The Dark Herald Recommends Truth Seekers

The Dark Herald Recommends Truth Seekers

BUMPED FOR HALLOWEEN (10/17/23): This review dates from before Amazon decided in its infinite tastelessness, to cancel it. There is a lot of new material I added.

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 it 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.  Kneale’s work had 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.

Yes, Generation X invented the Rave.
NO, we won’t talk about it… ever

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 or with casuals.

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 John, 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 lay off 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. To include Gus’ boss played by Simon Pegg.  He at first appears to just be a clueless executive at a Wi-Fi company called Smyle. It turns out he’s fairly close to the central mystery of the show.

Elton John, this is him:

There is a fantastic punchline attached to his name, and it is absolutely waiting through the series for.

Is the mirror opposite of his new boss Gus. Gus is desperately trying to find proof that the supernatural exists. Elton on the other hand knows damn good and well the supernatural exists because he sees it all the time and it has completely ruined his entire life. He just wants a 9-5, blue-collar job with no scary shit attached. And no, Elton isn’t used to the supernatural because you can never get used to it.

Gus for his part had a reasonably healthy interest in the supernatural that turned into an unhealthy, all-encompassing obsession after his wife was killed. Her death complicated his life because toward the end he became convinced she was keeping something from him. She was and while her secret was another man, it was not “Another Man.”

Astrid is a mystery. Her memory isn’t what it should be. All she knows for certain is that her mother was killed in a fire when their home burned down. After that, she was being chased by ghosts. One of whom is her mother. When they bring her to an actual psychic named, Janey Feathers. Janey is the real deal and was friends with Gus’ wife. She also wants to help Gus move on with this life but he isn’t ready yet and probably wouldn’t want to with her anyway. All of that said, she immediately throws all of them out of her house because trying to read Astrid nearly ended up getting her house blown up. Astrid is the one with the biggest secret even if she doesn’t know what it is. Astrid is an odd choice to be the Tank of the team but that is usually the function she fills.

While Gus comes across as the engineer archetype of a “five-man band,” because he can fix anything. That function really belongs to Elton’s sister, the agoraphobic cosplayer Helen. She is reasonably well known in that community, although because of her crippling fear of the open, she has never been able to bring herself to compete. Yes, her new team helps her overcome that. Her expertise in the fields of makeup, costuming, and social media fills in what would have been a fairly critical hole in this strange little Scooby Gang.

Malcolm McDowell plays Gus’ “Dad.” He’s an old man who is lonely, grumpy most of the time, technologically ‘challenged.’ McDowell really earned his paycheck here. You shouldn’t like the old geezer and you end up caring about the old curmudgeon, when you find out how much danger he is really in, you become concerned for Dad. He is the emotional glue that holds the team together.

However, the Big Three of the team (Gus, Elton, and Astrid) while all having their own secrets eventually find out through the course of the first season that all of their big secrets are interconnected. Moreover, every single secret they explore in the series all turn out to be interconnected as well, when you assumed at first these were just isolated mysteries.

This was superbly written long-form fiction, I honestly wasn’t expecting this from Pegg and Frost. I’d never seen any indication they could do it before. And if Pegg hadn’t been such a massive disappointment lately I’d be saying forget Russel Davies, hand those two Doctor Who.

While the show has been canceled to support the godawful Rings of Power, the first season of Truth Seekers has no problem as stand alone story. I wanted to see more but the first story was told.

The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm. (5/5)

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