Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

My rating: ***
imdb link

See also my blog post on episode 2

Apparitions is a new supernatural thriller series currently airing on the BBC which gets off to a gripping start in the first episode. I saw this first episode courtesy of a good friend who is a fan of the actor who plays the lead role in this series, Martin Shaw. All the tried and true clichés of the ‘interestingly medieval Catholic Church meets the Supernatural’ subgenre are taken out for a most satisfying airing. We have the maverick priest at odds with the rationalist and sceptical Church hierarchy, the Devil and his demons, the tortured homosexual seminarian, the not-long-for-this-world mentor who tells his charge that he is the chosen one who will be key in the up and coming Manichean struggle between good and evil. There are also the obligatory gory bits with demons flaying humans alive and knocking others unconscious. We even have Mother Teresa! What more could one ask for?

The Catholic Church has long been an imaginative gold mine for writers of tales of the supernatural. As Foucault notes: ‘[The Roman Catholic Church] is a superb instrument of power for itself. Entirely woven through with elements that are imaginary, erotic, effective, corporal, sensual, and so on, it is superb!’ [1] Apparitions certainly doesn’t stint on making the most of these elements.

A veteran of science fiction and the supernatural, Joe Ahearne, is helming this series as a writer and director. His earlier efforts include credits as the writer and director of the somewhat obscure but stylish Ultraviolet (the original 1998 British TV series, not the American remake) and he has also written several recent Dr. Who episodes.

Another series which deals with the idea of possession, haunting, and unfriendly supernatural entities, but this time from the rather different point of view of spirit mediums and psychics, is the American series The Others. This excellent but unfortunately short-lived series went to air with 13 episodes in 2000.

Other British series which address similar material include Afterlife and Sea of Souls. In these series it is university researchers in psychology who are the investigators of the supernatural. (By the way I have included a couple of Wikipedia links here simply because they provide the most comprehensive information and most numerous links to external sources).

The currently popular American series Supernatural covers rather different territory. It is not so much interested in the uncanny, [2] but in adventure horror and, of course, the exploits of a couple of good looking guys. I will write a bit more about this series in another post.


[1] Michel Foucault (1999) [1978] ‘ On Religion’. In Religion and Culture J. R. Carrette (ed.). Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 106.

[2] ‘The Uncanny’ by Sigmund Freud.

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