Movie: A lot of people like the supernatural, particularly around this time of year (Halloween is later this week). The characters in such works are larger than life and usually possess a variety of powers and abilities that many of us wish we had. What those dreamers forget is the pitfalls of such powers that are often overlooked in favor of the strengths. For example, a vampire can fly, seduce beautiful women, and have great physical strength but a small sliver of wood, a ray of sunlight, or a host of other things can kill him with no problem at all. The thought of being able to cheat death and live a life of luxury is appealing to all mortals at some point or another but like all things, the repercussions are pushed aside in favor of the glitter. Besides, all the good vampire movies show half dressed (or completely nude) babes that experience ecstasy without any fuss. Needless to say, that's why these stories are a fantasy (in truth, vampire stories are much deeper than all this and have extensive roots in allegories in most, if not all, cultures). All of this background brings us to the subject of this review of the ill-fated television series, Forever Knight.
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. The network cancelled the show at the end of it's first run 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.
So, you're thinking that it was just a cop show with the tacked on mulligan of the lead being a vampire, right? Well, that's what a lot of people thought and in some cases, they were absolutely correct. The "gimmick" of the vampire angle didn't always make for such a great concept when various writers went through the motions (and the producers let them). Overall though, there was sometimes a spark or two of brilliance in many episodes that made it all worthwhile. Below is a breakdown of the episodes from this first season box set by title, original airdate and a brief synopsis as provided by the wonderful Sci-Fi channel (along with some personal commentary). The first season had a number of highlights but a number of fans preferred later shows where the concept had been fleshed out a bit more thoroughly. I'll try and sum up a few points at the end of the episode guide and put it all in perspective.
Season One Episodes:
Episode 1: Dark Knight: (May 5, 1992):
"Nick believes a Mayan cup can help him become mortal again. His old master, Lacroix, arrives in town and begins to kill people to draw Nick's attention. Meanwhile, a savage killer of homeless people stalks the city." This was the first episode and set up the premise of the show; a vampire from 1228 A.D. who has lived a long life, seeks to regain his mortality by any means necessary. He does good deeds and fights against his old comrades. While this episode was mainly used to set up the premise and main characters, it also showed that Nick was more than a bloodthirsty killer at this stage in his life. He lives by his own moral code and set of principles, but struggles to follow them in opposition to his vampire instincts.
Episode 2: Dark Knight (Part 2): (May 6, 1992):
This is the second half of the premier story and it further details Nicks relationship to his old master as well as his coworkers. This episode also shows that Nick, for all his enhanced abilities, is not going to be at full strength as long as he refrains from drinking blood but to do so would essentially cause him to spiral back into that which he doesn't want to be (a full fledged vampire).
Episode 3: For I Have Sinned: (May 12, 1992):
A serial killer who preys on young women who all attend the same church confesses his sins to the priest. Nick must overcome his fear and loathing of the Church and its symbols to find the killer." This is particularly difficult for Nick since the symbols cause him physical pain atop the mental pain many of the rest of us feel when dealing with a church.
Episode 4: Last Act: (May 19, 1992):
"A young woman dies, an apparent victim of suicide. Nick's intuition, however, makes him think it was murder. An old vampire girlfriend of his commits suicide, sending him into a slight depression wherein he questions himself." Nick also further questions his quest to become mortal when events occur to make him think his quest may be a fool's errand.
Episode 5: Dance By The Light Of The Moon: (May 26, 1992):
"Nick and Schanke investigate a double murder. In the process, they get tangled up with a stripper who tries to bring out Nick's wild side." There were a number of weak jokes here that made this episode stand out, for me at least, as one of the weakest of the series.
Episode 6: Dying To Know You: (Jun 9, 1992):
"The wife and daughter of a prominent businessman are kidnapped and held for ransom. Nick and Schanke work with a psychic, who begins to suspect Nick's true identity." Will Nick back away in order to protect his identity or will he do the right thing in order to save the victims? That's the latest moral question that Nick must face in his quest to become human/mortal again.
Episode 7: False Witness: (August 4, 1992):
"Nick is faced with the prospect of having to appear in court to testify in broad daylight after a man he is charged with protecting is killed." This actually addresses the technical issues of his employment as a cop versus the restrictions his condition imposes upon him as he continues to strive for salvation.
Episode 8: Cherry Blossoms: (August 11, 1992):
"A woman targeted in a mob hit in Chinatown survives but is in critical condition. Nick must find her before the mobsters do, but he runs into trouble when the man protecting her recognizes him as the killer of his mother." I'd have titled this one as something "The Past Revisted", since the net effect was to show that Nick didn't change into a good guy overnight so much as it was a continuum that he was on for quite a long time.
Episode 9: I Will Repay: (September 15, 1992):
"After Natalie's brother Richard is shot, she tries to convince Nick to bring Richard over as he did a leper centuries ago. Is this a second chance for Richard and his family, or will history repeat itself?" Nick faces the moral dilemma of "saving" someone at the cost of their soul, much like he has paid for his immortality. The decision he makes reinforces his path as he continues to reach for his own answers.
Episode 10: Dead Air: (September 22, 1992):
" A radio station's on-air psychiatrist comes to the police when a maniac calls in to his show and murders women on the air." I didn't get a lot out of this one personally. It seemed, to me at least, like a filler episode.
Episode 11: Hunters: (September 29, 1992):
" Schanke's old partner is gunned down in the street. The gunman makes it clear Don is next on the list. Nick hides Schanke at The Raven, but has a difficult time because Schanke won't lay low." How can Nick save his friend without telling him about his secret life?
Episode 12: Dead Issue: (October 6, 1992):
"Inspector Tony Fiore's wife confesses to shooting her lover in self-defense. Nick defies orders and pursues the case at all costs." There's more than just the life of an innocent at stake and Nick can't tell his boss why it's so important to him.
Episode 13: Father Figure: (October 13, 1992):
"Nick's paternal instincts are invoked when he is assigned to protect the daughter of a victim of a mob hit." Nicks own past kept him from raising a big family and he considers that sacrifice one of the hidden costs of being an immortal vampire.
Episode 14: Spin Doctor: (October 27, 1992):
"A journalist covering a civic election is electrocuted in his hotel room. Later his girlfriend is found dead, too. Can Nick find out who committed these murders without Natalie and Schanke going at each other's throats?"
Episode 15: Dying For Fame: (November 10, 1992):
"Nick sets out to clear pop star Rebecca when a fan's body is found in her hotel room." Given the plethora of his "cousins" in the area, can he successfully catch the real killer and protect her at the same time?
Episode 16: Only The Lonely: (November 17, 1992):
"When Natalie has her 30th birthday, she begins rethinking her relationship with Nick. Now she's met someone else -- and Nick's jealousy is showing. Meanwhile, a killer is murdering his dates." This episode helped define the couple's relationship in terms that they want to be with one another but recognize that until Nick is cured, it'll never happen.
Episode 17: Unreality TV: (November 24, 1992):
"When Nick is the subject of a Cops-like television show, the lead journalist discovers his secret. Nick must then expend all of his efforts to protect her from the Enforcers -- those who kill mortals who learn of the vampire secret." At the same time, he must attempt to protect his secret from the reporter who sees it as a golden opportunity for advancement her career.
Episode 18: Feeding The Beast: (December 1, 1992):
"Nick goes undercover to investigate the murders of members of The Twelve Steps, a support group for addicts. Nick is forced to confront his addiction to blood." The underlying theme of this episode is that the whole idea of vampirism is rooted in addiction and like any other addict Nick must recognize his own similarities to those he is dealing with.
Episode 19: If Looks Could Kill: (February 9, 1993):
" Nick investigates three women who are members of the same health spa. They're all young, beautiful, and have been involved in sordid violence, but do they share something more than skin deep?" Is one of Nick's old flames somehow involved or is it just a coincidence?
Episode 20: Fatal Mistake: (February 16, 1993):
" The investigation into Stonetree's recent shooting of an unarmed robber is keeping him up nights." Much like Nick is forced to confront his long life of causing pain and suffering, so to must Stonetree work it through. This episode had a lot of potential to show the two reach a common thread of understanding (but didn't really make it).
Episode 21: 1966: (February 23, 1993):
" A hostage situation at the police station forces Nick to recall his life in East Berlin, where he helped a family in crisis while they aided him in his search for the Abarat, an ancient book of miracles that may contain a cure for vampires." Much like the vase in the first two episodes, the book is viewed as a quick fix to Nick's problem.
Episode 22: Love You To Death: (March 2, 1993):
" Nick is determined to find the killer of a model who has been missing for four months. Meanwhile, another model disappears who bears a striking resemblance to a woman Nick fell for a long time ago." This was the cliffhanger ending to the CBS run where the writers wisely told the story of why Nick decided to leave Lacroix and become mortal. "
I was never a fan of the original show and caught only an episode or two when it replayed on the Sci-Fi Channel. Now that I've watched it from the beginning, the first season at least, I think I like it a whole lot more. The acting wasn't particularly great but it was about par for the subject matter (to be fair, Bennett seemed to relish his character more than any of the other principles but the writing probably made that easier since he was not a major player). Further, the direction and writing were pretty standard too; you could have altered most of the stories slightly to be a generic cop show and they would've played very much as they did here. The bottom line is that the show provided a spot for the combination of ideas where some worked and some didn't (it was broadcast television, don't expect too much). While the technical aspects of the DVD release were terribly weak, I don't suspect the copyright owners thinking they were going to be selling record numbers of the show. I have a split rating for this one: For fans of the show, I think it's worth a rating of Recommended or better while those who sort of like fantasy based television shows about vampires will probably think of it more as a Rent It.
Picture: The picture was presented in television standard 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There was a huge amount of grain and video noise with bleeding colors and source material limitations going on here. I know the show is over ten years old but apparently, the fact that the vast majority of scenes were in dark settings didn't help matters any since there was simply too much compression on top of that to make the show look good.
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 sounded better than it looked (the audio was a lot better than the video this time). The mix between the vocals and music was decent as well and no drop outs were noticed.
Extras: I'd like to tell you how the producers obtained all the cool behind the scenes features made over the years, interviews from all the media sources available, audio commentaries by the actors, directors, writers, and producers, an isolated soundtrack, detailed plot descriptions and credits, a trailer for the upcoming feature movie based on the series, and extensive historical notes that the writers relied on to plan the show but none of that was included here. The only extras were a few unrelated trailers and a paper insert with very brief episode information. (sniff) The box set was the standard fold out pack holding all five discs and a cardboard sleeve used to hold it all together.
Final Thoughts: I'm sure some will take issue with me over my rating but while this may be the best way to see the show, it would've been nice if Columbia could've taken more care with the DVD transfer (if not enhance the source material to clean it up a bit first). The episodes, except for the first couple, seemed to be a bit longer than when broadcast (about 48 minutes each) but nothing was noticed by me that would've been cut out for content (initial reports by fans trying to boost sales claiming the set had lots of extra nudity or violence appear to be greatly exaggerated-if you believe them, I have a bridge to sell you). It was a decent show and I hope to see the following seasons when they come out on DVD but only if more care is taken with the picture quality.