In the early 1990s, before CBS snagged David Letterman, once the local news and a rerun of Cheers was over, there was a wonderful little feature called “Crimetime After Primetime.” Every weeknight, there was a different crime drama. During the summer, I would stay up late to watch them all, even the largely forgettable Sweating Bullets and Dark Justice. The one that really caught me, though, was the Tuesday night show – a little vampire series entitled Forever Knight.
Forever Knight was one of my first geek obsessions. Much to my parents’ frustration, I continued my Tuesday night vigil even during the school year, unwilling to miss an episode. That show, more than anything else, started my love of all things vampire (all things true vampire anyway – Twilight doesn’t even count) and was one of the things that forged the geek you see before you today.
What?! You’ve never heard of it? Gather ‘round, my fellow geeks. Let me tell you about one of the greatest vampire series to ever hit TV.
All About The Show
Forever Knight had its beginnings in a made-for-TV movie called Nick Knight, with Rick Springfield in the title role. Yes, Rick Springfield. As in Jesse’s Girl. The movie was pretty good (I remember watching it with my mom), but when it came time to make a series on the same premise, they changed the name and thankfully re-cast Nick Night with the handsome Geraint Wyn Davies.
Nick is an 800-year-old vampire seeking redemption for all the lives he’s taken over the centuries. To that end, he works the night shift as a homicide detective in Toronto. In addition to his work, he is on a quest to become human again. Knowingly aiding him in his mission is forensics specialist Dr. Natalie Lambert (played by Catherine Disher, who many geeks may know as the voice of Jean Grey in the original animated X-Men series), one of the few humans Nick feels he can trust. He also has a close friend in his partner, Donald Schanke, but has never revealed his true nature to him.
With over eight centuries of baggage to contend with, Nick finds he can’t escape reminders of his past. His sire, Lucien LaCroix (expertly played by Nigel Bennett), is also in Toronto, working as late-night radio host “The Nightcrawler”. A former lover, Janette, owns a goth nightclub in the city. Neither of them support Nick’s desire to regain his humanity, though where LaCroix actively attempts to interfere, Janette’s remaining feelings for Nick leave her unable to say no when he needs her help in other matters.
The vampires of the Forever Knight world were certainly sexy – they never aged – but also dangerous, powerful, and saddled with the drawbacks of their condition. Granted, their powers were incredible – they were nearly impossible to hurt by gunshot, blades, or fists, possessed super-human strength, speed, and senses, could fly, and could control the minds of others (with varying degrees of success). But they were burned by sunlight (Nick had to take refuge many a dawn in the trunk of his 1962 Cadillac convertible), affected by crosses and garlic, and naturally needed blood to survive. Showing their fangs and true nature wasn’t pretty in any form. And fire or a stake to the heart was deadly.
Forever Knight was a fairly dark show, almost noir at times, as Nick was angst-tortured and haunted by the things he’d done. Luckily, there was enough humor and romance to lighten the mood and keep the darker emotions from overwhelming the plot. There was obvious attraction between Nick and Natalie, and emotions left unresolved between Nick and Janette. Nick’s vampire powers always got him to the crime scene ahead of his partner, leaving Schanke frustrated and bewildered, and adding to the clever banter between them. The storyline of each episode had a good balance between Nick’s work life and his personal life, and often included beautiful flashback scenes to centuries past, where we’d meet the other personas Nick had adopted over the years. While the show easily could have come across as about a vampire who just happened to be a cop, it was instead a strong crime drama. One with a lot of supernatural elements, sure, but a strong crime drama nonetheless.
People Still Love It
The show lasted only three seasons, but its fan base remains passionate to this day. Nearly fifteen years after its cancellation, Forever Knight still generates discussion on the IMDB.com message boards. I’ve seen it run in syndication several times on SyFy, and like many cult favorites, the DVD box sets still get snatched up by fans as fast as they hit the stores. Case in point: last month my husband bought me the first season on DVD, after years of me pining for it. The shelf at the store had been full, he said. So I went back to the same store after my next paycheck to pick up Season Two…and there was not a single boxed set of any season left. That kind of demand for a show that old, and DVD sets that have been on the market for more than five years themselves? That says something good about a show. The series also spawned a trilogy of novels (which I somehow just learned about, and am on the hunt for now), and fan-favorite Nigel Bennett went on to co-author three vampire novels of his own with acclaimed writer P.N. Elrod.
Forever Knight had everything I wanted in a show, and it’s stood the test of time. If you’ve never seen it, add it to your Netflix queue and prepare to be bitten.
Are you a fan of Forever Knight? How do you think it compares to more recent vampire series?