The modern incarnation of Doctor Who successfully managed to introduce a colossal mythology in its debut story 'Rose', while rolling out a gripping self-contained plot. Conversely, 'They Bite' buckles under the weight of attempting such a balancing feat as the revelations about Luke's family history and Rupert's vocation and underground lair only elicit shrugs of 'so what?'. The problem is that the narrative doesn't manage to give the characters enough appeal before unleashing all the backstory and intrigue. As a result, it's hard to care for their plight. It would have been far wiser to gradually tease out Luke's extraordinary nature over a longer length of time and concentrate on making him an endearing chap by doing more than displaying his torso.
Why oh why did Philip Glenister choose to go American for his role as vampire smiter Rupert Galvin? It was probably an attempt to distance himself from Gene Hunt, but the accent feels too incongruous at times and some of the one-liners are very much delivered in the blunt Hunt style. On the flipside, the use of Mackenzie Crook as the villainous Gladiolus Thrip is a masterstroke, with his creepy, energetic performance injecting some much-needed tension into the latter stages of the episode.
The visual texture of the adventure is undeniably impressive, nicely using some of the creepy London backstreets to sinister effect. Yet the direction doesn't do it justice in the action sequences, most notably when Luke and Ruby are accosted by some hooded beasties. It simply lacks any immediacy or adrenalin and suffers hugely in comparison to punchy, slick US counterparts like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The second episode had better be a good one, or else Demons has effectively staked itself in the heart at a ridiculously early stage.
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