Written by: Neil Gaiman & Lenny Henry
Directed by: Dewi Humphreys
Starring: Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Paterson Joseph, Hywel Bennett, Clive Russell
- Running audio commentary by writer/creator Gaiman
- Interview with Gaiman
- Photo gallery
- Character descriptions
- Gaiman biography
Released by: A&E
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: All fantasy fans should rent; Gaiman fans should own.
Richard Mayhew (Bakewell) used to have a fairly ordinary life. He had an attractive yet overbearing girlfriend (Elizabeth Marmur), had a decent job–everything was going perfectly…or at least a necessary equivalent. Then, one night, he’s walking along and runs across an injured girl named Door (Fraser), lying on the sidewalk. Being the nice guy that he is, he decides to help Door. The consequences of this action are that he is yanked out of the world of what is known as London Above and into the shadow world that is London Below–a dangerous landscape of assassins, mercenaries and magic from which Mayhew may never be able to leave.
[ad#longpost]First things first. This is a decent miniseries. Is it high quality as far as effects go? Does it look extremely polished? Well, no, but then again–it’s from the bloody BBC. Anybody who’s seen more than a single Doctor Who episode knows that with the BBC, the story’s generally so good you don’t damn well care if the whole thing looks positively fake. And that’s not the problem here at all: most of it was shot on location, in actual tunnels underground, in actual tube stations. The cast is superb: both Fraser and Bakewell do quite well at their respective parts, but the true standouts are the Marquis (Joseph) and Croup and Vandemar (Bennett and Russell). Joseph’s Marquis captures perfectly the “dodgy”-ness that Richard quite aptly notes and he sports the coolest freaking coat that has ever existed. Bennett and Russell are having so much being positively evil that’s almost infectious. Their banter as they’re discussing homicide or playing golf with small frogs is priceless.
Writer/Creator “The” Neil Gaiman has made it no secret he was disappointed with how the quality of the end product turned out. In fact, that was part of the impetus for his creating the “writer’s cut” of the movie, which has been out in book form for some time. He particularly focuses in the commentary on talking about how the show was lit and shot differently than originally planned–and especially loves to discuss how positively unmenacing the Beast of London turned out to be. While Gaiman is having a good time watching the show again–and talking to you about it–it’s easy to feel sorry for him, seeing as how he created all this and is watching turn into something less than what he envisioned. But the information he presents is solid, and sometimes frustrating, as fans will want to actually read the followup Marquis story about his coat, and will have wished the series had gone for another season.
The rest of the features are pretty stock in trade, but for the original BBC interview with Gaiman, which brings in more information without having a lot of overlap. And hearing Gaiman speak on any subject is entertaining enough to where you won’t care about hearing something twice.
The series is a good one and despite its flaws–which Gaiman will be more than happy to address–it’s very enjoyable and better fantasy than you’re likely to see on this side of the pond any time soon. Rent it before buying to make sure it’s your bag, but fantasy or Gaiman fans will want to purchase, because it’s good enough to warrant multiple viewings.