Forever Knight - The Trilogy, Part 2
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // $59.95 // January 4, 2005
Review by Don Houston | posted January 26, 2005
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Movie: One of the most popular genres on DVD these days is that of the old television shows from the past. While many are aired on cable or in syndication, the editing for commercials, the way stations show episodes out of order, and the print quality are often such that true fans clamor for studios to release shows of all types on DVD in order to take advantage of the formats unique characteristics. Of course, they are hoping for better quality sound and picture but also extras that enhance the experience of their favorite releases from years gone by. As a reviewer, I sometimes get to see shows that I never had much experience with, with one example being Forever Knight Season 1.

The show was a weekly cop show pushed as a mid-season replacement on CBS during the 1992 broadcast season. The show was eventually pushed back to the end of the season and started airing in May, typically when all the ratings sweeps have finished up, in a late night slot, previously reserved for syndicated shows. The network cancelled the show at the end of its first run (I think the David Letterman Show moved it out of the slot) but it came back with a new season in syndication about 18 months after the show nearly died a premature death. Over the course of the first season, fans became familiar with the ages old vampire Nicholas "Nick" Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies), a vampire who was converted in 1228 by a master vampire Lucien Lacroix (played ably by veteran television actor Nigel Bennett-from LEXX fame). Having experienced many lifetimes of pain, suffering, loss and man's inhumanity to man, Nick has finally decided to reclaim his long lost humanity. To that end, he searches for a cure with the help of a doctor, Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher), as he protects the streets of Toronto, Canada working as a police detective partly in order to pay back some of his karmic debt.

Having reviewed that first season back in 2003, when it came out, I had long wondered if the producers were going to release the final two seasons, the second having been aired in syndication and the third picked up for the USA Network, but had long lost hope. I had taken issue with the technical qualities of the release and thought that maybe the producers had figured to cut their losses and run. Thankfully, the hardcore fans of the show pushed ever vigilantly to get the subject of this review, Forever Knight Season 2, out on a multi-disc set that I'm looking at on my desk as I type. There were still some limitations to the technical aspects of the episodes but I am pleased to report that some improvements have been made and the extras were far superior this time (not to mention that it had more episodes too). Here's a quick description of the season that ran between September of 1994 and July of 1995:

The show picked back up after a longer than average hiatus, having been moved from the CBS network to the wonderful world of syndication. Those in the industry know how fickle the syndicated market can be and a number of compromises had to be made in order to get the show moving once again. While many of those compromises were minor, true hardcore fans seem to revel in pointing them out online (I tried to research the series a bit more this time) so I'm not going to bore you to death with a list of them. In any case, the season began by disregarding the cliffhanger from the last season and sort of starting anew with a murder mystery hitting somewhat close to home in Killer Instinct. The plus side of season two, from the initial episode to the end, was the presence Nigel Bennett in a far more active role than he played in the first season. Rather than just appear in flashback form, he now made it to Nick's neck of the woods (sorry, I couldn't resist, if you can't take a joke; bite me) and spent most of the season trying to convince Nick his passion to become human again was pure folly. For all the discussion of the acting on the show, Nigel was the only one that regularly turned in solid performances without coming off as wooden or cheesy and his appearances were usually the highlight of the episodes he was featured it.

The show also managed to pay homage to author Anne Rice in episode Stranger Than Fiction, where the leading author of a vampire series is attacked and Nick tries to figure out what took place before it's too late to save a gal he felt compelled towards; nearly forcing his hand more than once. My personal favorites were a bit off the beaten track though. I really liked the thematic issues addressed in Near Death, where Nick is forced by his own character to undergo a procedure like the one used in the mainstream movie Flatliners to revisit his sordid past. Apparently, centuries old vampires have similar psychological tricks for fooling themselves that humans do in order to keep sane. A similarly themed episode, Curiouser & Curiouser, had Nick losing control of his burgeoning humanity and slipping into a dangerous place where his mind played tricks on him when guilt overcame his ability to reason.

Nick's partner, in his final season with the show, finally started to catch onto Nick's abilities in Close Call, an episode that might've had more impact had it taken place far earlier in the series but still managed to address some of the plot holes that were always in the back of my mind (how stupid could Lois Lane be in not figuring out that Clark Kent was Superman type of stuff). The thing about it that while that episode managed to make me think a bit, I thought a longer arc might've worked better yet it had a lot to enjoy too. In a similar vein (again, sorry), Nick's feelings for Natalie in the episode Be My Valentine ably set up the later series finale pretty well and went beyond the undercurrent the two shared throughout the series.

Lastly, the finances of an age old vampire turned detective were explored in Blood Money, a show that was highlighted by the fact that Lacroix proved once again to be dead on about the foibles of Nick's humanity (a love of money is the downfall of far too many people and vampires alike) but Nick, even after all these centuries, can't reconcile that aspect of his personality. Like many of the season's episodes, it showed that Nick may have been a supernatural being with a winning personality but he was still flawed and those flaws are a major part of what fans like about him. Like Baby Baby, Davies directed the episode and it came off as a nice tribute to his skill behind the camera too.

Okay, so the general drift of season two was that Nick's flaws were more thoroughly explored, Lacroix's attempts to change his mind about seeking to return to human form more pressing, and the overall themes a bit darker in most ways. For people raised on Buffy and Angel, to name a few, this series is going to be a holy grail of sorts since the writing tended to be better, even if the police detective elements were a bit heavy handed at times, and the acting just as bad (on average). The general vampire themes of most movies were revisited enough to provide some balance and Nick's desire for redemption over his past the main underlying plot device used over and over again. If you enjoy this type of show, you'll think it well worth a "must buy" status but I thought it was even more worthy of a Recommended rating for all that took place here. The price was a lot lower, the quality higher, and the extras added enough value to make it an easier decision this time but check it out for yourselves to see what I mean.

Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as originally shot for the syndicated television market about ten years ago. With more episodes than Forever Knight Season 1, clocking in at 26 episodes with several commentaries and some short featurettes to boot, the six disc set generally looked better than the initial offering. There was still a lot of pixelation in the first disc and a half and some problems with the night scenes (and let's face it, vampire shows are all about the night, yes?) but the grain wasn't as bad most of the time and the colors were generally accurate. In all, I understand the limitations of the show but having watched a number of episodes on cable television since my first review, I noticed that the DVDs looked better than any of the televised episodes so fans can savor that thought as they wait for their copy to come in the mail.

Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English with closed captions available. I didn't notice any major separation between the channels but it once again sounded better than it looked and I didn't notice any of the music being replaced as with other series on the market. The music did sound more gothic this season than the first and perhaps that was what made the show seem darker or at least contributed towards that feeling.

Extras: Okay, one of my biggest gripes with the Season 1 set was the lack of extras and apparently, a lot of fans agreed with my assessment, some of whom wrote to me about joining ambitious schemes to storm the Bastille and force better extras in later boxed sets. Well, I'm not much of a joiner but I thank whomever made the decision to increase the marketability of this set by including some audio commentaries by show creator James Parriott, Geraint Davies (the lead), and Nigel Bennett (Lacroix). While there weren't enough of them for my taste, I thought each of them added some information about the show and its production that I wasn't familiar with; none of it scripted as with some contemporary shows being released. There were also a couple of short features, About The Show and Questions From The Fans, that gave Davies and Parriott a chance to elaborate on some of the comments they made during the commentaries. I'm not sure where they drew the questions from (I'd have loved to ask a few dozen questions myself) but they hit all the highlights a typical fan might ask, if not a slavering fanboy. Lastly, there were some trailers included in the set and a paper booklet that gave some cast and crew information about the episodes but it was printed in typeface that was tinier than usual and not nearly as detailed as other recent booklets like the one for The Twilight Zone, for example.

Final Thoughts: When I reviewed Season 1, I wasn't a fan of the show but a disinterested reviewer that had seen a few episodes long ago. Over the course of watching that season and this one, I think I developed an appreciation for the show that went beyond the weaker aspects it presented (like the acting for example) and that's why I think long time fans will appreciate the improved presentation of the material with the nice extras of this boxed set. While I'd have appreciated it if the producers could've cleaned up the transfer more than they did and add more extras, the price point for this one (and they lowered the price of the first set too) made it a pretty good deal by most accounts and I'm doubtful if minor tweaks would've made for enough sales to pay for such improvements. If you like vampire stories, cop stories with a supernatural flavor, or just the kind of science fiction/fantasy show this one turned out to be, you'll probably enjoy the show more than enough to pick this one up and add it to your collection.



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