In 1998, Channel 4 aired Ultraviolet – a six-episode British horror series, about vampires. Created by Joe Ahearne and produced by World Productions, the series starred Jack Davenport, Idris Elba, Stephen Moyer, Susannah Harker, and Philip Quast.
If you remember Ultraviolet, then you remember just how good the show was. Ultraviolet aired at a time when Buffy and Blade reigned supreme, yet still managed to stand out from the crowd when it came to telling intelligent vampire tales.
Ultraviolet focused on Michael ‘Mike’ Colefield (Davenport), a Detective Sergeant working for the London Metropolitan Police. Mike is a run-of-the-mill officer, going about his day catching criminals and balancing his social life.
When his best friend, Jack (Moyer) goes missing, Mike investigates the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. But he’s not alone – Jack is also being tracked by a shadowy organisation.
The organisation – known as Section 5 – is led by former priest, Pearse Harman (Quast), and backed by doctor and scientist, Angela Marsh (Harker), and ex-soldier, Vaughan Rice (Elba). Section 5 hunt vampires, and the reason they are keen to find Jack is because he is one of a growing number of humans who have been turned.
As the story progresses, Mike becomes a member of Section 5 and sees first hand just how deep the vampire society goes. He learns their secrets, their weaknesses, and just how far they will go to ensure their own survival.
A modern approach
When Ultraviolet hit television screens it felt like a breath of fresh air. Not only did it offer a new slant on the vampire mythology, but it told a story that was dark, gritty, and serious.
There was not an ounce of humour or self-depreciation in the show. Vampirism was treated as a virus, and Section 5 were working on a way to stamp it out, or at the very least, ensure it didn’t overwhelm the population.
In fact, such was the serious nature of Ultraviolet, that at no point in the series was the word ‘vampire’ even used. In the show, vampires were referred to as Code Fives or ‘leeches’, and were seen as a very serious threat to humanity – a threat that could one day lead to humans being kept in battery farms to provide an endless supply of blood.
Across the course of the series, Ultraviolet explored different facets of vampire mythology and reworked them for a contemporary audience. Each episode detailed how a virus such as vampirism could thrive, how it could be exploited by those in positions of power, and what it could mean for the human race.
Each episode of Ultraviolet ran for 50 minutes, and while the episodes were standalone in their approach, they were effectively different chapters in a six-part serial. The episodes included the following:
In the first episode, Michael is introduced to Section 5 and learns about the ever increasing threat of Code Fives. He discovers that Section 5 is funded through the government to combat the virus, which is seen as a public health risk.
In Nomine Patris
In episode two Jack quits the Force to take up a position within Section 5. His first case involves a reclusive businessman who is using his wealth to conceal his status as a Code Five.
In episode three, a barrister is attacked by two muggers, but is saved by an unidentified Code Five. The reason? Because the barrister is pregnant, and carrying a human/Code Five baby.
In episode four, a young boy lashes out and kills a priest, leading Mike and Vaughan to investigate. Their inquires lead them to a paedophile who is carrying an experimental form of the Code Five virus, which has started to infect children.
In the penultimate episode, Mike and Vaughan intercept five coffins which are being smuggled into the country. They take one of the coffins into custody, but lose the other four.
Vaughan unwittingly tracks down the coffins to a disused warehouse, but finds himself locked inside the building, shortly before the coffins are set to open. Meanwhile, Angela discovers the Code Fives are working on a synthetic blood to replace human blood.
Persona Non Grata
In the final episode, Pearse has a heart to heart with a Code Five who emerged from the confiscated coffin. While Vaughan and Angela uncover the Code Five endgame: kick-start a nuclear winter to wipe out humanity.
Despite its short broadcast history, Ultraviolet was a fantastic show and a hit with both critics and audiences. It also caught the attention of US TV network, Fox, who attempted to rework the show for US audiences, but the pilot never got off the ground (which was probably for the best).
While the series may not have made the jump across the pond, Ultraviolet was popular enough in both the UK and the US to receive a DVD release – and the DVD of the show is still available today.
Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Ultraviolet. If you have never watched the show then give it a go, and if you haven’t watched the series since 1998, now is as good a time as any to revisit it – you won’t be disappointed.
For more horror-based posts, check out the recommended reads below. And of course, be sure to take a look around this blog for more geek-based nostalgia and fun.
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