The Beast Below
SynopsisA childlike, although physically powerful Immortal named Ursa, whom MacLeod once saved from angry peasants during the early 17th century, has turned up again, lurking in the caverns beneath the Paris Opera. Ursa becomes obsessed with Carolyn, a self-centered diva who manipulates his affections and tries to use him to eliminate people she perceives as threats to her comeback. MacLeod has to stop him before he kills again, but he is loath to kill Ursa, believing that he is not evil at heart. There is also a subplot involving Ursa's kidnapping of Richie's girlfriend, a young singer in Carolyn's company whose beauty and talent incite the older woman to jealous rage.
ReviewThe Beast Below is easily the worst of the Darius episodes. I find it difficult to take this episode seriously because it is such a blatant ripoff of Phantom of the Opera, with the wild wood-wose Ursa subbing for the disfigured Phantom and a washed-up lounge singer as the object of his desires. The writers probably meant it as a tribute, but the concept simply doesn't work for me.
This is the first time we see an Immortal who is mentally challenged, and the writers could have taken the opportunity to deal with that issue in a thoughtful and intelligent way. They eventually got around to the subject again in Season 4 in The Innocent, and made a better job of it then. But in Beast we are stuck with a tired, worn-out horror movie plot complete with a fair heroine who must be rescued from the clutches of the monster and irate villagers carrying pitchforks in the flashback. And although Dee Dee Bridgewater has a splendid voice and striking looks, her inability to act is a distraction. She is a natural actress when she sings, but has not learned to translate this into a straight acting role yet. Other musicians who guest starred on Highlander, such as Roland Gift, Joan Jett, and Roger Daltrey, seemed to make the transition more easily in their respective episodes.
The main reason I still watch The Beast Below is because it contains the wonderfully funny scene in which Darius serves Duncan tea at the rectory and Duncan spews it all over the table after Darius tells him it is made from a mold form. This priceless moment is worth more than the rest of the episode put together. The Garnier Opera building itself is also worth a look, especially the Chagall ceiling, the grand interiors, and the caverns which are actually located beneath the building. The fight between Ursa and Duncan on the roof of the Opera was every bit as dangerous for the actors in real life as it looked onscreen, partly due to the inebriated condition of the actor who played Ursa. Glimpses of the High Gothic chapel at the Abbaye de Chaalis and the beautiful Forêt de Ermenonville also provided wonderful backdrops for several scenes. Purely for the sake of the Darius moment and the views, I rate the episode at 2 stars.
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(This page last updated 02/28/2002)