Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t just a hit on American TV but became an important property for British television where it sparked a small renaissance of horror-themed entertainment. Writer/director Joe Ahearne brought Ultraviolet, his take on the vampire television series to Channel 4, the other, other British television station. His series was to be a sharp contrast to the teen drama and humor of Buffy, deadly serious with the vampires as cultured monsters on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that would allow them to take over the world. Opposing them was a secret force made up of veterans and survivors. Supported by the Vatican and lead by a defrocked priest, they hunt “code 5’s” with carbon tipped bullets.
The series primarily followed Michael Colefield, a police detective. His friend Jack goes missing on the eve of his wedding and his fiance, formerly Michael’s girlfriend, begs him to find Jack. When Michael tracks down Jack, he is in the company of strange criminals who soon reveal themselves to be vampires and come for Michael’s blood. He is saved by Father Harman’s team of hunters and drafted into the secretive human/code 5 war.
The stories of the episodes were often grim and challenging: Revenge and murder, medical experimentation, child molestation. Post traumatic stress and loss had warped or ruined the lives of each of the vampire hunters. In the end, betrayal dashes any hope of a peaceful reconciliation and the war between the living and the undead is unavoidable.
Ahearne had big plans for the continuation of the series, considering the first season as a set up to the conflict with the vampire forces and opportunities to explore and expand the backstory of the minor characters. Yet, even after the success Channel 4 was slow to renew. It was less risky to just import and rerun more episodes of Buffy. When they finally decided that they would purchase a second series, it was too late. The cast had moved on to other shows and contracts and all continuity with the previous story would have been lost. What might have been for Ultraviolet never was.
Though the style of the show is extremely dated to modern viewers and in some places the low budget and unrefined CGI mar a scene, it is well worth a watching in the same way one would enjoy some of the early episodes of The X-Files. With only 6 episodes, it’s a series that could be polished off in a long afternoon. Though the character of Jack’s fiance is tooth-grindingly obnoxious, Idris Elba as Vaughn, the ex-soldier who has survived both war and vampires, is a very affecting character with some excellent scenes.