The Dark Herald Recommends Truth Seekers

The Dark Herald Recommends Truth Seekers

Remember when Doctor Who didn’t suck? 

Yeah, I know it’s been a while. But fourteen years ago, it was something special. The first season was a pretty decent reboot but the show really found its footing in the second year. The best episode of that season was easily the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit a two-parter. These two episodes had all of the elements of classic Doctor Who.  An eerie beginning slowly turns into an unearthly mystery, that eventually leads back in time to an unfathomably ancient and unimaginable horror. One possessing a near-infinite power with an endless hunger to end all life in the universe. 

Great stuff and the Ood are still creepy as hell. 

I recently rewatched them during the Halloween season, and was left wanting more. Which was a little sad because I knew damn good, and well I wasn’t going to get it from the hideously deformed current incarnation of Doctor Who. 

And then, shockingly, I got my wish after all with Truth Seekers.

The British have a sub-genre that they have mastered. Science-fiction-mystery-horror. Like the Japanese and anime, nobody does it better than they do. Others can imitate but not duplicate the end result.  

The guy who started it all was Nigel Kneale.  He was Genesis for the entire school. 

Here’s a little known secret about George Orwell’s 1984, it was kind of a midlist flop. It had been sitting on the shelves for years not really doing anything until the BBC made a TV movie out of it. And the guy who wrote the screenplay was Nigel Kneale.

Kneale’s best-known work remains the Quatermass stories. Doctor Bernard Quatermass was a peculiarly British combination of Robert Goddard and Sherlock Holmes. While working as the head of the Experimental Rocket Group he was frequently battling diverse and miscellaneous forms of alien evil. If you’re an American, the only one you are most likely to have ever seen is Hammer Films’, Quatermass and the Pit. 

Plot: In 1967 what is thought to be an unexploded bomb from the war, turns out to be an alien spaceship more than five million years old. And it had something close to human life forms aboard when it crashed. It also had something else aboard. 

The best example of his work would probably be The Stone Tape.

(I have now cut out 400 words of notes about the Stone Tape out of this review for another show, clearly, The Stone Tape rateS its own The Dark Herald Recommends at another time.)

Nigel Kneale himself was never that comfortable with his success in the genre. I suspect he would have preferred accolades from British literary types, smoking meerschaum pipes. Instead of being cheered by three-hundred-pound guys dressed like Klingons. 

Kneale’s work went on to have a profound impact on British science fiction. you can see his influences in things as varied as Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 and Captain Scarlett. You can even see echoes of it in a comedy series from 1999 called Spaced. 

Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Spaced isn’t too well known in the US. But it was in its way a quintessential Gen-X comedy. In production between 1999 and 2001, it was about a group of Gen-Xers who have been hit by their 30s and we’re coming to grips with the fact that they were up against obstacles that previous generations had never faced. They were trying to push ahead with their careers and were just leaving ruts in the ground as they shoved against a wall that wouldn’t budge.  As I’ve said before the English like some tears with their laughs, although that show was also funny as hell. One of the amusing aspects of watching Spaced today is playing spot the future star. A lot of big careers came out of that small, low budget comedy. 

Three years later Pegg and Frost hit the big time with Shaun of the Dead. Three years after that they had a great follow-up with Hot Fuzz. And then… Well, things just seem to have sort of petered out for them.  Pegg and Frost’s next movie, Paul was at best a disappointment. It had a few good moments but pairing Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with well-known Canadian stoner Seth Rogen didn’t fly with their core audience.

Since then Simon Pegg has had a better than average acting career with supporting roles in major tent pole films.  I’ve noticed that he tends to get cast whenever a producer wants to make sure that a film has “nerd cred.” 

But aside from a little punch-up work on the last Star Trek movie, his career as a writer appeared to be over. It looked like he had been someone who just flamed out early. 

Wrong call. 

After having watched Truth Seekers, it’s now evident that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost simply couldn’t work within the studio system and deliver good results. They appear to have the kind of talent that suffers in times of plenty but thrives on starvation. This show was clearly done on a very small budget and it’s all the better for being an intimate horror story. 

It’s the best thing they’ve ever done.

Truth Seekers is very definitely a comedy version of a Nigel Kneale story. The plot is extremely well crafted. I’m not the kind of guy to turn around and rewatch an entire season of a show. But I did this time just to catch the nuances that I missed the first time through.  All of the characters have good, layered, and surprising story arcs. 

At first the story appears to be about a loser cable guy named Gus.  He has a ghosthunter YouTube channel called Truth Seekers with maybe three hundred subs. He’s assigned a loser Millennial named, Elton, who has never been able to hold down a job. They don’t want to work together but then their lives start to change for the better once they do. 

Gus lives with “Dad” and Elton with his agoraphobic, cosplayer sister, Helen (she’s a “successful” YouTuber with 3000 subs).  The fifth member of their Nekama, Astrid hurls herself into their lives right after Elton asks Gus if they could layoff the supernatural stuff for a while.  She’s being chased by ghosts, so, no they can’t. 

It’s quite interesting to note that none of these characters are exactly what they seem when you first meet them. 

But you end up caring for all of them, as their little ghost hunting channel starts to seek out a very dark truth.

And all of them are trying to seek their own truth along the way.

The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm. *

*This is my version of a five-star review.

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Comments (5)

  • PM Reply

    Is there a reason you skipped over The World’s End when referring to Pegg/Frost/Edgar Wright collaborations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World%27s_End_(film)?
    Not that I blame you. For all the critical acclaim I thought it was decidedly “Meh”, and the weakest of “Cornetto” movies.
    Regards
    PM

    November 17, 2020 at 11:01 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Two reasons.

      1. I was behind the power curve when I was writing this up.

      2. And it was the weakest of the Cornetto movies. Self-referential humor is usually a good indicator that Elvis has left the building. World’s End was a big part of the reason everyone assumed Pegg and Frost were burned out as a team. I certainly did. In retrospect, it now looks like they had hit middle-age and hadn’t come to grips with it.

      Truth Seekers is a very welcome return to form, now that they have.

      November 17, 2020 at 12:25 pm
  • Bonesaw Reply

    “The guy who started it all was Nigel Kneale. He was Genesis for the entire school.“

    I love Quatermass. I remember being so scared by the atmospheric music that was more noises and sounds than recognisable music.
    It was wonderfully enthralling, especially for a black and white program, with its bizarre special effects and the suggestion of an unfathomable inhuman ancient evil that was more effective than any CGI special effect fest that gets blurted out onto screens now.

    November 18, 2020 at 5:32 am
  • John E. Boyle Reply

    A pleasant surprise, with more heart than I expected.

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    November 21, 2020 at 8:50 pm
  • Bonesaw Reply

    Following what you said, i went back and rewatched the three old Quatermass movies I had saved.
    There were two black and white ones, and a colour one with a different actor,
    Surprisingly, I enjoyed the B/W ones more. Quatermass felt like a genuine person; he wasn’t a goodie – often times he was rude or snapped at people, and wanted to focus on his own work, not whatever he was caught up in, but realised he had to forgive his preferences for a greater good.
    The colour one felt much more like a traditional Hammer Horror movie, and the actor wasn’t as convincing. In the last one Quatermass was more of an archetype than a fully rounded character, but it was still better than almost anything produced today by Hollywood.

    Weirdly, Sid James (of the ‘Carry On’ movies fame) was a supporting actor in the second film. It was almost surreal seeing him in a mostly serious role.

    November 23, 2020 at 4:36 am

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