Scene and Reviewed: Neverwhere: 15th Anniversary Edition on DVD
I was recently invited to review the just released (November 15th) 15th Anniversary Edition of Neverwhere on DVD, the BBC-produced first television miniseries developed by Neil Gaiman. I was delighted to do so as I read the novelization several years ago and have been always been curious to see the live action version. In fact, I did not know, or had forgotten, that the BBC version is actually the story in its original form; the novel was something that Gaiman wrote later. Anyway, it’s been long enough that aside from the identity of the big bad of the story, I remembered very few of the details of just what happened so for the most part, I was able to enjoy the story with a fresh perspective. There will be some minor spoilers below, but I won’t reveal everything.
The official summary of the story is thus:
In Neverwhere, Richard Mayhew (Gary Bakewell, Chef!) leads an ordinary life in London when one day a girl named Door (Laura Fraser, He Knew He Was Right) falls and injures herself across his path. Door belongs to a different world – London Below – and has come to London Above determined to learn why her parents have been killed. The next thing he knows, Mayhew’s life as he knew it is gone and he’s underground, pursued by the murderous messengers. The two attempt to find the Angel Islington, who knows the secret behind the murder of Door’s family, and possibly a way for Richard to go home.
Neverwhere is your sort of Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz type of story where a normal person gets caught up in an extraordinary fantasy setting. The chief character of Richard Mayhew learns about a whole other world below London. It’s a sort of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome sort of place, but with fantasy elements thrown in, supernatural creatures and Door’s mutant-like ability to open any door she needs to. There is also an element very similar to J. Michael Straczynski’s Midnight Nation opus whereby once you are part of this world, the regular world no longer recognizes you.
The miniseries suffers a bit with its TV production values, comparable to what I’ve seen from the BBC in the past. The lead role is played by Gary Bakewell, whom I couldn’t help but notice looked remarkably like a young Paul McCartney, and, sure enough, played Sir Paul in the 2000 TV movie The Linda McCartney Story. Also, while I was taken with the lovely Laura Fraser as Door, I coincidentally was watching one of my favorite movies, A Knight’s Tale, a few nights later and realized that she played the part of the handmaid Kate in that film. The two actors that stand out in this production, however, were Paterson Joseph as the Maquis De Carabas, and Hywel Bennett as the villainous Mr. Croup. The Maquis is kind of the kickbutt guy on the heroes’ side and is played with flair by Joseph. I know that Joseph was much rumored to take over the part of The Doctor in Dr. Who before Matt Smith was cast in the role, and I still think Joseph would have made for an interesting choice. Here is a clip:
Bennett, on the other hand, just chews the scenery every time he is on screen and is a lot of fun.
As far as the story itself, my only problem was I felt like for too much of the miniseries, the lead character of Richard Mayhew was just along for the ride. While he naturally plays a crucial role in the whole affair, he often is regulated to just tagging along and even remarks on it himself.
While we do get a complete story, Neverwhere is begging for a sequel and leaves one particular hanging plot point wide open. While I doubt this cast could get reassembled so many years later, I hope Gaiman will get around to it in book form.
• 15th Anniversary Intro with Neil Gaiman, Lenny Henry and producer Clive Brill
• 15th Anniversary Audio Commentary with Gaiman, Henry and Brill
• Original Interview with Gaiman
• Original Audio Commentary with Gaiman
• Photo Gallery
• Character Descriptions
• Neverwhere Map Insert
Comic book fans will also want to note that the DVD features the original cover artwork as created in 1995 by Dave McKean.