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Science, realism and professionalism in Ultraviolet

By Lorna Jowett


The recent success of Being Human and Misfits is partly predicated on their disdain for glossy American production style and the way they embed fantasy in the kind of distinctively British social realism we might expect from the heirs of Ken Loach, offering an often absurd mixture of the fantastic and the mundane. This paper examines a predecessor to these shows, Ultraviolet (Channel 4, 1998). Richard Dyer notes that usually in vampire fictions, ‘The mesmerisingly excessive vampire is met by… normal, dull but decent antagonists’ (1997, 222) but Ultraviolet plays down vampire characters, never even calling them vampires, and focuses on the ‘normal, dull’ humans who deal with them, not as monstrous individuals, but as ‘a public health issue.’ Here the vampire story is adapted via existing, familiar TV conventions and genres and horror is reframed in a realist fashion that explicitly opposes the cinematic Gothic tradition of Hammer. ‘SF might attempt to imagine whole new worlds,’ comments Peter Hutchings, but horror often ‘conjur[es] up... strange realms within or in relation to a world of normality’ (2004, 105). This paper explores how Ultraviolet’s style and hybridity push this to an extreme rarely seen, even in TV horro

Topics: PN1992, PN3435
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