Strange was a show that promised much, and to be honest did a good job of delivering. Unfortunately the BBC didn’t think so and it failed to win a second season. Touted as a British X Files, Strange was the story of Jonathon Strange (Richard Coyle), a defrocked priest turned demon hunter. During the pilot Strange’s investigations into the death of a priest bring him into contact with Jude (Samantha Janus) a nurse at the local hospital who had treated the priest before he had died. Coincidently Rich, Jude’s partner and a motorcycle courier, had previously had a delivery for Strange, but when he tried to deliver at the given address, at the Church of St Vincent, the curate Doddington (Samuel Barnet) in residence denies any knowledge of Strange’s existence.
Turning to leave, the packages was snatched from his hands by a downs syndrome boy, Kevin (Timmy Lang), who happens to work as a gardener for the Canon, and who leads Rich on a chase which ended at an old house with bricked windows – the home of Jonathon Strange. The package had contained an old book, which we discover the old priest was trying to translate for Strange.
Drawn deeper into Strange’s world, Jude, who used to be a physicist before she had Joey, her child by Rich, is not sure whether Strange is insane, as the Canon would have her believe, or if in fact there really are such things as demons. Inside the dark rooms (Strange can not afford much in the way of electricity bills) of Strange’s home, Jude is introduced to Toby (Andrew Lee-Potts in the series) , a gifted hacker and demon hunter, and shown banks of instruments that Strange uses along with a network of sensitives, including Kevin, to monitor for demonic activity.
As the story develops concerns are raised over Joey who seems to be missing each time there is another death, and Canon Black (Ian Richardson), who seems to be covering up all the evidence that could confirm Strange’s theories. The demon is confirmed as being composed of electricity (living lightning, so to speak) and coming from a secret crypt beneath a Church; the same church where the dead priest was stationed, and also where Joey has been sneaking to each night.
Finally it is revealed that the demon has been around for centuries prompting man’s development of electricity, and there in a picture of Faraday is the demon in its human form: Rich.
A dramatic showdown in the crypt results in Rich’s destruction but Jude is left wondering whether Joey has inherited his father’s demonic nature.
The pilot garnered figures of over 5 million viewers, impressive as there had been virtually no promotion, and this resulted in the commissioning of a further six episodes. This is where Auntie fumbled the ball. The gap between the pilot and the series was over a year, long enough for people to forget the details, and so a sensible idea would have been to repeat the pilot to lead in to the new series and to back the whole thing up with some heavy trails. Well we got some trails but the pilot was not repeated. As a result those who had seen the pilot were left trying to remember the premise and those that hadn’t were left dumfounded. A repeat would have helped as an underlying theme of the first story was whether Joey was a demon. At one point while he is being secretly checked over by a sensitive, Joey is seen playing with a GameBoy Advance with interestingly an illuminated screen….
As it happened though the series did work and during the next 5 episodes we were treated to stories centred around a death coach and a demon child, a demonic bus, a Romanian vampire (and boy did that have a twist), demonic tattoos and demonspawn being incubated in breast implants. During the first five stories clues were scattered concerning the events that pushed Strange into his nervous breakdown and resulted in the death of his fiancé and his expulsion from the Church. Furthermore hints were dropped over the motives of Canon Black who was actively working to undermine Strange’s investigations.
The final story revealed how Strange’s fiancé was killed by a demon, Asmoth, and one that was still at large as Strange had been unable to kill it. Now there were events that indicated that the demon is active once more and while Strange is beginning to act rashly due to his past failure, Black is working to once more conceal the evidence. With the police now involved and on the trail of Strange, thanks to Black’s meddling. Jude discovers who is behind the recent grizzly discoveries unfortunately it turns out not to be a demon, but rather a mentally unstable man with a craving for human flesh. Meanwhile Strange has been set up by Black and caught with some human remains; he is arrested and while in his cell is treated to some mocking messages appearing on the ceiling in fiery writing, unknown to him Black is outside talking to the detective. Jude on the trail of the faux demon stumbles onto his lair and is trapped, locked into a locker, but as the madman prepares to kill her, Joey rushes in and in a demonic voice tells him to leave his mother alone, while shooting lightning from his hands. Back in the hospital Jude comforts Joey, who has no memory of his demonic outburst, when the police rush in with Strange who has been severely beaten and is comatose.
The series ends with Strange comatose and no answers. There could easily have been a second series here. We now know that Joey is at least part demon, something that might cause friction later on. We know that the demon, Asmoth, behind the death of Strange’s fiancé is probably still out there. We have big suspicions over Black’s motives, perhaps over his humanity as well.
Is Black a demon?
Is Black Asmoth?
Does Strange recover?
Will Joey turn evil?
Will Doddington kick his addiction to Olvaltine?
Unfortunately we will never know.
Still we can always hope for a DVD release….