A Dis­cov­ery of Witches Sea­son One

En­ter­ing the Twi­light clone

SFX - - Reviews -

UK Sky One, fin­ished US Sun­dance Now/Shud­der, 17 Jan­uary Showrun­ner Kate Brooke Cast Teresa Palmer, Matthew Goode, Alex Kingston, Trevor Eve

Au­thor Deb­o­rah Hark­ness says she hadn’t read or seen Twi­light when she penned 2011’s A Dis­cov­ery Of Witches. If that’s the case then this story must be a uni­ver­sal con­stant that de­serves sci­en­tific study: it’s pos­si­bly some kind of ba­sic hu­man ge­netic mem­ory that is doomed to be recre­ated again and again.

This adap­ta­tion suf­fers greatly from be­ing so sim­i­lar to Stephe­nie Meyer’s saga – right down to the fact that star Teresa Palmer looks a bit like a blonde Kris­ten Ste­wart – and there are also enough hints of Buffy/An­gel and even Drac­ula/ Mina to rob this of any orig­i­nal­ity. That’s not to say, how­ever, that it isn’t per­fectly watch­able. Most of it is writ­ten and di­rected with flair and en­ergy (by a com­mend­able tally of women, too), and the cast – notably Matthew Goode as the enig­matic, im­mor­tal vam­pire Matthew Clair­mont – are ex­cel­lent.

Open­ing in the beau­ti­fully shot streets of Ox­ford, the story fol­lows aca­demic and mag­i­cally clos­eted witch Diana Bishop (Palmer) as she in­no­cently takes a book out of the Bodleian Li­brary, only to dis­cover that peo­ple have been search­ing for it for cen­turies. This at­tracts the at­ten­tion of nu­mer­ous su­per­nat­u­ral castes: demons (who aren’t all bad) and witches (who aren’t all good) and, of course, Matthew, a vam­pire who falls in love with Diana be­fore you can say, “Don’t just smell her, she has a per­son­al­ity too!”

At first, Matthew is a fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter: brood­ing, danger­ous, tor­mented. But once he and Diana start mak­ing gooey eyes at each other he goes rapidly down­hill, end­lessly talking about how pow­er­ful she is (be­cause, nat­u­rally, she’s some kind of cho­sen one); how he must pro­tect her; how peo­ple aren’t al­lowed to hurt her; and how much he loves her. Diana, mean­while, gets kid­napped or at­tacked a lot, and while she’s not al­ways a damsel in dis­tress, that’s still dis­ap­point­ing for a fe­male lead.

In fact, the more you watch, the more the se­ries lets it­self down. Matthew and Diana get to­gether too soon for it to feel any­thing but forced. The Il­lu­mi­nati-style group chas­ing them spend too much time talking in dingy Vene­tian cham­bers, and lesser char­ac­ters

Writ­ten and di­rected with flair and en­ergy

get way too much screen time – par­tic­u­larly an ob­sessed vam­pire named Juliet who seems to ex­ist for... no rea­son we can de­ter­mine.

Is it bet­ter than Twi­light? It’s rather in­sult­ing to claim that this is aimed at a more in­tel­lec­tual au­di­ence, but you can’t help feel­ing that Matthew’s love of wine and his­tory, and au­thor Hark­ness’s own aca­demic background, have given A Dis­cov­ery Of Witches a more adult edge. This is a good thing, but se­ri­ously: enough with the gooey eyes al­ready. Jayne Nel­son

In 1994, Hark­ness did dis­cover a lost book in the Bodleian: Al­daraia, a 16th cen­tury trea­tise on magic owned by John Dee.

“Wear the same wardrobe combo” day wasn’t a hit.

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