Monday, December 14, 2009

Forever Night...Forever Knight

Has anybody noticed the de-fanging of the American (or even NON American) Vampire? With shows, books and movies like Tru Blood, Vampire Diaries and Twilight, it seems the Vampire in the post Buffy/Angel era is more concerned with the soap opera state of their relationships with teenaged girls than they are with taking a bite out of humans.


News flash….Vampires are NOT supposed to be all cuddly! …Monsters much???


Even Angel was good for the occasional homicidal rampage when his soul would go missing. Spike was good for a brawl even AFTER he got his soul back. Hell, even Angel knock off Mick St. John from Moonlight spent as much time throwing down as he did romancing the admittedly ravishing Sophia Miles (of Underworld fame).


Now anyone who even remotely knows me, understands that I still mourn the passing of both my beloved Buffy and (in a manly way of course) beloved Angel. Both shows were able to make vampires compelling and even sympathetic without ever letting the audience forget that these creatures are inherently dangerous. Anne Rice gave us a plethora of Vampires who could out brood Angel himself BUT would regularly take time out from self reflection to rip out a neck or two. I grant you that Angel AND Spike were both obsessed with young Buffy Summers, but SHE could totally kick their asses!


I realize that True blood in particular is very popular but the Vamps there seem as much obsessed by sex and drugs as by BLOOD. Which for most of them is synthetic!!!! What is THAT all about?? Faux Blood is like taking your sister to the Prom!


Where is the carnage?


Where is the murder??


Where is the mayhem???


Where is the FUN??!!!


Ok…enough moaning on my part. Let’s talk about a TV series that may be before your time or have escaped your notice. It was part of the “Crime Time After PrimeTime” late night line up on CBS during the 1992-1996 seasons. It was about an 800 year old vampire turned Homicide Cop struggling, and eventually FAILING in his quest for redemption.


I am talking about Forever Knight.


The adventures of Nick Knight, an 800 year old Vampire struggling to find a place in the modern world was the grand daddy of Vampire TV Shows. The concept was borrowed from the Tomb Of Dracula Character, Hannibal King, created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan some years earlier. (King was a private investigator rather than a Homicide Cop and he never actually drank HUMAN blood but he WAS also seeking redemption).

FK was essentially TWO shows in one. The main plot thread would deal with the murder of the week, with a sub plot in flashback to one of nick’s previous “lives” spanning the eight centuries of his existence. These flash backs found Nick interacting with the likes of Joan Of Arc and Hitler. There are essentially two conflicts that cover the life of the series.


Firs t is Nick’s struggle to regain his humanity and his evolving relationship with Natalie Lambert, the coroner who aids him in his cases. Unlike the defanged Vampires of more recent shows, Forever Knight never lets us forget that Nick is inherently dangerous and that he is perhaps MOST dangerous to the humans he cares for. Nick desperately wants to regain his humanity but is always struggling against his Vampiric nature. Because of this he keeps Natalie at arm’s length for as long as he can. Also unlike more modern Vampire Boy meets Human Girl stories, when Nick consummates his relationship with Natalie, he kills her. Nick’s story is ultimately a tragic one ending with him begging his sire, Lacroix, to end his existence. The final shot of the series is Nick on his knees, his back towards Lacroix with his Sire about to plunge a stake into his own “son”.


The other on going conflict in the series is between Nick and his Vampire family. Lacroix and Jannette (his paramour for centuries) simply do not understand why Nick would want to abandon his Vampire nature, and by extension, them. Through the series flashbacks we see that the three spent centuries together and that it was only within the last hundred years or so that Nick set out on his quest for humanity. We see many times where Lacroix foils Nick’s plans. He considers Nick and Janette his children and will not suffer losing either of them. When Nick first comes across Lacroix in modern times, he believes he has killed his sire in a fight. Later Lacroix resurfaces to become Nick’s sometime ally. As for Janette, she now owns a night club for vampires and begins to rekindle her own relationship with Nick. While she does not understand his desire to become human, Janette does not actively try to stop him. In a delicious bit of irony it is Janette who becomes human through her love affair with a mortal. What Nick could never achieve no matter how hard he tried, came to his lover by accident.


Through the length of the series, Nick begins to lose those humans who kept him tethered to the mortal world. Both of his partners (Schanke and Tracy) are killed. And when Natalie dies by his own hand, Nick sees the futility in his quest, realizing he was damned the first time he took an innocent life. His only chance for peace now lies in oblivion.


What makes Forever Knight so special is the fact that the good guys ultimately lose. We spend three seasons rooting for Nick, who is essentially a good, though tortured person only to see him fail. He fails not only himself, but those he cares most for. In many ways this show is far more “adult” than any Vampire series that has come along in all the years after. Geraint Wyn Davies as Nick and Nigel Bennett as Lacroix are wonderful in their roles and perhaps the most believable Vampires ever put on film. They are individuals who are ALSO Vampires, not the other way around. They also understand the consequences of their actions. Even Lacroix is not merely evil but a multi layered personality who is, in fact capable of remarkable loyalty and love for his “children”. Bennett’s portrayal shows us a cynical man who has simply seen too much of the human condition over HIS 1500 year existence to ever embrace Nick’s idealism.


Nonetheless he proves to be Nick’s best friend when the chips are down.


FK is also a remarkably SEXY show. It does not get nearly as graphic as Tru Blood or even Buffy. It’s sexuality is suggested rather than depicted, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks. This technique is always sexier than merely showing semi naked bodies. In Forever Knight the act of feeding is a deeply sexual act and the actors all convey this very strongly.


While not widely viewed, Forever Knight has influenced every Vampire series that has followed. The best of them (Buffy and Angel) manage to actually expand on some of the themes of heroism and loss extant in FK. Angel and Spike are never QUITE defanged. The others are merely shadows of a great concept.


Forever Knight is currently available (all three seasons) on DVD and I recommend it highly for any fan of Vampire fiction or just good TV.


That’s 30!


Mitch

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll agree with most of the comments except that I don't believe that Nick "killed" Natalie.
They left the ending up in the air, so to speak. As for me personally, one way or another, they are together.

Knight Phantom said...

Thank you Mitch!

I hope you don't mind, but I will be tweeting and facebooking this post. There are still many many of us Knighties out there keeping the Knight alive!

I'm even passing this on to Geraint Wyn Davies.

Holmes said...

I am glad you liked the post! It is also good to know that there are people who remember and appreciate this wonderful show! I push FK hard to people who have never seen it and they always come back and rave about how good it is. Now if we could only get a few new Forever Knight novels!