Created and written by Andrew Marshall

Starring Richard Coyle, Samantha Janus, Ian Richardson, Andrew Lee-Potts, Timmy Lang and Samuel Barnett

“I’ve always believed that prayer is the last resort of the desperate, Mr Strange.”
Canon Aldophus Black

Following the cancellation of the original ‘Doctor Who’ in 1989 the BBC more or less turned its back on sci-fi and fantasy-TV altogether –- not counting the immensely silly and very funny ‘Red Dwarf’, which ran for eleven years and 52 episodes up to April 1999.

The success of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, which came to terrestrial television in Britain via BBC2 in December 1998, encouraged the corporation to commission a new fantasy series, ‘Strange’.

The pilot episode was broadcast in March 2002 and a full season of six episodes began in May 2003. All seven episodes were written by Andrew Marshall, previously most noted for the BBC sit-com ‘2point4 Children’ and for being the inspiration for the character Marvin the Paranoid Android in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

The pilot episode attracted an audience of just fewer than six million and received generally good reviews. The series that followed, however, was almost immediately attacked by on-line genre fans and the criticism grew and became increasingly hostile with each episode. Viewing figures averaged three million and the BBC quickly announced that further episodes would not be commissioned. In a retrospective review of the show in 2003, Mark Harvey of Television Heaven wrote:

“Those who wanted to watch were watching, and those who didn’t… annoyingly were still watching and making sure everyone else knew they did not want to. The BBC’s official message board had become the popular place to bash Strange, meaning that most of the fans gravitated into the Yahoo groups, where Strange was appreciated for what it was, and not constantly compared with Buffy.”

The series centred on John Strange (played by Richard Coyle), a disgraced and defrocked Church of England priest fighting a lonely battle against demons. He is aided by a computer geek called Toby; and Kevin, who suffers from Down’s syndrome and works as a gardener for the Canon Aldophus Black. The sinister Canon Black (played with relish by Ian Richardson), a kind of Grim Reaper figure, is intent on keeping the existence of a demon world secret (as he puts it, hidden under his “by now bulging carpet”) and does so by undermining the work of Strange and maintaining a constant blanket denial of all things weird.

The main cast of characters is completed by Jude Atkins (played by Samantha Janus, who gives an engaging and strangely calming performance), a nurse who begins to have prophetic dreams and is sucked into the dark world of John Strange.

I loved the show when it was first broadcast (the only time it has been screened by the BBC). It’s an almost perfect fit for the kind of thing I like. It is currently being repeated on the Sci-Fi Channel. I have been watching it again and it’s actually even better than I remembered -- a great and inexplicably undervalued show.


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