***NOTE: May contain spoilers for an obscure, early 90s television series***
You know when you’ve finished a television series and you need something to fill that void in your life so you take to late night YouTube searches for a replacement? (Readers, do not judge me too harshly – we’ve all been there) That is how I came to discover ‘The She-Wolf of London”, a series from the early 90s. Having completed five series of Dharma and Greg (love, love, love the show – but the finale could’ve been better; seemed to backtrack on a lot of character development), and experiencing show withdrawals, I turned to YouTube and discovered this ‘interesting specimen’, shall we say?
The plot: A young, pretty American student (Randi) travels to London to study under an English professor (Ian) of mythology and the occult. Just as her English adventure begins, she encounters a werewolf on the moors. Fortunately, she survives the attack, but now bitten by the creature, she transforms into a ‘she-wolf’ at the full-moon. Randi and Ian work together to search for a cure for her lycanthropy, and along the way continue to investigate other supernatural phenomena and other beings. And naturally, along the way, love blossoms between the two.
(Side Note: The mutual fascination that exists between the British and the Americans has doubtless been around for centuries – there is much evidence of it in literature, but even more proof of it is found in film and television. However, this ‘fascination’ often presents itself in the use of hackneyed tropes – the Americans usually resort to the ‘bumbling Englishman’; ‘stiff upper lip’; everyone speaking with a posh accent, and living in huge mansions in the UK, everyone being practically related to the Queen; the British tend towards the ‘genial but dumb’ American, the ‘overly loud and socially gauche’ Yank. We’ll be covering some of these stereotypes with regards to this show too. Shockingly, British people do not generally dress or talk like they’ve all just stumbled off the set of ‘Jeeves & Wooster’).
Opening Scene – Moonlight, a creature racing through overgrown grass, Gypsies on the moors fleeing an unnamed (and unseen) beast… way to set the mood. At this point, I find my interest pleasantly piqued.
What does the theme music/ intro that follows want to tell us? Laden with recurrent images of: *cue dramatic voice ala honest trailers* …clocks… Howling female silhouette against Big Ben’s clock face – more clocks. Close ups of EYES. Artistically falling Tarot cards. Eerie owls. The Moon. More clocks. The Moon merging into a… (you guessed it, didn’t you?) CLOCK! Well clearly, time is an important theme, and obviously the moon and the clock are symbols for the full moon, the time of the month that is most significant in lycanthropic lore. The tarot cards and owls, one supposes, are there as signifiers of the occult. For its day, this intro probably was more effective than it seems now. Watching it, I found it to be more funny than gothic and atmospheric, the latter being what was originally intended, I presume. You can see it for yourself here.
We now find ourselves watching an aeroplane in the night sky. The camera shifts to the interior of the plane, where we focus in on another stereotype – the pretty, and super smart female student, Randi. Didn’t get that she’s a student? Or that she’s obviously very clever? SHE’S WEARING GLASSES. AND SHE’S READING A BOOK. Clarification for the uninitiated: This is an ancient method of making female characters on screen seem more intellectual. You can’t be intelligent without glasses and a handy book to pose with or flash around. (Dorky & Cute Female Character Trope: CHECK)
Randi and the air hostess have a conversation. Ah, the good old stereotypes at play again! Devilled kidneys for breakfast – apparently the only thing served by the airline. I wonder whether anyone has ever actually been served devilled kidneys for breakfast on an aeroplane. (Disgusting British Food Stereotype: CHECK)
We now see Randi on her way to her first class with Prof. Ian, passing through breezy medieval castle-looking hallways. Not all British universities look like castles (You mean not all schools/universities look like Hogwarts? My life has been a LIE!) – especially not in central London; other than the King’s College London Maughan Library, where some scenes of Harry Potter were shot. (All-of-Britain-is-wild-moors-and-castles Stereotype: CHECK)
Flirty glances between the Prof and Randi – obviously there is a love story that will unfold. (Love At First Sight Trope: CHECK)
Also, a note on the fashion. Very late 80s/ early 90s, but Ian’s wardrobe (ugh, that bow tie!) seems even more dated. Are the English meant to be living in a time capsule, immune to the emerging dressing styles of the rest of the world? I understand that Ian is meant to be a university professor, but honestly, even university faculty members would know how to dress – you can be formally dressed without looking like you’ve stepped out of a time machine from two decades earlier.
The Prof rides a bicycle – this would’ve seemed more in place were the story set in Oxford or Cambridge (the castle like university building may also have made more sense).
Randi and the Prof get a chance to talk after class. I am certain that the character was named Randi, just so that the writers could have Ian explain the British (slang) usage of the word, which is less than flattering. Possibly this was meant to heighten the ‘sexual tension’ between the two characters. More awkward than cute/funny. (Language Differences Used for Humour/ Embarrassment: CHECK).
(Side Note: 5 Tropes in the first 6 minutes)
‘Motivational Psychogenic Analysis’ of myths and folk legends – Randi’s proposed Master’s thesis. I’d love to read it, if it existed.
– Randi is (inevitably) having problems with her student accommodation, Prof offers her accommodation at his parents’ B&B (Yes, seriously).
– Randi mentions at dinner that she’s planning to go ‘ghost-hunting’ on the moors; everyone warns her that its dangerous (foreshadowing).
– Prof’s family seem like eccentric weirdos. I’m surprised Randi would be willing to stay with them.
– Randi camps out on the moors. Attacked by a mysterious beast. The next thing we see are hospital lights, and Randi regains consciousness to discover she’s at hospital and the Prof has been summoned. She is agitated and insists that she wasn’t attacked by any ordinary wolf, but that the beast was a supernatural entity. Prof brings her back to London, his family is very concerned for her.
– Late one night on campus, the animals in the lab (? or pound?) are unusually agitated by Randi’s presence. Ian hears strange sounds and goes to investigate. He discovers that all the cages are empty, their wiring torn. A huge beast chases him around the library. Whilst hiding, he recalls Randi mentioning being bitten by a beast. The police come to investigate the next morning.
– The next morning, Randi takes a shower in the men’s locker room. Annoying boys make immature jokes. Ian and Randi meet up, and Ian voices his suspicion that she’s been infected by a werewolf. Randi seems resistant to the idea at first, but then agrees to work with him to find a cure.
– Randi and Ian return to the moors. Randi shows Ian her drawings. She finds a ring in the ground. They drive to a gypsy caravan where she finds and identifies her werewolf attacker in his human form. A chase ensues, the attacker’s car crashes and he presumably dies. Randi and Ian are safe and drive back to London, where Randi is seen hungrily downing her dinner
– End of Episode 1
This first episode, although very clearly dated now and oft-times seemingly silly, has managed to secure my interest. I do think I will watch further episodes, if only to judge the show better.
Lesson: Late night YouTube binges aren’t always entirely useless.