SynopsisDuncan's friend, High Fitzcairn, turns up at the barge to tell Duncan that some of his Immortal friends have "gone missing", including a mutual acquaintance, Thackery. Duncan recalls that Darius had spoken of having a dream about Thackery, which was also about his own death. He and Fitz rush to the church to find that Darius has been beheaded in the sanctuary. The two set out to find the killers, but Fitz is kidnapped when he and Duncan separate. Duncan searches the rectory for clues, and finds an old book Darius has hidden for him, marked with Duncan's clan colors. Thus Duncan learns about the Watchers, a secret organization that observes Immortals and records their history. He saves Fitz from the Watchers who killed Darius, but their leader James Horton escapes. Duncan has Darius' body cremated and sprinkles the ashes into the Seine before continuing the quest to find the murderers.
ReviewI'd give a lot to see the original script for The Hunters, so I could imagine what the episode might have been like if Werner Stocker had been able to participate. The script that was actually shot was a hasty re-write done in 36 hours, and considering the circumstances, it is a remarkably effective piece of work. There are flaws, but the episode rides on a wave of powerful emotion, and the flaws do not spoil the effect.
The death of Darius in the last show of the season was planned early in the season. Darius was always supposed to die in The Hunters, just not so quickly. In the original script, Darius' role was much larger, and Hugh Fitzcairn was the one who died at the beginning of the episode. Donna Letto, who worked as a writer on Highlander, revealed in a post to the alt.tv.highlander newsgroup that it was Darius, rather than Richie, who was originally intended to come to Duncan's aid when he was attacked by renegade Watchers in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Sully. According to Donna, the peaceful Darius would have astonished us all by leaving Holy Ground and laying into the bad guys with a quarterstaff. In addition, she said that Darius was to have jumped a turnstile because he had no money for a Metro ticket to get there, only to feel guilty about it afterwards.
But just before shooting was to commence, head writer David Abramowitz learned that Werner Stocker was gravely ill in hospital and would not be able to film the episode. (Werner had apparently been ill for some time--Adrian Paul stated in the Season 1 audio tapes that Werner had mentioned to him that he wasn't feeling well, but no one involved with the show suspected that his illness was terminal). Werner's absence meant that David had to quickly rewrite the entire episode so that Darius died at the beginning and Fitz survived to help Duncan search for the killers. Werner's brief appearance in The Hunters consisted of recycled footage from the previous four episodes he appeared in. Werner died in May 1993, shortly after The Hunters was made. It seems a cruel irony that one of his last roles was that of an Immortal who could never have suffered from a terminal illness like cancer. The possibility that he might have known while he was playing Darius that he himself was dying is a terrible thing to contemplate.
Watching The Hunters, I get the distinct impression that the concept of The Watchers had not completely gelled when this episode was written. If the Hunters were also Watchers, they should have had a good idea of who was Immortal and who was not, and should not have had to rely on guesswork, or perform a trial by crossbow to find out. One also wonders why a man as intelligent as Horton would risk killing Darius in broad daylight in as public a place as the church and leave the headless body lying about. Surely it would have made more sense to kidnap the priest so they might question and kill him in the relative safety of their hideout, as they intended to do with Fitz. One also wonders what the Watchers of the other slain Immortals were doing when they were killed, unless the Hunters decoyed them away, but the issue is never addressed in the episode.
What we are left with, for the most part, is Duncan's grief and anger, and this is what drives the episode and makes it work. When I first saw Duncan screaming Darius' name in the church, I thought it was overdone, a bit too much. But real grief can be just like this--raw and unrestrained, and in that instant, he is all of us, shocked at the injustice of this good man's death. From this moment on, who cares if there are holes in the plot? We want, as Duncan does, to find who did this and rip their hearts out with our bare hands. Then there will be a time to mourn. But even in the midst of his urgent quest, Duncan remembers moments Darius and he had shared together. The scene at the rectory where Duncan searches for clues and keeps getting lost in the memories is about as gut-wrenching a scene as I have ever witnessed.
The fight scenes, too, are painful to watch, as the Hunters of course do not play by the Rules and will not listen to reason. There is a real sense of danger in the cellar fight scene as Duncan desperately tries to stay alive long enough to save Fitz from the guillotine and get at Horton. Fitz's rescue is the only satisfaction we get out of it--Horton gets away and we are cheated of our revenge. But Fitz's survival turned out to be a boon to the series. Played by Roger Daltrey with humor, gallantry and panache, Fitz became a much-beloved addition to the guest cast in following seasons, the best thing to come out of this traumatic episode. Peter Hudson, who played the despicable Horton, was also a great discovery. He eventually was granted a kind of immortality--the self-styled "Man You Cannot Kill" became the personification of the demon Ahriman at the end of Season Five.
The first season audio tapes tell us that Adrian was so choked up during the scene where he sprinkles Darius' ashes into the Seine that the lines could not be understood and had to be redubbed later in the studio. At the time the scene was filmed, Werner was still alive, and none of the cast or crew knew that he would eventually die. Be that as it may, it is impossible for me to watch this scene and not feel that I am mourning for the loss of two, not one. And it makes me wish to believe, as Darius did, that there is something after death, and that something beyond mere memory survives. I find this episode very difficult to watch, but even so, I think it rates 4 stars.
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 11/23/2003)