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Forever Knight: The Trilogy: Part One

If you're very lucky, some late night channel surfing may turn up a CBS-produced TV movie from 1989 called Nick Knight. Intended as a pilot for a series about a vampire cop, it's not a bad piece of entertainment, really. The camp value comes from the casting of the lead role — '70s pop icon Rick Springfield. Remember "Jesse's Girl?" Yeah, that Rick Springfield. The series didn't fly, and Springfield went back to being a staple of the VH1 "Where Are They Now?" specials, but in 1992 CBS remade the pilot as a two-parter for their "Crimetime After Primetime" lineup called Forever Knight. This time it starred Welsh actor Geraint Wyn Davies, whose checkered career included stints on TV's Airwolf and Dracula: The Series (he played Van Helsing) and a turn as the villain in the TV movie Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. In Forever Knight, Davies plays police detective Nicholas Knight — at least, that's the name he's using this century. The premise is laid out in voiceover at the beginning of each episode:

He was brought across in 1228. Preyed on humans for their blood. Now he wants to be mortal again — to repay society for his sins, to emerge from his world of darkness. From his endless ... forever night.

Yep, like Anne Rice's Lestat, like Joss Whedon's Angel, Nick is a vamp with regrets. With the help of forensics expert Dr. Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher), he's trying to beat his curse and become human. By way of good-deed-doing he works as a Toronto homicide detective (the show was shot, on grainy film, in Canada) exclusively on the night shift. Naturally, he's saddled with an annoying partner, Det. Don Schanke (pronounced "Skanky"), who has no idea that Nick's a bloodsucker. Further complicating Nick's life is the presence of Lucien Lacroix (Nigel Bennett), the vampire who originally brought Nick over to the dark side — and who's determined that he won't regain his humanity — and the beautiful Janette (Deborah Duchene), once lover to both Lacroix and Nicholas, now owner of a vamp-happy nightclub called Raven. Shot with obvious care and great artistic integrity, the show put a lot on film for its limited budget — scenes are beautifully framed and the use of colored lighting to spiff up the endlessly dark, shadowy warehouse-and-alley sets is impressive. The overall story arcs, focusing on Nick's relationship with Lacroix and his own inability to stop his vampire ways despite his conscience, are thoughtfully done. On a script-by-script level, however, the writing tends to lack sparkle and there's a lot of inconsistency in the "rules" set down by the writers concerning what vampires can and can't do. Davies, God help him, gamely throws himself into the role, but his blandly handsome good looks offer neither the menace nor the soul-deep suffering that the part requires. Far more watchable is Bennett as Lacroix, who haunts Nick, both tempting him and forcing him to recall the evils that they've committed during their 700-plus years together. Bennett is so good, in fact, that he often becomes the sole reason to watch the show: a brittle, evil counter to Davies' self-involved moping. Columbia TriStar offers all 22 episodes of Season One in a five-disc DVD box — the set is called Forever Knight: The Trilogy simply because it only lasted for three seasons; calling it a trilogy seems like a bit of a stretch. The full-screen transfers (1.33:1) occasionally have some specks and dust — the show was shot on film on the cheap, and the overall quality is soft and grainy, but the discs still offer a sharper picture than when originally broadcast. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is more than adequate to the task. The first season of Forever Knight was produced with two — and sometimes three — different versions of each episode. A 47-minute version was produced for broadcast in Canada, Australia and Europe, while the credits were shortened, scenes snipped, and some flashbacks eliminated to create a 40-minute edit for U.S. television (a handful of episodes also were shot with brief nudity for the European market, but the cast reportedly complained so this was quickly dropped). The episodes on this DVD set clock in at 47 minutes, so American fans are going to get a little more bang for their buck. Regrettably, no extras are included — not even the Springfield movie. Five discs in a folding digipak.
—Dawn Taylor

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