ULTRAVIOLET (1998) – trust the British to turn in one of the best horror shows on television in the 90′s, and to make sure that most people never heard about it. So modest, those Brits. Ultraviolet was a six-episode television series but with every episode written and directed by Joe Ahearne (who directed most of the best Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who episodes) it plays more like a long movie, with a depth to its ideas, and a lot of intelligence in its world-building. The story starts like a typical cop show, with Mike Colefield tracking down his missing partner who’s gone missing the night before his wedding. But while chasing down this runaway groom the show slowly morphs into something horrific as he discovers that the world is the battleground in a secret war between vampires and a small government unit dedicated to keeping them in check. But recently, the far more powerful vampires seem to be upsetting this delicate detente, trying to find an alternate food source that will allow them to wipe out the formerly necessary human race.
Over the course of six episodes, what could be a totally ridiculous premise is handled with complete and utter intelligence, sincerity, and zero irony. While the primitive digital effects are a bit crap, the set pieces and big ideas are things of extreme gothic beauty. From Idris Elba (playing a vampire hunter) trapped in a parking garage containing a car with a vampire in the trunk and with the sun going down, to a vampire stuck in a daylight traffic jam protected only by his tinted windows, to a complicated and thorny episode about vampires trying to reproduce with humans, this show specializes in tension. Never calling vampires by name (“Code V” is as close as anyone gets), it’s populated by no-nonsense science cops played by Idris Elba, Philip Quast, and Susannah Harker, and it’s so serious that it feels like the world could end at any minute. This amazing show is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets John LeCarre. (Watch it!)