Friday, February 06, 2009

Neverwhere: The Series

Neverwhere is a six-part half hour BBC series written by Neil Gaiman that was produced in 1996. Because of Coraline and other books that I’ve been reading recently, I decided to look this one up. If it was anything like Mirrormask1, it would, at the very least, be intellectually stimulating and that’s a sure way to keep me entertained.

I don’t know how successful the series had been in 1996, but I honestly believe that if it was produced today it would be welcomed as Pan’s Labyrinth was. Something fascinating and terrifying with characters twisted to just the right shade of insanity. Dark and fantastical and something you feel a little guilty about enjoying so much.

As it is, Neverwhere is good.

Unfortunately, the first couple of episodes work against it. They are slow, spending too long in establishing the different characters and the alien-ness of London Below. Characters like Richard and Door are easily presented in only a few scenes, and Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are understood in only a few minutes, but it was dragged out for most, if not all, of the first episode.

The special effects are rudimentary, resembling what Hollywood was producing in the late seventies and early eighties. They actually aren’t very distracting for most of the series, as London Below is distinguished enough through sets and costume, but the first two episodes, where London is featured much more, it stands out in an unnecessary way. Maybe it didn’t in 1996, and maybe it’s just me finding it over ten years later, but it was distracting.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good story because it was a good story. I’m hoping to find a copy of the book soon. I thought Richard was pushed just enough past his limits for his story to be more than the typical normal-guy-in-extraordinary-circumstances tale and I thought Islington was suitably mad. Door could have used some more depth, but she wasn’t annoying or distracting. The Marquis was refreshingly brilliant; I couldn’t predict his movements throughout the plot at all.

I was satisfied at the end of the series, which is always a good feeling. It may be too many years later for this review to be relevant, but perhaps someone will read this and have a look at something interesting.

It is a dark and twisty series, so it’s not for parties2, but I imagine it would be great for a rainy night by your self with a cup of tea. I watched most of it on my laptop in the campus library on a Friday night, which was distracting and interrupted, but I look forward to watching this again at a later date.

1 Which I watched last year for the first time and enjoyed, even though I can’t really remember it now.

2 Unless your friends are like mine. We could probably watch this at one of our gatherings.

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