Neverwhere DVD cover
|Created by||Neil Gaiman
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Two|
|Original run||12 September – 17 October 1996|
Neverwhere is an urban fantasy television series by Neil Gaiman that first aired in 1996 on BBC Two. The series is set in "London Below", a magical realm coexisting with the more familiar London, referred to as "London Above". It was devised by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, and directed by Dewi Humphreys. Gaiman later adapted the series into novel form. The series and book were partially inspired by Gene Wolfe's novel Free Live Free.
Richard Mayhew, a Scot living in London, encounters an injured girl named Door on the street one night. Despite his fiancée's protests he decides to help her; upon doing so he ceases to exist on Earth and becomes real only to the denizens of 'London Below', whose inhabitants are generally invisible and non-existent to the people of 'London Above'. He loses his house, his job and nearly his mind as he travels London Below in an attempt to make sense out of it all, find a way back, and help Door survive as she is hunted down by hired assassins.
In London Below the various familiar names of London all take on a new significance: for example Knightsbridge becomes "Night's Bridge", a stone bridge whose darkness takes its toll in human life; The Angel, Islington is an actual angel. London Below is a parallel world in and beneath the sewers. Its inhabitants are the homeless, but also people from other times, such as Roman legionaries and medieval monks, as well as fictional and fantastical characters.
Characters & cast
- Richard Mayhew (Gary Bakewell) – a young businessman, who discovers the world of London Below one day after helping the injured Door recover in his flat.
- Door (Laura Fraser) – A young woman from London Below, the daughter of a noble family who were all murdered shortly before the beginning of the story. She possesses her family's innate ability to "open" things (and not just doors).
- The Marquis de Carabas (Paterson Joseph) – The Marquis is arrogant, cunning and very self-confident. Though very much the trickster, he is a loyal friend of Door and her family. This character was inspired by Puss in Boots. Gaiman stated this as the starting point for the character, and imagining "Who would own a cat like this?"
- Mr. Croup (Hywel Bennett) – The talkative half of the pair of assassins, the Messrs. He is short, fat, and speaks in a pompous and verbose manner. Like his partner, Mr. Vandemar, he seems to be able to simply move from one place to another very quickly despite his ungainly appearance. He is the brains of the pair and seems be the one calling the shots, and he apparently has a taste (literally) for fine china. Much of the imagery used to describe him is that of a fox.
- Mr. Vandemar (Clive Russell) – Dull-witted, tall, and gangly, Vandemar is Croup's polar opposite. He does not speak much, and when he does, his statements are often laconic and blunt. He is quite brutish and seems to enjoy nothing more than killing and destroying things (even practising his golf swing with live toads). He also has a tendency to eat live animals. The descriptive imagery likens him to a hound or a wolf, and he even howls at one point when catching up with his mark.
- Old Bailey (Trevor Peacock) – An old friend of the Marquis, he keeps the company of pigeons on the rooftops and wears clothing made of feathers. He became indebted to the Marquis long ago, and so is charged with keeping a portion of his life safe for him.
- Hunter (Tanya Moodie) – A warrior of London Below; her feats are legendary. Her lifelong obsession is to slay the great Beast of London. The imagery used to describe her likens her to a lioness.
- The Angel Islington (Peter Capaldi) – An angel dwelling in the sewers of London Below. Its duty is to watch over London Below, though (or maybe because) it failed at its previous task: guarding the city of Atlantis.
- Lamia and the Velvets – Vampire-like seductresses, dressed in dark velvet, who "suck the warmth" from their victims. Lamia is played by Tamsin Greig.
- The Abbott (Earl Cameron) – The leader of a group of armed black friars guarding a special key at Blackfriars.
Neverwhere was first broadcast on BBC Two from 12 September 1996. There are six half-hour episodes:
- Earl's Court to Islington
- Down Street
- As Above, So Below
The idea for the story came from a conversation between Gaiman and Henry about a possible television series. Henry suggested a story with tribes of homeless people in London. Gaiman was initially reluctant to commit, as he feared that making the homeless appear "cool" might cause more young people to attempt to emulate the characters, but decided that the effect could be avoided by making the story more removed from reality.
Neverwhere received some criticism for its appearance. One major problem lay in the original plan to shoot on video (for budgetary reasons), and then later "filmise" the footage to make it look as if it had been shot on film. For this reason, the programme had been lit and shot in a manner appropriate to a film-based production. However, the decision to apply the filmisation process was later reversed.
In addition to what some considered the old-fashioned appearance of un-filmised video, the lighting set up with film in mind appeared garish and unsubtle on the more clinical medium. Gaiman himself commented that the loss of quality resulting from multi-generational VHS copies actually improved the appearance in this respect.
- Abbey Mills Pumping Station was used as the Angel Islington's lair.
- The scene where Richard meets Old Bailey was filmed on the roof of the Midland Grand Hotel (now the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel) at St. Pancras Station. The hotel interior was also used as 'Down Street'.
- The exteriors for the first Market was filmed at Battersea Power Station, though a different location was used for the interiors. HMS Belfast was the scene of the second Market.
- The scene where Richard saves a man from suicide was filmed on the Albert Bridge.
The six episodes were released in the US and Canada to DVD as a two-disc set on 9 September 2005 in conjunction with A&E Network. Despite the DVDs often being advertised as region 1, some of the actual discs, however, are region zero. The BBC have released the series on DVD on 23 April 2007. The opening theme tune on the original BBC2 transmission was the same as the music over the closing credits. The opening theme on the Region 2 DVD version is a series of abstract sounds, while the closing music remains intact. The music for the series was made by Brian Eno.
Neil Gaiman wrote a novelisation of the television series that was first released in 1996, during the television show's transmission. This was accompanied by a spoken word release on CD and cassette. The text was later re-written for the US market (Gaiman's publisher insisting that many of the references of London were too obscure for US tastes) and a third version is now available which combines elements of both earlier versions of the novel.
A nine-issue comic book limited series began in June 2005, written by Mike Carey (who had worked on Lucifer, a spin-off from Gaiman's The Sandman), with art by Glenn Fabry. Vertigo changed a character, the Marquis De Carabas, that had been portrayed in the TV series and on the Radio as a man from the African Diaspora into a creature with a black skin tone not seen in the real world. The comic is an adaptation inspired by the novelisation, rather than the original TV series. Thus the characters and settings do not generally resemble those seen in the series. The series was published by DC Comics's Vertigo imprint. The collected volume was also published by Vertigo, in February 2007 (ISBN 1-4012-1007-4).
In 2008, another stage adaptation was created and performed by the Actors Gymnasium in Evanston, Illinois.
In 2010, Lifeline Theatre in Chicago performed an adaptation written by Robert Kauzlaric. The eight-week run proved so successful that it was extended another four weeks. The play was viewed by Neil Gaiman and the producer of the original BBC series, Lenny Henry, during the extension.
In December 2010, Galway-based theatre company Croi8 Productions performed Kauzlaric's adaptation. This was the Irish Premiere of the adaptation.
In January 2012, Reading-based Progress Theatre performed Kauzlaric's adaptation. This was the British Premiere of the adaptation.
In February 2012, Calgary-based theatre company Mob Hit Productions performed a two-week run of Kauzlaric's adaptation. This was the Canadian Premiere of the adaptation.
In May 2011, the first school production of Kauzlaric's adaptation was performed at Northwest Academy in Portland, Oregon. In February 2013, Kauzlaric's adaption was performed at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York.
On 5 April 2013, the Sacred Fools Theater Company in Los Angeles performed the American West Coast premiere of Kauzlaric's adaptation. Originally scheduled to run through 11 May, it was extended an additional two weeks due to its popularity. The play was viewed by Neil Gaiman.
In August 2013, Washington, D.C. based company Rorschach Theatre performed Kauzlaric's adaptation after a successful Kickstarter Campaign.
A radio dramatisation in six parts was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra in March 2013, written by Dirk Maggs and co-directed with producer Heather Larmour. During one of his book signings Gaiman indicated that this will be released for sale later this year.
The cast included:
- James McAvoy – Richard Mayhew
- Natalie Dormer – Door
- David Harewood – The Marquis de Carabas
- Sophie Okonedo – Hunter
- Benedict Cumberbatch – The Angel Islington
- Anthony Head – Mr Croup
- David Schofield – Mr Vandemar
- Bernard Cribbins – Old Bailey
- Romola Garai – Jessica
- Christopher Lee – Earl of Earl's Court
- Andrew Sachs – Tooley
- George Harris – Abbot
- Don Gilet – Fulingous, Ruislip, Blackfriar
- Abdul Salis – Sable, Sump, Clarence, Homeless Man
- Paul Chequer – Gary, Guard 2
- Lucy Cohu – Lamia
- Yasmin Paige – Anaesthesia, Tenant 2 – female, Match girl
- Johnny Vegas – Lord Ratspeaker
- Stephen Marcus – Varney, Homeless man, Letting agent, Guard 1
- Karen Archer – Sylvia, Old Woman, Dream Hawker, Mother
Neil Gaiman has said a sequel to the book titled The Seven Sisters is a possibility.
How The Marquis Got His Coat Back, a novella set in the Neverwhere universe will be forthcoming in the "ROGUES" short story anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin.
- Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe.
- Midnight Nation, a graphic novel in which the protagonist takes a similar journey.
- King Rat, a 1998 novel by China Miéville with a similar theme of a second city beneath London.
- Un Lun Dun, a 2007 novel, also by China Miéville, which focuses on an alternate-world version of London that can be reached by certain individuals. Miéville mentions Neverwhere as an inspiration in the novel's acknowledgements.
- The City & the City by China Miéville, about the city of Besźel and its "twin city" of Ul Qoma.
- Undone, a radio series featuring a number of parallel universe versions of London between which the protagonists may pass by means of hidden "gaps". It was described by one of its authors as "a kind of comic Neverwhere".
- Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities, a 2008 novel by Tim Lebbon and Christopher Golden, also involves an underground, unseen version of London, and a protagonist on the run from powerful assassins.
- The Nightside novel series, by Simon R. Green, also involves an underground, dark and unseen version of London where the main character is hunted.
- Roofworld, a 1988 novel by Christopher Fowler about a hidden culture suspended by wires and cables above London.
- The Matthew Swift novels by Kate Griffin are another series set in a London where magic is common but usually unnoticed by 'normal' humans. The names of the locations may not be as important as in Neverwhere but the locations themselves have power.
- Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip also tells the story of a hidden "shadow" city beneath the obvious one.
- "In a letter from the author included in the study guide, Gaiman revealed that he got the idea for Neverwhere after reading, “Free, Live Free,” a Gene Wolfe book set in Chicago." http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/4097439-418/city-subway-will-never-seem-the-same-again-after-reading-daleys-final-one-book-pick.html
- Interview on the UK VHS Release of Neverwhere
- Geoff Boucher (29 November 2011). "Neil Gaiman returns to 'Neverwhere' (and 'Graveyard Book' movie?)". Los Angeles Times.
- DVD Bits – Region 4 and Region 1 DVD news, reviews, resources, PC-DVD, hardware
- Neverwhere at the Comic Book DB
- Stages of existence: Three local theatre companies move into what they hope are permanent spaces, by Linda Sickler, retrieved 7 June 2007
- "Oops and nudity" Neil Gaiman's blog, 9 June 2006, retrieved 7 June 2007
- "Robert Kauzlaric – Playwriting – Neverwhere". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Last Orders" Neil Gaiman's blog, 17 April 2008, retrieved 25 April 2008
- Jones, Paul. "Benedict Cumberbatch and the cast of Neverwhere – first photo and air date revealed". RadioTimes. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Gaiman, Neil. "FAQ". http://www.neilgaiman.com. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Martin, George R. R. "Rogues Anthology delivered to Bantam". Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Ben Moor. "Ben Moor as Heard on Radio". Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- Neverwhere at BBC Programmes
- The Very Small But Quite Significant Neverwhere Page
- Photos from the BBC TV series
- Neverwhere at h2g2
- Neverwhere at AllMovie