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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Strain
The Complete First Season


Starring: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Mía Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde and Richard Sammel
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
5 03936 070720
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 15 December 2014

When a Boeing 777 arrives at JFK International Airport, makes its way across the tarmac, and suddenly stops dead, crews on the ground are lost for answers. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. An alert goes out to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, gets the call and boards the plane along with his colleague Dr. Nora Martinez. On board they find 206 corpses, 4 survivors and, if that wasn’t foreboding enough, evidence of some peculiar ultraviolet secretion. The situation becomes ever more perplexing when they are approached by the eccentric Abraham Setrakian, an elderly Harlem pawnbroker who insists the victims’ bodies must be destroyed and that the elaborately carved coffin that was removed from the plane’s hold must not leave the airport...


Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan, and based on the best-selling trilogy of books written by Del Toro and Hogan, The Strain is a modern reworking of vampire mythology. The series opens well, and creates real tension... although, when you actually scratch the surface of the main story points, it really is one of the most badly thought out and engineered plots imaginable. It could be that this is explained more in the books, but there does seem to be a bit of sloppy writing here, and a lack of respect for the viewer's intelligence.

I'm assuming that most people know that the series is a reworking of vampire mythology. If you're coming to this without a clue of what is going on you'll probably be a little confused, as it appears to be a tale of alien invasion, this quickly changes into a zombie apocalypse, before it's finally revealed that it's a vampire story.

In the first episode a plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Instead of taxing off the runway, it just sits there with all its lights off and no communication of any kind. Various government agencies want to board the plane, but epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, working for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally wins the argument when it's pointed out that they need to make sure there is no airbourne virus on the plane.

On boarding the plane, all passengers and crew are dead. After the initial investigation gets underway, it's discovered that four individuals are actually still alive. We eventually discover that on board the plane was the Master, a centuries old head vampire, who broke out of his coffin in the plane's cargo hold, and entered the plane infecting all the passengers (as he obviously needed to feed and provide him with the start of an army of willing vampires).

This is a bit of a sloppy opening when you revisit it. Surely, knowing how long the plane journey was, the master would have fed before getting on the plane (someone went to great lengths to ensure that his coffin was hidden from the cargo manifest) so why draw attention to it? Wouldn't a more sensible thing have been for him to have stayed in the coffin and then be transported to his final destination without arousing anyone's suspicion. As a big part of the story involves the master collecting an army, by infecting them, and then them infecting others, wouldn't it have made more sense for him to have infected a dozen people each day? Those people will quickly infect others. In fact, if he wanted to stay well out of the spotlight it would have made more sense for him to arrive in America by ship, infect one individual who would then infect others. Before you know it, like a virus, the Master has his willing army of slaves.

The next problem, which I suppose is also the show's strength, is that of the main characters there isn't really one that's likeable, add to this the fact that almost every episode the writers seem to give the characters new personalities and you have a very annoying and confused set of heroes.

At the moment there is a huge boom in the zombie genre and it appears that the writers are trying to capitalise on that; with the turned zombies ranging from mindless vessels with no way of communicating, to those that are fairly articulate (like the goth rock star and the little girl at the start of the series). It could be that there are different levels of vampire classes (like in bee colonies) but this is never really explained or examined. And, when we finally meet the Master, it's rather sad to see that he appears to have stepped right off the stage from this year's Blackpool pantomime.

Extras include In the Beginning (13 min, 38 sec look at the origins of the show. This feature spoils the fact that we're dealing with vampires, because the episodes on this disc are still building the suspense as to what is going on); A Novel Approach (9 min, 15 sec look at the books and how they link into the show. There's also spoiler alerts galore here, including the revelation that one of the characters will die in an episode on the next disc); Setrakian's Lair (9 min, 24 sec set tour of Setrakian's lab and living space underneath his pawn shop).

I have to admit that I was surprised that the FX channel agreed to a second season on the strength of the first season. There are some good ideas here, but the production is incredibly sloppy.


Darren Rea

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