"Word to the wise—immortality is no excuse not to floss."—Nick Knight
Cop shows are the meatloaf of TV drama; infinitely versatile, you can throw just about any wacky ingredient into it and come out with something edible. (Although anyone who remembers the '70s series Holmes and Yo-Yo, which paired a cop with a robot partner, or the short-lived 1990 musical Cop Rock, might argue with my definition of "edible.") Forever Knight, a series that ran on CBS for three seasons in the early '90s, blends the traditional detective show format with a vampire theme, sporting an immortal fanged hero who quite literally takes a bite out of crime. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Fans of Angel will no doubt see the inspiration for their demonic do-gooder in reluctant bloodsucker Nick Knight, but the florid, often melodramatic Forever Knight will likely appeal more to fans of Anne Rice than Joss Whedon.
Facts of the Case
Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) is an 800-year-old vampire who wants to atone for the sins of his past by fighting crime in the city of Toronto, where he has chosen to make his home (L.A. was apparently already taken.) As a homicide detective, he makes it his mission to see that justice is done. He also wants to be mortal—to give up the blood—and is helped by Natalie (Catherine Disher), a forensic pathologist who knows his secret and works with him not only to fight crime, but to bring him back to humanity.
Of course, the path is not smooth. LaCroix (Nigel Bennett), the vampire that "turned" him those many centuries ago, haunts his every step. When LaCroix isn't actively pursuing Knight, he shows up as a little voice that taunts Knight whenever he gets too close to the edge. Fortunately, Knight has support—the people he works with at the police station, especially his new partner Don Schanke (John Kapelos), and an old lover from his vamp days, Janette (Deborah Duchene).
Collecting all the episodes from the first season of Forever Knight, this DVD box set has been long anticipated by the large fan base the series earned when it originally ran on television from 1992-1996. The pilot episode, "Dark Knight," recreates the storyline from Nick Knight, the TV movie from 1989 that inspired the series.
Despite the low production values, the writing for Forever Knight is solid and evocative—in just the first season, episodes take an unvarnished look at subjects such as rape, desperation, obsession, and more. The series takes an interesting approach to the vampire theme by treating Knight's vampirism as an addiction, with his pathologist friend acting as his AA-style sponsor.
Any show about a vampire cop risks looking ridiculous, but what sells Forever Knight is that the actors take their work seriously, and deliver heartfelt, sincere performances. Further, they have a natural chemistry that quickly draws the viewer in. The series itself can stand alone as a police drama or as vampire horror, which is a pretty neat trick.
With the exception of Part 1 of the pilot, all the episodes are the Canadian release versions, which have 5-6 minutes per episode of additional footage and flashback sequences that were cut from the U.S. broadcasts. Matrix [Editor's Note: And The Matrix, for that matter.] fans take note: the lovely Carrie-Anne Moss is a lead guest star in one of the episodes ("Feeding the Beast"), in which she plays a sex addict trying to work her way through the twelve steps, but not having much luck.
Video/Audio: The image quality is about what you would expect from an early-'90s TV series that was not preserved well, which is to say, grainy and muddy. The quality is worst with the pilot, but does improve in later episodes. Although Sony did some color enhancement for the DVD release, the print is still rather murky—better than VHS by a mile, but not up to the usual crispness and clarity of recent TV shows on DVD. There are noticeable shimmer and compression artifacts, as well, which may be the result of trying to fit a whole season (22 episodes) on just five discs. Fortunately, the soundtrack quality is very good, presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital surround with a fairly active sound field and little or no distortion.
Extras: The first thing you'll notice about this set is the complete absence of extra features. Considering that this title was only released on DVD due to an overwhelming outcry from its loyal following, a few featurettes and interviews with the cast should have been a prerequisite, with commentaries and extra goodies being the cherry on top. However, these episodes do not even feature subtitling or closed captioning. All we get in the way of extras is a printed episode summary insert. This has got to be a little disappointing for the fans, who had been expecting to buy multiple sets (one for viewing, one for preserving) and get their friends to do the same.
The box set itself, however, is very attractive—it uses a compact fold-out design to store the five DVDs inside (welcome news to fans that have VHS copies crowding their shelves) with glossy images set against the matte jacket, giving it a sort of 3D look. The insert is a complete episode guide with a brief synopsis of each episode.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although set in the early to mid '90s, the series had a distinctly '80s feel. Big hair, '80s fashions, out-of-control sideburns, vapid night club scenes, and a bit of the over-the-top direction that was common to dramas from that time pervade the episodes. It dates the show, and gives it a clichéd look that is a little off-putting. It makes the series seem older than it really is. When you compare Forever Knight to other shows that came out around that time, like Northern Exposure or Due South (another Canadian cop show), you'll see the difference.
While Forever Knight manages to do a lot with a little (mostly due to a strong cast), the cheese factor remains the most troublesome aspect of the series. Vampires are constantly hissing at the camera for no reason, the flying sequences are extraordinarily lame, and the scenes where actors dribble blood down their chins as they rapturously drink never looks anything but deliberate and awkward. Also, the famous "hypnotic eye lock that distracts victims during feeding" vampire power is here amplified into a supernatural ability to make people divulge crucial plot details or forget they ever saw a vampire.
Ultimately, Forever Knight is unlikely to appeal to anyone other than existing fans of the show, or possibly old-school vampire fans who like historical vampire romanticism. Otherwise, the combination of a nothing-special video transfer and zero extra features doesn't make for much of an incentive to add this to your library.
Forever Knight is found not guilty by reason of Wyn Davies's new wave vampire hairdo.
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