selected from TV Zone #122
You will be assimil... no, you will be wrapped up!


Featured items here from our Christmas shopping list are the Buffy Season One Box Set and a trio of Jonathan Creek videos. ... for the latest season(al) book on Red Dwarf and a highly-recommended Star Trek atlas, go to our special book reviews page

Also reviewed in this issue: Ally McBeal guides, Buffy books and soundtrack, Coronation Street behind-the-scenes, Doctor Who Whispers of Terror audio, Red Dwarf VIII on video, more Star Trek books, Twilight Zone soundtrack.... and a wallful of 2000 calendars!


The idiot box is the TV; this is a good box
Buffy box set from Fox Video

So Buffy has now ascended to the pantheon of commercial cult tv status with the collectors’ box set. Given the initial low expectations of the series by the networks, it’s a shortish season, at a manageable 12 episodes. But this well-presented compilation still holds nine hours of confident, attention-grabbing Horror fantasy drama.

Viewed again now after 50 subsequent episodes, several things are striking about this petite but almost perfectly-formed season. The casting, from star Sarah Michelle Gellar downwards, hits the groove immediately. In Welcome to the Hellmouth it takes Buffy only 30 minutes to meet (in order) Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Giles and the mysterious Angel. Simultaneously these witty, enigmatic, humane characters are already apparent as the series’ real trump card.

Willow’s gradual shedding of her wallflower instincts is a prime example of how our heroes (and villains) were never preserved in aspic. Initially, Buffy can seem too frivolous, Xander too cowardly, and Cordelia too bitchy to be sustainable. But they start growing up in public within these dozen episodes, especially in the unexpectedly doom-laden finale, Prophecy Girl, which sets the tone for greater tribulations later.

Some intervening episodes are surprisingly light on vampires, with Angel tangential except for his pivotal namesake episode. Yet Mark Metcalf’s Master makes an excellent season enemy, a vampire whose gravitas made his sadism all the more palpable. Elsewhere, there are variable attempts to establish Buffy’s non-vampire story credentials. Witchcraft, animist possession and shape-shifting are all early ingredients, untainted by the tangled web of some later story arcs. While stories such as Teacher’s Pet are disposable, episodes where the new phenomena and vampirism mesh, as in the Master’s appearance above ground in the underrated Nightmares, can be gripping.

20th-Century Fox Video
Cert 15
UK Price: £34.99 – out now
Reviewed by Mark Wyman
selected from TV Zone #122

So, here we have an excellent first helping of a remarkable series. For a VHS release, the picture quality on the copies viewed was good, and the sound quality generally crisp. Well worth buying, unless you’re confident of a DVD version appearing soon.

VOLUMES 1 – 3 Overall: 7

Magic releases

Here are three videos of mystery and puzzles featuring the unlikely, but highly enjoyable, duo of one Jonathan Creek and one Maddy Magellan – and there’s some puzzle at the back of my mind. I just can’t quite place it…

Volume One features the first two episodes ever, way back from May 1997, The Wrestler’s Tomb and Jack in the Box. Here we are introduced to the careful and deep thinking Jonathan (Alan Davies) and the erratic and inquisitive Maddy (Caroline Quentin). In many ways Jonathan Creek provides two parallel stories. We have the cleverly thought out puzzle by writer and creator David Renwick and then the interaction of the Jonathan and Maddy as Maddy pushes Jonathan through emotional hoops. Of course he doesn’t always react the way she, and the viewers, expect, and that adds more enjoyment.

Jonathan and Maddy: collect all three

Volume Two concludes the Season One episodes, The Reconstituted Corpse, No Trace of Tracy and the final episode The House of Monkeys. The first episode is notable for its amusing use of a wardrobe, with the second presenting us with a practically bare room, a man handcuffed to a radiator and the clue of a frog. The third gives us the rather strange inclusion of a gorilla, but still manages to captivate.

The third volume features the 1998 special Christmas episode Black Canary, with Rik Mayall as DI Gideon Pryke. Normally you would expect scenes where Jonathan tries in vain to move the police investigations in the right direction.

The joy of this story is that Pryke is just as capable as Jonathan in solving the mystery and is quite happy to listen to and act upon all his ideas. A refreshing police character.

You can buy these three videos separately, or in a box set at scarcely more than the price of two of the videos together.

BBC Video
Cert 12
UK Price: £12.99 each or £29.99 for box set – out now
Reviewed by Jan Vincent-Rudzki
selected from TV Zone #122

Ah, and there’s the mystery. The first tape runs 147’40” (two episodes), the second 177’00” (three episodes) and the third 89’40” (one long episode). Couldn’t at least one more episode be added to that third tape, and make it better value for money? Perhaps Jonathan knows…

© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
TV Zone footer