We vamp it up after our X factor fades
The X- Files was on the wane. Its lead actors were leaving or becoming part- timers and its showrunner seemed desperate to prove he wasn’t a one- trick chupacabra with Harsh Realm, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen. SFX needed a new icon to champion.
She came from California. She regularly slayed vampires. She quipped pop- culturally. She was “awesome” and she bought a whole new readership to the magazine. Welcome to the Whedonverse.
Joss Whedon made our genre unexpectedly cool and sexy and hip. Buffy stars were soon on the cover of every other issue ( or so it seemed). By the end of SFX Phase 2, with the spin- off Angel also to his name, Whedon was officially King of the Geeks ( he was even writing X- Men comics). It was a crown taken from George Lucas, deposed for giving us Jar Jar Binks, among other crimes, in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. This was not the prequel we were looking for. Xena and Hercules both crossed the River Styx and US TV was full of now half- remembered one- season wonders, some which deserved to be ( Mercy Point, Freakylinks, Level 9) others which didn’t ( Good Versus Evil, Now And Again). But Stargate SG- 1, a spin- off from a dodgy movie that arrived looking like it had an “AXE ME” sign pinned to its back, defied all expectations to spawn a 14- year franchise.
In Britain things were improving in quantity if not always quality: Red Dwarf 8 killed off the series for a good few years, Rob Grant’s The Strangerers flopped on Sky and BBC One’s Crime Traveller had SFX readers spitting bile all over our letters pages ( we had them cleaned). Two gems, though, were Channel 4’ s stylish and much- loved vampire show Ultraviolet and BBC One’s remake of the wonderfully bat’s- arse Randall And Hopkirk ( Deceased) starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
We were also intrigued by a new show from Henson’s Creature Workshop called Farscape. It was a bit of a slow burner, and we didn’t truly fall in love with it until the next phase, but the freaky aliens and toilet humour appealed immediately.
Terry Pratchett provided us with a diary of his signing tour of Australia (“It turns out to be a polished scythe blade on a black velvet lining… ‘ Will I sign it?’ What would you do?”) Iain Banks mused that after Inversions, “There might be one more Culture novel…” A promising new writer called China appeared on our radar with Perdido Street Station.
Proof that beautiful people can make great TV!
Ultraviolet, but not the one with Milla Jovovich.
Godzilla: tough franchise to get right?
Blazing a trail in the new century’s X- Men.