamin) – not Morris but Harker, the son of Mina and Jonathon – except, just how bad was he? For something that needed to be killed, he attacked no-one for their blood but set up a bogus blood collection van, he had Ruby in his grasp and gently tried to persuade her round and let her go rather than just kill her outright and all he wanted was… well here he became bad as he wanted Mina’s blood, as she had Dracula’s blood, so he could become all powerful, except… well she turned him, using her blood to do so, and so he already had it.
Killing vampires took a few none compatible twists and turns. Thrip is killed by a high level half-life killing weapon, quite easily. With Quincey we then discover that only a vampire can kill a vampire – but Mina won’t do it. So Galvin has the plan of getting his DNA, bringing it back to life (with electricity, hmmm... very Mary Shelley) and then shooting him with it so that he ages and dies… hmm… that seemed a stretch given that they take in living DNA as a matter of course and why it being their own living DNA would make a difference is beyond me.
In the final episode Thrip is back because… well, you know what they didn’t bother to answer that little poser. Was it because of the vampire rules? Galvin didn’t realise that much. Mina kills Thrip by drinking blood, vamping out and biting his neck… at which point he immediately turned into goo, which resolved the issues between the good guys in the episode…except it truthfully resolved bugger all, just killed someone by turning them into blue goo. Actually, killing a character who was played by probably the best actor in the whole thing.
Yes, my friends, this was a scream a minute and by that I don’t mean screams of girlish joy… oh no… but screams of agony at just how much ITV and the producers do not get the genre they dabbled in. But one fears that it doesn’t matter that they didn’t get the genre, they didn’t get drama full stop. When confronted with a bomb with 15 minutes on the timer how many of us would spend the time reading up (for the first time in your life) on bomb disposal and not either a) risk booby trap to carry it out of harm’s way or b) leg it. I don’t care if it is a supernatural show or a real world drama.
Again, in a bunkum supernatural show sense, let us talk the sword that must be heated to fight a demon with a magic scabbard that retains the heat but allows it to be carried safely. I can live with that… I can’t live with removing it from said scabbard and resting it on forearm, without severe burns, during the fight whilst posing in a faux fighting stance. I could go on, each episode was filled with plot holes, inconsistencies, bad dialogue, derivatives of other shows and moments that defied the viewer's logic thresholds.
I continued to watch this show only for the review, a sense of honour insisted that I couldn’t tell you what I thought about this series unless I had suffered through it in all its endlessly derivative badness. I worried around a score. 1 out of 10 is the lowest I have ever given a series, normally they have a redeeming quality somewhere, and yet I actually think that is generous. The main pleasure this gave me was the wonderful email conversations after each episode as I, and others willing to suffer, put ourselves through the agony of the show week in and week out. Luckily UK shows tend to 6 episodes rather than the US tradition of 22. Please... please… please… do not pick up a second season.
The imdb page is here.
Sunday, February 08, 2009