Vampire Detectives: Forever Knight, Angel, Blood Ties, and Moonlight

17 Oct

Vampires have sunk their fangs into the collective unconscious of people around the world in myths and legends from Vlad Tepes in Transylvania to vampire cats in the Philippines.  They have been popular in books, films, and television.  Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla have led to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. One of the first silent films was Noseferatu.  Bela Lugosi’s Dracula is a classic.

This television season there are three vampire focused series on network television: Vampire DiariesThe Originals, and a new reinterpretation of Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Sometimes vampires have been an object of terror and other times of desire, but an interesting phenomenon from the past two decades is the vampire detective on television.

The vampire detective typically has a scary and sexy side, but his defining feature is that he looks in the words of the intro to Forever Knight “to repay society for his sins” and uses his supernatural ability to solve crimes and stop both human and inhuman monsters.

I will be focusing on four North American series available on DVD from BCCLS Libraries: Forever KnightAngelBlood Ties, and Moonlight, but the phenomenon has also popped up in Asia with Nightwalker: The Midnight Detective in Japan and Vampire Prosecutor in South Korea (you can view Vampire Prosecutor for free with English subtitles streaming online at DramaFever.com).

Forever Knight

forever-knight

Forever Knight ran on television from 1992 to 1996 and starred Geraint Wyn Davies as Nick Knight a 13th Century Vampire who became a police detective in modern day Toronto.   The show first ran on CBS, then moved to syndication, and then found its final home on cable network USA.

A television movie Nick Knight starring Rick Springfield aired in 1989, but the only actor that it shares with the series is  John Kapelos, who plays Don Schanke, Nick’s partner in the first two seasons.

Nick not only tries to atone for his past by solving modern crimes, but he also tries to literally regain his humanity as well by working with coroner Dr. Natalie Lambert , played by Catherine Disher, to find a cure for his vampirism.  The series includes flashbacks to Nick’s past.

The series at times was a bit over the top, most of all when it came to fan favorite LaCroix, played with devilish glee by Nigel Bennett.  Whereas Natalie is Nick’s anchor to his humanity, LaCroix as Nick’s vampire father and mentor tries to lure him back to his darker side.

Of the three seasons, season two is my favorite, especially the Alice in Wonderland inspired episode, “Curiouser and Curiouser.”  This series will appeal to those who enjoy procedural crime dramas as well as those who are fans of vampires.

Angel

angel
Angel was a spinoff of the cult classic WB series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Several characters who tended towards being very one note in Buffy made the move including Angel (David Boreanaz), the brooding vampire with surprising humor, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), the vain and self-absorbed rich girl with unexpected depth, and Wesley (Alexis Denisof), the stuffy academic with hidden courage.

All gained greater likeability on Angel, where they ran a private detective agency in Los Angeles.  My favorite character, however, Winifred (Amy Acker) was a new addition. Fred, the sweet nerdy girl, along with Gunn (J. August Richards) the tough fighter, rounded out the ensemble.

The show was darker and less campy than Buffy, but still managed to have moments of humor.  The series ran for five seasons (1999-2004) before being cancelled.  I was sad to see it end, especially with the addition of another Buffy cast member James Masters playing his wonderful bad boy vamp, Spike in the fifth season.

My favorite episode “Smile Time” takes place in that season, it mixes horror and comedy perfectly.  If you are currently a fan of David Boreanez in Bones, you might also enjoy him in this series, which even though it has the addition of supernatural elements shares a similar vibe with its close nit group of quirky characters.

Blood Ties

blood-ties
Blood Ties is loosely based on Tanya Huff’s Blood Books, which I highly recommend.  The first episode is fairly faithful to the source material, but then diverges after that.

The show revolves around Vicki Nelson (Christina Cox); a Toronto based private investigator, who left the police force after she began losing her sight.   Detective Mike Celluci (Dylan Neal), her former partner, and Henry Fitzroy (Kyle Schmid), a writer, illegitimate son of Henry VIII, and vampire, help her solve her cases and provide a romantic triangle.

Unfortunately for fans of the book, the character of former homeless teen Tony is not included.  Instead, however, he is replaced with the charming character of Coreen, a Goth, whose elaborate fashion was always fun to see in each episode.  Coreen only made a brief appearance in the first book, but even Huff was a fan of her expanded role in the series.

The show has an interesting dynamic with Vicki having a disease that limits her night vision, united with Henry who cannot go out during the day.  Blood Ties aired on Lifetime, a network that at that time was known primarily for its women in peril TV movies, but Vicki is no push over.  The special effects were underwhelming, but the interesting writing made up for this deficiency.

The series ran for 22 episodes (2007/2008), cancelled not so much due to low ratings, but the fact that at the time Lifetime wanted to focus on less fantasy based series such as Army Wives.  Fans of Syfy channel’s Being Human will have recently seen Kyle Schmid guest starring as another vampire named Henry, and should enjoy this show.

Moonlight

moonlight
Moonlight also debuted in 2007 and ran for 16 episodes.  I’m slightly less fond of this series than the previous three, but I have had friends and colleagues disagree and the show won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama, 2008.

Alex O’Loughlin who played a vampire detective, Mick St. John, is now well known for playing the lead in the reboot of Hawaii Five-0.  Sophia Myles played his human love interest, Beth Turner (coincidentally though Myles was a vampire in the Underworld series of movies).  Mick rescued Beth when she was a young girl and he has been protecting her since then from afar; only now is she aware of him.

The series like Angel is set in Los Angeles.  In a unique addition to the vampire myth, Mick sleeps in a refrigerator to better preserve his physical body, but on the whole the show is fairly derivative of other vampire dramas.   I would have been interested to see if the show had more time to develop, if the characters would have achieved greater depth.

With Halloween at the end of this month, now is the perfect time to sink your teeth into one of these vampire detective series.

-Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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