Vamping it up
is it about the supernatural that’s
got television producers salivating?
Stephen Blake takes a look.
Not long ago we had
BBC1’s Apparitions, about a Catholic
priest with a penchant for exorcism. We also
saw the end late last year of the delightful
Colin Morgan’s portrayal of a young Merlin
in a BBC1 drama of that name. Now we have
It seems we can’t do
supernatural without the obligatory CGI
these days. It doesn’t have to be
like that (Apparitions was an
exception), and leaving a few things to the
viewer’s imagination can often create the
(As a user comments on
the Internet Movie Database
website, “So much can be achieved
without constant special effects. But hey!
Now that we can do ’em, someone has to keep
the nurds [sic]
Cleaning up his
Cooke (minus kit) with mop.
And so to Demons.
Hmm. Well. Somehow, it just doesn’t work.
And that’s a pity, because it stars, as a
young Luke Van Helsing,
the über-totty Christian Cooke – he of
Echo Beach fame (though that, by his own
admission in a Pink Paper interview
he gave recently, was crap).
It was only Cooke’s
presence in Demons (ITV1) that kept
me watching for as many episodes as I did.
But I’m afraid I just had to forsake it.
Life’s too short. Perhaps if he took his kit
off more – as he did in Echo Beach –
it would have drawn bigger audiences.
However, apart from one or two scenes in the
first episode (which is what ensured I came
back for the second!), the stunning Cooke
has remained pretty well clothed.
What of the drama itself?
Well, it seems to want to do so much. First,
we have to have – though quite why I haven’t
been able to work out – the names of
characters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
We get a Mina Harker (Zoë Tapper) – she’s a
young blind woman in Demons – who
shares Luke’s demon-slaying adventurers.
Luke himself is, as we’ve seen, a Van
Helsing (although he thinks his name is
Rutherford at the start), a descendant of
the famous Abraham, no less.
The explanation given by
Rupert Galvin – Luke’s godfather, played
with a pretty awful American accent by the
otherwise excellent Philip Glenister – is
that Stoker was guilty of identity theft.
What, with both Mina
Harker and Van Helsing?
Cooke minus kit
a scene with his on-screen dad,
Jason Donovan, from Echo Beach
Then we get too great a
similarity, in theme, to Buffy the
Vampire Slayer, but the latter was
Add the odd idiotic
monster and the mixture is complete. In
Episode 1, for instance, Mackenzie Crook (of
The Office fame) played a camp vamp
who rejoiced in the name of Gladiolus
Thrip. Camp is
fine; this, however, just didn’t come off
and a creature that is supposed to be of the
night, neither dead nor alive, dark in the
extreme, is instead a pantomime dame without
the generous bosom, rosy cheeks and beauty
Mackenzie Crook does Gladiolus
Later in the series we
meet Mr Tibbs, part man, part rat. And in
the second episode we encounter Father
Simeon, played by Richard Wilson looking for
all the world as if he’d stepped straight
off the set of Merlin, where he
played Gaius to the lovely Colin Morgan’s
Merlin, and forgot to change out of one
costume and wig and into another.
If the Stoker characters
have to be used (albeit that they are
modern people with the Stoker names), why
not unashamedly enter a modern-day version
of Stoker’s world (unless he himself is
undead, he’s not likely to complain)? Why
not refer to Stoker’s Abraham Van
Helsing as Luke’s ancestor, as a real person
within this world, slaying the fiend back in
the nineteenth century, as in the classic
story, and have Luke as a genuine
descendant, facing similar foes, instead of
giving us an ill-matched potpourri of ideas
that don’t gel into a believable world?
Never mind. Cooke’s young
enough to delight us for a long time yet.
Maybe his next series, Trinity, will
turn out to be something worth watching for
itself as well as for the titillating