Spook Catchers was a horror, fantasy series which lasted from 1987-1993. It was a crossover series which incorporated characters and story lines from various horror franchises and films.
It starred such horror icons as Peter Cushing, Bruce Campbell, Lam Ching Ying, and Christopher Lee, all reprising some of their most famous horror roles.
The series focused on Van Helsing played by Cushing leading an assortment of paranormal hunters against various monsters, which usually consist of famous horror movie characters such as Christopher Lee’s Dracula.
Popular during its initial run, the show developed a large and devoted following and has been cited as an influence on other series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Charmed.
Several years on from his ordeal in the Tennesse woods, Ash Williams has moved on with his life and is now in a relationship with a woman named Brenda.
Unfortunately for him he and Brenda are soon attacked by spirits from the Necronomicon. After Brenda is possessed, Ash overcome with grief locks her in his basement. Not wanting to lose her like his first wife, at the same time however he is unable to help her. Ash is soon contacted by a man named Lorrimer Van Helsing. Lorrimer, (who is the head of a small team of paranormal investigators) tells Ash that the book Necronomicon was discovered a few months ago by an old enemy of his named D.D. Denham.
Denham apparently hoped to summon the spirits in the book and make them into his servants but they were too strong even for his magics. Thus he was forced to send most of the Deadites back into their dimension. A few however escaped. The monsters plan to make Ash suffer for foiling their plot to take over the world in the middle ages. Van Helsing helps Ash expel the Demon from Brenda.
This turns out to be only part of the Demons plan however. They intend, through a number of blood sacrifice’s to create a portal that will allow other members of their kind into this universe. Van Helsing with the aid of his team and Ash is able to foil the Demons plans and send them back to hell.
Sadly however Ash’s life falls apart. Brenda leaves him. Though she still loves him she says she can’t deal with his past. All of his friends soon begin to leave him too when they hear rumours of him locking Brenda up in their attic. He is also fired from his job and ends up homeless.
With nothing left in his life anymore, Ash turns to Van Helsing and his Demon hunters for a purpose in life. The team consists merely of Van Helsing, his grand daughter Jessica, and a woman named Ching with a dark past. Van Helsing takes Ash on seeing potential in him, though the other members of the team have doubts.
Ash soon learns from the others that D.D. Denham is in fact the king of the Vampires himself, Count Dracula.
After Dracula and Van Helsing last fought one another in the 70’s, Dracula was resurrected by one of his minions. Dracula however longs for death, but has decided before he can rest in peace to aid his kind in claiming dominion over the earth. Whilst Dracula claims that he is only doing this in the hopes that his children will let him rest once they are rulers of the planet. Van Helsing suspects that it is because the Vampire wishes to go out in one last blaze of glory, and also because he wishes to punish his children who will not let him rest, by giving them everything they have ever wanted.
Dracula in Van Helsing’s mind believes that the Vampires will soon grow bored of their existence once they rule the world just like he did. They will have an eternal life with no end, and no struggles, nothing to work for no purpose. It will within a few centuries drive them insane with boredom.
Van Helsing and his team continue to battle Dracula who under his guise of the reclusive billionaire D. D. Denham is able to use countless resources against them.
At one point the team encounter a sorceress who has travelled from the future who warns them that the Vampires will one day rule the earth, thanks to experiments Dracula is conducting to try and remove all of their weaknesses. Fortunately Van Helsing and the rest are able to slay Dracula and destroy his experiments before this terrifying vision of the future can come to pass.
A new menace soon rises to take Dracula’s place however, Darkness. Darkness is an ancient Demon from another universe. He was destroyed in a battle whilst trying to take control of his own world. After his death however his spirit vanished into the nothingness between worlds where it is accidentally freed by a group of magic users.
They foolishly were planning to summon a Demon from another dimension and bind it to themselves in order to gain power. However they get more than they bargained for when they inadvertently summon Darkness’s spirit into our world. Darkness is able to manifest itself in our universe, physically thanks to their magic.
Darkness ironically slays most of his saviours, though one manages to escape and warn Van Helsing and his team. Darkness with the aid of his Demonic and Goblin minions that he creates, attempts to block out the sun using powerful magics. Van Helsing and the others however manage to destroy him once and for all.
During their battles with Darkness, the team recruit a new member. The Vampire hunter named Kau. Kau, who is an old friend of Ching had previously helped them battle Dracula, proves to be a highly useful member of the team due to his extensive knowledge on magic and martial arts skills.
The expanded team soon face a new adversary in the form of Damien, the son of the Devil himself. Damien plans to bring about the apocalypse and though the team manage to destroy, unfortunately the after affect of Damien’s plan causes the Dead to rise as flesh eating monsters.
Van Helsing and the others still manage to stop the Zombie infestation and save humanity once again. They next go on to battle the evil Grand High Witch, resurrected after her death in England. The Witch plans to enact a spell that will transform billions of women around the world into hideous Witch creatures just like her. Though Van Helsing and the rest are able to foil the Witches plans, the monster escapes and plans to use an ancient magical artefact capable of destroying the entire earth itself. Fortunately the team are able to use its power against her and vaporise her into nothing.
The team next travel to China to take on a bigger adversary. Dragons! They discover that Dragons are in fact Angels who many centuries ago broke the Angels most sacred laws of non interference. Angels are prevented from changing the course of human history. They can interfere only under special circumstances. The Dragons however decided to interfere as in their mind they believed that they could build a better world. Ultimately they were defeated by the rest of the Angels and imprisoned, but they entered in Chinese mythology as deities. One of their followers manages to free some of the monsters from their imprisonment, but fortunately our heroes are able to banish the monsters back to their prison before they can take over the earth.
The presence of the Dragons however leads to more people becoming aware of the supernatural. Though the government attempts to cover it up things become a lot more awkward for the gang from this point on as they face their final adversary, Mephistopheles.
Mephistopheles is a Demon more powerful and dangerous than even Satan himself. He is also responsible for the creation of many of the monster races the team have fought over the years such as Vampires and Witches. Mephistopheles plans to destroy the earth, the heavens and hell itself before building a new world in their place that he will rule. The team are forced to work alongside many Angels and Demons in order to finally take down the monster.
The series ends with Mephistopheles death and the team vowing to continue to fight the good fight against the forces of darkness.
Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing)
The teams leader. Cushing had previously played this character in two Hammer films in the 1970’s, Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Lorrimer is the grandson of the original version of Van Helsing (here referred to as Lawrence Van Helsing, rather than Abraham).
Van Helsing is really the heart of the show. He is the glue that holds the team together during tight spots. That was always the best thing about Cushing’s Van Helsing was how his will was made of absolute iron. He always kept his cool, even when jamming a burning piece of iron into his neck in The Brides of Dracula.
Here it is no different. Van Helsing serves as the inspiration to the rest of the team being the oldest and most experienced hunter, he is often the one who is able to sort out disputes with the rest of the team. Sadly however Cushing’s advanced age often meant that the character was unable to take part in the action scenes, but he was still always shown to be a useful member of the team.
Whilst the series kept everything that was great about Cushing’s Van Helsing from the films, I feel they were also able to expand on his character somewhat by exploring his relationship with his grand daughter Jessica, as well as his brother Lewis. I also really enjoyed his fatherly relationship with Ash too. Cushing and Campbell had surprisingly good chemistry.
Lorrimer marked Cushing’s final performance. He sadly died not long after the show had finished. Its somewhat fitting however that his last performance was not only one of his best, but also playing his most famous character Van Helsing.
Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell)
Reprising his role from Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, Ash is often the butt monkey of the team. Whenever they have to have someone screw up, or get hurt or captured sadly its often Ash.
Still this is in keeping with his character from the Evil Dead films. Part of Ash’s appeal was that he was a screw up with a heart of gold, and the show gives him enough heroic moments that you don’t wonder why the team keep him around at all.
Over the course of the series Ash is shown to develop a father/son relationship with Lorrimer and a romantic relationship with Ching.
Of all the main characters in the series, Ash was undoubtedly the most popular. A combination of Campbells strong performance and also the fact that Ash was a somewhat more ordinary, flawed character I think made him more accessible to audiences.
Bruce Campbell played the character of Ash in the movie Army of Darkness during the making of the series. This film was intended to bridge the gap between Evil Dead 2 in explaining how Ash got back from the middle ages. Campbell would later go on to reprise the role once again in the television series Ash vs Evil Dead.
Jessica Van Helsing (Joanna Lumley)
Reprising her role from The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Jessica Van Helsing was portrayed as more proactive in this series, being an expert on the occult and a skilled hand to hand fighter (though not as much as Ching or Kau). Joanna Lumley was of course excellent in the role and brought a real sense of sophistication and vulnerability to the character. I always enjoyed the scenes with her and Ash who she had something of a brother/sister dynamic with. Ash obviously felt like the younger, more irresponsible brother compared to Jessica.
One of ways in which Jessica’s back story was more fleshed out compared to previous appearances was through the story arc about her parents. In her previous film appearances it was never revealed why she was living with her grandfather, but in this series we find out that her parents were murdered by a Demon (with her grandfather keeping the knowledge secret from her in order to try and give her a normal life). The Demon named Azakahn in question played by David Warner would go on to be a major villain throughout the series.
Ching (Michelle Yeoh)
This character originated in the Chinese fantasy film The Heroic Trio. She was depicted initially as a villainous character who helped her evil Demonic Master capture infants. Ultimately however over the course of the film she learns the error of her ways and helps to bring the monster down. Chings guilt and shame over her previous actions as well as her dark past would play a role in shaping her character throughout this series.
Ching was by far and away the darkest character in the series. Not only through her villainous past, but even as hero she was shown to be far more brutal in dealing with her enemies and more willing to take serious risks with her team mates lives. Her relationship with Ash however would gradually show a more softer side to her however, though she would still often clash with other members of the team more often.
The role of Ching would help launch Michelle Yeoh’s career in the west. Following this she would win major roles in films such as Tomorrow Never Dies.
The character of Ching would also be featured in a sequel to The Heroic Trio called the Executioners. This film however ignored the events of this series. At the start of the series it is said that Ching parted ways with the other two members of The Heroic Trio. Overcome with guilt at what she had done whilst serving her evil Master she had a full mental breakdown. Later after her recovery she left her home city as she felt she let her sisters down and wanted to start a new.
She is later reunited with them in the second and final season with both Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung reprising their roles from the original Heroic Trio film.
Master Kau (Lam Ching Ying)
Reprising his role from the famous Mr Vampire film series, Lam Ching Ying was as excellent as ever as the Vampire busting Taoist priest. Still at times I felt that the inclusion of the “Mr Vampire” character threatened to undermine Van Helsing, as here was another older Vampire expert just like him.
Still seeing what were undoubtedly cinema’s two greatest Vampire hunters share the screen with one another was brilliant and through Kau’s expert knowledge of paranormal I feel they were able to bring in more Eastern myths about Vampires and Demons which was interesting.
Kau did not appear in the first series as a regular. He only appeared as a guest star in a single episode, but the characters popularity ensured that he would return as a regular the following year.
Lewis Van Helsing (Jon Pertwee)
Lorrimers older brother, Lewis was never a regular, but he did recur throughout the show. He and his brother were shown to have a complicated relationship.
Lewis was originally the brother who carried on their grandfather and father’s legacy. Whilst his brother Lorrimer had an interest in the occult he ultimately did not want to fall into the same harsh violent and unforgiving life that his father had. He married a woman named Lenore and had two children with her, a boy named Luke and a girl named Louise.
Unfortunately for Lorrimer his brother would occasionally ask him for help in dealing with the paranormal. Both had been raised with an extensive knowledge of the occult by their father.
The two were able to find a way to trap the legendary Demon Azakhan. Whilst Lorrimer wished to perform a spell that would banish him back to his own reality, Lewis wanted to try and find a way to destroy the Demon permanently, believing that sooner or later he would find a way to return. Sadly for Lewis, Azakhan managed to escape their trap and murdered Lorrimers children in response. Jessica who was just an infant survived the attack, simply because the Demon was unaware of her presence upstairs.
Lorrimer would take Jessica in and look after her. He didn’t speak to his brother for decades after. Ironically however at the same time Lorrimer would follow in his brothers foot steps in that he began to devote himself to studying and fighting the supernatural. He was determined not to let what happened to his children happen to anyone else.
In the series Lewis and Lorrimer end up working together again though their relationship is frosty at first, they do begin to reconcile.
Lewis Van Helsing was a great foil for Lorrimer. Pertwee and Cushing had an instant chemistry and a way of joking around with each other that was delightful, yet at the same time there were also some very tense scenes between the two men too, with it being apparent that Lorrimer would never truly forgive his brother. I also think it was one of Jon Pertwee’s best performances as on the one hand he seemed like his usual arrogant self, but underneath you could see he was a man genuinely tormented by his failure to protect his family.
Count Dracula (Christopher Lee)
The main villain from the shows first season. Christopher Lee was initially reluctant to reprise his most famous role and decided to only because he wanted to work with his old friend Peter Cushing, and realised it could be his last chance.
In this series Dracula was portrayed as a more pessimistic character longing for eternal rest. This was in keeping with his characterisation in his last film appearance “The Satanic Rites of Dracula”. Much like in that film Dracula also goes by the alias of the reclusive billionaire D.D. Denham and uses his wealth and influence against Van Helsing and the others.
Dracula’s master plan is to find a way to eliminate all the weaknesses of the Vampire in order to allow them to take over the earth, with Dracula naturally planning to kill himself before his weaknesses can be taken away.
Whilst Dracula claims that he believes his children will let him rest once they have gotten what they want, Van Helsing suspects that the Vampire king actually intends to punish them by making them unkillable and giving them control of the earth where they will have everything they could ever want as soon they will get bored. A life with no struggle, no need to work for anything, no purpose or reason, yet at the same time no end would eventually drive anyone mad.
Dracula is eventually slain in the climactic season 1 finale before his plans can be put into operation, with Lorrimer Van Helsing himself slaying the monster. The character does not return in any subsequent seasons.
Though Christopher Lee may have been reluctant to play Dracula again I actually think this was one of his best performances. He was just as menacing as ever, but he also brought a real weariness and nihilstic quality to the monster this time which was interesting. I also feel that this series gave him far more scenes with Peter Cushing than the films. Any scene with these two legendary actors is just dynamite, and the two are really able to flesh out the Van Helsing/Dracula relationship like never before. We see just how much Dracula truly hates his enemy, with it in many ways being his hatred of Van Helsing that keeps him going more than anything else.
Overall I felt his series served as a good send off to what was ultimately the most iconic version of Stokers famous Vampire alongside Bela Lugosi’s.
Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame)
The secondary antagonist of the shows first season. Neame originally played this role in the movie Dracula AD 1972 where the Vampire met his end at Van Helsings hands in a shower! Here the Vampire is said to have been revived and is now Dracula’s second in command.
Neame isn’t quite as over the top in this series as he was in Dracula AD. Though I personally loved his performance in Dracula AD I think it was probably for the best that he underplayed the Vampire in this series as it wasn’t quite as camp in tone as Dracula AD.
Alucard generally just tended to function as Dracula’s second in command, but there were a few episodes where he got to play a more central role. The villain was killed off by Ash at the end of the first season.
Darkness (Tim Curry)
The main villain of the second series. Tim Curry originally played this character in the 1985 fantasy classic Legend. Darkness’s plan is essentially the same in this series as it was in Legend. In both instances the Demon plans to block out the sun in order to allow his army of monsters to sweep the earth. Darkness I felt was an excellent choice for one of the main villains as he was not only visually stunning, but he also was a slightly more unusual choice as he was a fairy tale villain who lived in a totally fantastical environment. Seeing him suddenly transported into a big modern city was quite an interesting contrast.
Tim Curry of course was brilliant as always as the Demon and dominated any scene he was in. The make up for the beast was also every bit as stunning as it had been for Legend too.
Damien Thorn (Mark Hamill)
The main villain of the third season. Damien originally appeared in the iconic Omen film series, though this version only follows on from the first Omen film.
Here Damien is portrayed as a man and has completely embraced his Demonic side. Damien plans to bring about the apocalypse and succeeds in causing the dead to rise which serves as the story arc for season 4 after Damien is destroyed.
Mark Hamill was truly excellent in the role. In contrast to many of the more crazy and over the top villains he would later become known for playing, Damien is a more eerily subdued, calm performance. He almost doesn’t react when murdering people as it comes so naturally to him.
Bob Logan (Joe Pilato)
The 4th series doesn’t really have a singular main villain. Instead it focuses on our heroes trying to prevent a Zombie apocalypse. Still this character does play a major role in the 4th series. He is a former criminal who takes control of a group of outlaws in the town of Lebston. Lebston is the first place the Zombies take over, but our heroes soon discover that the plague is spreading.
Bob is an utter psychopath. He actually likes the Zombies as it was because of them that he was able to escape from prison. Thus he does not want the situation they have created to end. Of course ultimately he ends up getting torn to pieces by the Zombies. His death is by far and away the most gruesome of all the main villains.
The character was an obvious homage to the role of Captain Rhodes, the main villain in Day of the Dead who was also played by Joe Pilato. The entire 4th season was a massive love letter to the George A Romero Zombie films and so Pilato’s casting was really the shows ultimate tribute to their legacy.
Pilato is as good as Logan as he was as Rhodes. With Rhodes he gave us a character who seemed as though he had been driven over the edge by the horrific circumstances he found himself in. With Logan however he was more of an opportunistic psychopath who gloried in the chaos the Zombies were creating.
The Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston)
The main antagonist of the shows 5th season. Huston originally played this character in the 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s famous novel The Witches.
This series which is set many years later reveals that she was brought back to life by one of her followers. She initially tries to cast a huge spell that will transform billions of women into Witches who will slaughter their own children. She had apparently been working on this plan for centuries.
Ultimately however Van Helsing and the others foil her scheme, but she later returns to try gain control of a powerful magical artefact which has the power to rip the earth to pieces. By this point the Witch has become so insane after her masterplan was foiled that she now wants to end all life on earth. Once again however the team are able to foil her plans and use the power from the artefact to completely vaporise her into nothing.
This series greatly expanded on the Witches character and backstory. We discover that the Grand High Witch was originally a servant of Mephistopheles in life who was turned into the first of a new breed of Demon as a reward for all of the horrors she committed. As the first of her kind she would go on to transform more women into Witches like her who became her followers. The Witches were created to target children above all else.
The Witch was an excellent villain. She always terrified me in the Witches and I thought Huston was equally menacing in this series as she got to explore what it was that really made the twisted villain tick.
Mei Long (Voice of Charles Dance)
The main villain of the 6th season, Mei Long was a Dragon, brought to life through the fantastic stop motion effects of Ray Harryhausen and voiced by the wonderful Charles Dance.
The character was presented as a more sympathetic villain in that he did genuinely believe that his evil was for a greater good. He also was never shown to kill unless he had to and even mourned some of his own victims! Despite this however the character was still presented as a monster willing to slaughter billions in order to build his perfect world.
The character of Mei Long allowed the series to explore Chinese myths about Dragons and I think it was interesting particularly after the Witch to have a more sympathetic villain.
Mephistopheles (Clancy Brown)
The main villain of the 7th and final season. Mephistopheles is presented as the ultimate evil behind many of the shows other monster races. Clancy Brown was of course the perfect choice for such a villain.
It was a shame that they didn’t use a famous film monster for the final season, but still I think that Mephistopheles served as a brilliant foe for the series to finish on. His character was fairly straight forward, but Brown’s undeniable screen presence really helped to elevate the character and help him live up to being the baddest of the bad.
Azakhan (David Warner)
One of the shows most recurring villains. Azakhan was never one of the shows main villains, but he did play an important role in the Van Helsing’s story arc.
Azakhan is a Demonic trickster. He loves stirring up trouble between human beings and watching them fight with one another. Unlike many other Demons in the series he does not wish to destroy humanity, describing them as his favourite play things. He even in one instance aids the team in battling a threat to the world as a result.
Azakhan is responsible for the deaths of Jessica’s parents, as well as Lorrimer’s son and daughter.
He murders them after Lorrimer and Lewis capture Azakhan. Whilst Lorrimer wishes to banish the Demon back to hell, Lewis instead wants to try and find a way to vanquish him. Unfortunately Lewis underestimates Azakhan and he manages to escape after which he kills both of Lorrimers children, including Jessica’s mother as well as her husband.
It is later revealed that Azakhan did this in the hopes of making Lorrimer turn on his brother, rather than just as an act of vengeance.
This was kept secret from Jessica who was just a baby at the time for many years until the start of the series.
Azakhan I think was a brilliant foe for the Van Helsing family. Much like Dracula his feud with them was personal, though he was more of an archenemy to Jessica above all else. David Warner was brilliant as the character and brought a real playful, yet sadistic quality to the villain.
Susan Irvine (Jane Horrocks)
A recurring character throughout the shows 5th season. Irvine originated in the 1990 film adaptation of the Witches. She was originally a Witch who at the end of the film turns good and transforms Luke from a mouse back into a young boy.
In this series set many years later Irvine is trying to atone for her crimes and helps the main characters against the Witch. Her backstory is also revealed. She was turned into a Witch by the Grand High Witch herself. The Grand High Witch did not wish to turn her originally. The Witches generally tend to seek out women who have darkness in their hearts already to turn into members of their own kind.
In Irvine’s case however they made an exception as at that point they were low in number and desperate. Irvine after being turned was told to murder her own child by the Grand High Witch, but she could not do it. The Grand High Witch thought about desposing of her for this, but decided to spare Irvine when she realised that if Irvine managed to resist their dark magic then it might send a message that good is stronger than evil.
Thus she became more determined to break her and drag her down to their level. She eventually succeeded and Irvine became just another evil Witch until the Grand High Witch herself was slain (at the end of the events of the Witches). Finally free from her influence, Irvine would try and atone for her past sings, first by curing Luke and then by using her powers to battle other Witches across the world.
In this series she is shown to work alongside a now grown up Luke, as both seek to finally destroy the Witch. She is later forced to sacrifice herself to help foil the monsters plans.
I’d rank Irvine as Horrock’s best performance. The character is one of the most interesting aspects of the shows 5th season as we see her struggle to try and find redemption. The sequence where she is haunted by the ghosts of the children she helped to murder is by far and away one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire series.
I also really liked her friendship with Ching. The two characters at first could not seem more different, but ultimately both were able to bond over the fact that the two women had once been enslaved to an evil monster and were now trying to make up for it.
Luke Eveshim (Simon Pegg)
The main protagonist from the Witches. In this series set many years later the character is now an adult, who has been hunting Witches (and other supernatural creatures) for the past few decades.
The series states that his grandmother passed away in her sleep a few years after the Witches, after which he would later reunite with Irvine who would go on to raise him as her own. Throughout the series Luke is still shown to view Irvine as a mother figure.
Luke recurs throughout the shows 5 and 7th seasons. He was quite an interesting link to the original Witches film, but overall I felt that the character didn’t really stand out as much as he was often just another monster expert. I did enjoy Simon Pegg’s performance. He showed promise even from this very early stage in his career. I also liked Luke’s relationship with Irvine too. At times it could feel a little bit odd as Simon Pegg was close to the same age as Jane Horrocks herself (as her character did not age). Still I think the two had a great chemistry and the final moment between Luke and Irvine is definitely one of the most moving moments in the entire series. Poor Luke loses three mothers essentially, his real mother, his grandmother and finally Irvine.
Professor Victor Frankenstein (Brian Cox)
One of horrors most iconic characters overall. Professor Frankenstein is more of a minor recurring foe throughout the series. This version of the character was clearly based on Peter Cushing’s version of Frankenstein. He is depicted as a villain who has kept himself alive for over 100 years by transplanting his brain into other people’s bodies when they break down.
Over the years the Professor is said to have been behind many great technical advances for the human race, though at the same time he also worked with the Nazi’s too and was responsible for many of their greatest weapons.
It is hinted that he is the same version as Peter Cushing’s but it is never conformed. Whilst Frankenstein was never a major villain, I still enjoyed Brian Cox’s performance. He wasn’t quite the evil bastard that Cushing was, but still he really captured the characters fanaticism and ruthlessness.
Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie)
A recurring character who appeared in the shows 2nd and final seasons. Jareth originally appeared in the Jim Henson classic “Labyrinth”. This version of the character however is shown to be more sympathetic.
It is said that Jareth has since abandoned being the king of the Goblins and has now settled down and married a woman named Catherine (played by Katey Sagal) with whom he has a son. Unfortunately for Jareth Darkness plans to murder him in order to gain control of his Goblin kingdom. Whoever kills the king of the Goblins will take his place. Though the team try and protect Jareth and his family, ultimately Darkness proves to be too strong and Jareth is forced to go back to being the king of the Goblins in order to protect his wife and son.
He later returns in the final season to help the team against Mephistopheles. Jareth was an odd choice for the show. He was a fairy tale villain, and also whilst Labyrinth was not a kids film, the puppets he commanded over would have looked out of place in this show. Its for this reason that perhaps not surprisingly the puppets only appear fleetingly.
Still Jareth’s first appearance is a truly brilliant episode. David Bowie really gives it his all as Jareth is put through an emotional rollercoaster when he is ripped from his ordinary life by Darkness and forced to return to a world he hates.
Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund)
A minor recurring villain, Krueger appears in just 6 episodes, but he was in 3 seasons overall.
The character remained completely true to his film portrayals, with Englund even reprising his role.
Though he was only used fleetingly personally I enjoyed all of his appearances and would rank him as one of the best villains of the series.
Top 10 Episodes
10/ The King of Goblins
From the second season, this episode sees Darkness attempt to kill Jareth the king of the Goblins from our reality in order to gain control of them to use in his plans. It is said whoever kills the King of the Goblins will take control of his forces.
Unfortunately Jareth had left the kingdom of the Goblins many years ago. He grew tired of them and fled to the world of man where he fell in love with a human woman named Catherine (played by Katey Sagal). The team have to protect Jareth from Darkness, but eventually Jareth realises that the only way he can ensure his family (who Darkness targets) safety is to return to the kingdom of the Goblins and use their power to protect his loved ones.
There are some problems with this episode. Namely the Goblins from Labyrinth who look a bit out of place in the final scene (which is the only sequence they appear). Still overall this episode has to rank as one of the best purely down to David Bowie’s performance. The final showdown between Darkness and Jareth is also one of the best sequences in the series.
Seeing David Bowie and Tim Curry in the same scene alone is enough to make this episode brilliant.
9/ The Rise of the Anti Christ
The season 3 finale, this episode sees Azakhan and the team mount an unlikely alliance to stop Damien from unleashing the four horsemen of the apocalypse who are revealed to be destructive forces rather than individual monsters.
I liked this episode for many reasons. It was great having to watch the Van Helsing’s team up with the monster that destroyed their lives. Warner plays it brilliantly the way Azakhan relishes in the fact that the Van Helsings can’t lay a finger on him when they want to tear him to bits.
Mark Hamill is also excellent as Damien too. He seems completely in control and 5 steps ahead of our heroes and even Azakhan throughout the episode.
I also like the way this episode leads into the next series. After Damien is destroyed it becomes apparent to the audience (though not the main characters) that the death force has been unleashed which is what ultimately creates the Zombies in season 4.
8/ The Undead Assassin
A season 1 episode, and the first appearance of Lam Ching Ying’s Mr Vampire in the series. In this episode Dracula sends for a notorious Jiang Shi breed of Vampire to finish off Van Helsing and his friends. This Jiang Shi though still largely as single minded as an animal, nevertheless possess limited intelligence which has allowed it to become a famous assassin.
The Jiang Shi is as an almost unstoppable monster forcing Ching to call for her old friend Kau to help them deal with it. Even with Kau’s help however the Jiang Shi proves to be a truly formidable adversary.
I’ve always loved hopping Vampire films and this episode really tries to capture the spirit of the Mr Vampire movies as best it can. The Jiang Shi is like a Vampiric Terminator the way it just plows through absolutely everything and the final fight with Kau directing the team to slay it is amazing.
7/ No Escape From A Ghost Town
From season 4, this is the last appearance of Logan in the series and probably his best. With his “empire” fallen, Logan and the last of his followers manage to capture Ash and issue a challenge to the rest of the team to try and find him. The only problem aside from the Zombies is the fact that the government intends to bomb the town in a few hours.
I loved this episode so much. Its a nice twist the way Ching is the most determined to save Ash considering how she is normally the most ruthless member of the team. It really shows how much she cares about him.
Joe Pilato is truly excellent. His character just goes completely off the rails in this episode. The scenes where he tortures Ash are really quite brutal, but this just makes his death all the more satisfying when Ash blows his knee caps off with his boom stick and leaves him to be torn to pieces.
6/ The Cursed Castle
From season 5, this episode sees the Grand High Witch trap Van Helsing and Ching in a painting of a castle along with a powerful Demon. The two also discover an old man in the castle who says that he was trapped here as a child.
The episode plays around an idea from Dahl’s original book and the film adaptation of the Witches trapping children in paintings. It was always by far and away one of the most disturbing aspects of both the film and the book and here we are taken into the idea in a much greater detail.
The man Van Helsing and Ching encounter in the painting is completely insane. It is revealed via flashback how the Grand High Witch herself snatched him as a boy. She approached him when he was playing in his garden. The boy only went with her because she knew his name. The Witch of course then trapped him in a painting of a castle where he has remained ever since. The man has gone completely insane, having been trapped in one little castle, with no company, no forms of entertainment but still being able to see the outside world for over 70 years.
Its probably the most genuinely frightening episode with the flashback scenes of the Witch luring the boy away never failing to send a shiver down my spine.
5/ World of the Dead
A two parter from season 1, this episode sees a sorcerer travel backwards in time to try and slay Dracula before he manages to find a way to remove the Vampires weaknesses which allows them to take over the world.
Her plan fails however despite the team helping her. Things become more complicated when the spell that sent her back in time wears off and she is brought back to the future along with the rest of the team who are near her at the time.
The second part of the episode sees our heroes have to survive in the Vampire ruled future before they are able to travel backwards in time. The spell that sends them back does not wear off in their case as they travel back to their correct time.
This episode though a little far fetched, (even by the standards of the show) is still a thrilling adventure. My favourite part is definitely when we see the Vampire ruled future. Its kind of a loose adaptation of I Am Legend in a way.
Dracula still rules the Vampires in the future. We find out that one of Dracula’s worst enemies injected him with his own serum before he could kill himself in order to condemn him to the eternal life her feared. As a result of this Dracula is even more crazed and ruthless in the future than ever before. Here Lee gets a chance to revisit his more feral, crazed version of the character. Up until now his Dracula was more reserved, more of a mastermind, but his performance in this movie is akin to Scars of Dracula with the Vampire being absolutely out of control at this point.
4/ Darkness Rising
The first episode of season 2 that introduces Darkness to the show. The gang are alerted when a new group of Goblins and Demons unlike any from our reality start appearing. They later discover from the last of the sorcerers who accidentally brought him into our universe, that the monsters are the creation of a Demon overlord, Darkness.
The build up to Darkness’s appearance is great as we initially only hear Tim Curry’s booming voice coming down the corridors in the flashback when he first arrives in our universe and starts slaughtering the sorcerers who brought him here.
When he finally does appear its an incredible sequence. He curb stomps Ching, and tears Ash’s chainsaw hand clean off and smashes it to bits!
The gang also fail to save the last of the sorcerers who accidentally brought Darkness into our universe. The fact that he is one of the few monsters who completely defeats them really helps to set him up as a legitimate menace for the rest of the season.
My favourite moment is when Darkness murders the last of the sorcerers who brought him into this world and she begs for mercy, telling Darkness that he owes her as he would still be trapped in the nothingness between worlds if it were not for her. Darkness responds that he knows and that’s why he is killing her now to spare her living in the world he intends to create.
3/ Demons of the Past
The first story of the entire series, this two part episode does a great job of setting the series up. The Deadites serve as the main villains of the episode (though from the start its obvious that there is something else at play here, which fans of Satanic Rites of Dracula will recognise as the Count. D. D. Denham!)
Still the Deadites are their usual, crazy, disgusting selves and there are some nice call backs to the first two Evil Dead films. Its probably one of Bruce Campbell’s best acting performances as he gets to show a more sensitive and caring side to Ash . Later episodes portray him as more of a goofball and an idiot but in this episode I feel Bruce Campbell is able to flesh him out a bit and portray Ash as a more conflicted, tormented character struggling to get over the horrors of his past.
2/ The Evil Master
A sequel to The Heroic Trio, this season 3 episode sees Ching reunited with her two comrades to face her old archenemy, the Evil Master.
In The Heroic Trio, The Evil Master was capturing infants in the hopes of transforming one of them who was destined to be the Emperor into a Demon and rule through him. Here it is revealed that the Master was in fact serving a higher level Demon himself.
This Demon would have been born into our world (which it could easily have taken over) through one of the infants, with the others becoming his army. The Master had been preparing this plan for centuries but ultimately he failed thanks to the efforts of the Trio who saved the babies and vanquished him.
As a punishment he was sealed at the bottom of the darkest, deepest pit of hell. However the Evil Master manages to escape and travel back to our world as a spirit. Here he plans to not only avenge himself on the Trio but also through magic trick the Demon into thinking that Ching is the Master so she will be taken to hell instead.
This episode is a great sequel to the original film. Maggie Cheung and Anita Muih are on top form as usual and there are some touching moments between the three women. This episode also really explores Ching’s dark past like never before when the Evil Master in an effort to torture her, shows her what became of the family whose child she accidentally caused the death of in the first trio film. Its probably Yeoh’s best performance in the entire series as being made to face the consequences of her actions absolutely destroys her.
The other two members of the Trio who continue crime fighting at the end of this episode would go on to appear in more episodes of the later series, but I’d say this was their strongest appearance in the show.
1/ The Witch’s Redemption
The final appearance of Irvine in the series. This episode sees her die whilst helping the team foil the Grand High Witch’s plan to turn billions of women into Witches.
There’s some really stunning visuals in this episode and the Witches look absolutely terrifying too. Anjelica Huston is mesmerising as always as the Witch, but I think its really Jane Horrocks who steals the show.
Her characters death brings her story full circle and is definitely one of the most moving moments in the series. Whilst her character may have been a canon foreigner in the film that displeased Roald Dahl; ironically I think she was one of the best things in this series.
Spook Catchers I feel maintained a consistent quality right the way through its run. It benefited from having not only fantastic leading characters, but effective villains too.
However having said that I do feel that the earlier series were perhaps somewhat stronger. I think that the problem with some of the later series for me was that they tended to focus too much on the relationship between Ching and Ash at the expense of both the other characters and the fantasy elements.
The earlier years I feel managed to balance all 4 and later 5 leads quite well. I didn’t dislike the romance between Ching and Ash. I can see why it was so popular with the fans. Yeoh and Campbell had brilliant chemistry with one another and their relationship helped to show a softer side to both characters which was quite nice, but sadly I think it did take over the show to an extent.
Still it must be said that all of the character got their chance to shine and they all played off of each other brilliantly too.
The best thing that can be said for the series however was the way it managed to blend so many different types of characters and stories together. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are a totally different generation and style to Bruce Campbell, whilst the likes of Legend and The Heroic Trio are totally different genres to horror. Still the series managed to find a way to blend them all together to great effect. It embraced their differences, it used them in the case of the main characters to provide an interesting source of conflict. We had the rash and impulsive Ash play opposite the reserved and sophisticated Van Helsing, the ruthless Ching clash with the more compassionate Jessica.
The wide range of monsters from fairy tale creatures like Darkness, to classic Gothic horror characters such as Dracula, to supervillains such as The Evil Master, to villains from children’s books such as The Grand High Witch allowed the series in turn to have a great variation in terms of stories and constantly reinvent itself as well.
Overall I’d rank the series as a classic. It featured some of the best performances from the most iconic stars of the genre and managed to bring together a large assortment of different characters and worlds in an interesting way.
Legacy and Sequels
Spook Catchers would prove to be very influential on subsequent series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.It was the first series to feature story arcs that focused on a singular villain every season. This formula would later be popularised by Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the Big Bad formula. The show also along with Babylon 5 helped to popularise story arcs in general among genre series.
The producers of Once Upon A Time have also cited the series as an influence too, stating that they tried to emulate its style of bringing different characters from classic stories together in the same universe.
Spook Catchers would also spawn a few sequels and follow ups too. Ash vs The Evil Dead would premier in 2015 almost 30 years after Spook Catchers. It is conformed to be a sequel by the producers, though there haven’t been as many references to the original series so far, this series establishes that Ash at some point left the team after Van Helsings death, with his relationship with Ching coming to an end.
Finally three specials centred on the character of Jessica Van Helsing aired in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Joanna Lumley reprised her role, though none of the other cast members were featured but events from the show were frequently referenced.
Thanks for reading.