Friday, October 17, 2008


Secret Services: CIB

Now we come to an entry in our list of Secret Services so secret that, as far as I can recall, they're never even given a name. Agents of the outfit pose as members of CIB (the Complaints Investigation Branch of the London Metropolitan Police Force) on occasion, and so that name seems to work as well as any other. They are a clandestine government agency, though, and their remit definitely falls under the general heading of "occult"--though in extremely clever ways.

Ultraviolet was a 1998 British television production created by Joe Ahearne, who has since directed episodes of Doctor Who and Strange, among others. The series was recommended to me a few years later, and I picked up the Region 2 DVD to check it out, sight unseen. I never regretted it.

Ultraviolet is arguably the best show of its kind to date. In the first episode, a detective-sergeant with the London Metropolitan Police (played by Jack Davenport of Coupling and Pirates of the Caribbean) is drawn into a mystery when his partner begins behaving strangely, claiming that he's been targeted by some kind of black-ops government-backed death squad. Davenport's character encounters the "death squad," which includes a former soldier, a priest, and a cancer specialist, who reveal that they really are after his partner--who just happens to have been infected with something called "Code V."

What's Code V? Here's the list of characteristics, from the show's official site:
Code Vs do not show in mirrors, photographs or videos. Their voices cannot be recorded or transmitted by phone. Image and sound can only be detected face to face.

They are immortal. They cannot be killed, only reduced to ashes (neutralized).

They can be neutralized by exposure to sunlight or by introducing carbon into the chest cavity (projectile, probe or explosive). Resulting immolation releases enough energy to start fires.

Code V ashes can be regenerated and must be kept secure.

They can be repelled by ultraviolet light (the radiation in sunlight) or by allicin (the chemical in garlic).

They can shield themselves from ultraviolet light with tinted glass.

They can be affected by polluted blood.

When they feed, the host wound heals over in minutes and can only be detected in ultraviolet light. The bite can be treated with lasers. The skin around the wound is burnt away leaving a small scar.

If untreated, a human becomes suggestible and develops aversion to sunlight.

There may also be an aversion to religious symbols. This may be psychological. The effect of religious symbols on Code Vs is unproven.

When drained to death, a human becomes a Code V.

No-one is forcibly recruited. They only take those who want to go.

Code Vs claim to have human-type emotions. This is unproven.

One of the terrific things about Ultraviolet is that it's a show about vampire-hunters that never mentions the word "vampire." Not once. The series takes the basic premise of vampirism and treats it with rigorous logic. If vampires don't show up in mirrors, for example, why not mount mirrored sights on weapons, along with a miniature video camera. If a target appears in the video screen but not in the mirror sight, you're looking at a Code V and should open fire. But not just with regular rounds, but bullets of compressed carbon--reinforced charcoal--that have the same effect as a stake through the heart. Then there's the mace that's laced with oils expressed from garlic, and the UV lights used to check a subject's reaction to sunlight. Clever, clever stuff.

The series ran for only one season of six episodes, a lamentably short run, but those six stories are packed to the gills with terrific writing, great acting, and viciously clever twists. I really can't recommend it highly enough.


Actually code V's don't show up in the video cameras on the guns -- which is the test. If you can see them with your own eyes, but not on the gun-mounted video, then he is a V and you can shoot.

At least that's how I interpreted it to work. Ultra Violet was a wonderful series and the first one I am aware of where the Vampire Hunters weren't idiots.

The one episode where Edris Elba (who went on to star wonderfully in several sesons of The Wire) used his knowledge of how V's work, to escape an inescapable trap, really locked this in as one of my all time favorite series.

(Chris was the one who pointed me to it by the way.)

Bill Willingham
You're absolutely right about the gun trick, now that you mention it. I was misremembering. I think the mirror was part of the camera set up.

And that episode is a particular favorite of mine, too. Whenever I think about the series, the end of that episode is the first thing I flash on.
Have you seen the 2000AD graphic novel CABALLISTICS INC. : GOING UNDERGROUND
Written by Gordon Rennie
Art and cover by Dom Reardon at

"Rebellion Solicitation: During the Second World War a department was formed within the Ministry of Defence to combat Nazi occult warfare. In the 21 st century, however, it has long outlived its usefulness and its funding is scrapped. Enter reclusive millionaire rock star Ethan Kostabi, who has brought up its employees and, together with a handful of freelance ghost hunters, constructed a brand new outfit � Caballistics, Inc.

But the forces of the supernatural are not the only enemies that this disparate group have to tackle, for within the heart of Caballistics, Inc. are dangerous secrets that threaten to tear the organisation apart... "

They've done some prose novels too.
I read a lot of the series when it was being serialized in 2000AD, and recently picked up both trades. I finished Going Underground last night, as it happens, brushing up on Caballistics Inc before doing the write-up next week, and am about to dive into the second volume. It really is terrific stuff, and one of my favorite 2000AD serials of recent years (along with anything by Ian Edginton and his collaborators, in particular Leviathan and Stickleback). I haven't tried the prose novels yet (which if I'm remembering correctly were published by Black Library, weren't they?).
Yeah, that is right, the books are part of that whole 2000AD lot they did.

Ultraviolet is great. Caught the very end of the series once on tv and thought 'wow, what was that, it is over'?

Then had to get it.
It's criminal that Ahearne never had a chance to go back and do a second series. Far too short a run.
Yeah, if that was 10 years later, might be into its fourth season or something, given the vampire romance craze.
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