The Big Trip, Day 15: Orleans to Calais, via a detour into Paris

Distance covered today: 261 miles

Total distance covered: 1883 miles

I have a nice night wandering round Orleans after my couple of drinks in L’Hendrix Pub. I may not be sorted in my head after all my recent trauma, but every so often I have to take a moment to remind myself what I’ve achieved here. I’m travelling! What I’ve always wanted to do! I’ve experienced great chunks of three countries in a couple of weeks (remember Andorra’s a country too)! Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 15: Orleans to Calais, via a detour into Paris”

The Big Trip, Day 13: On the road again, to Millau

Distance covered today: 250 miles

Total distance covered: 1301 miles

Leaving Barcelona is very hard.

Partly because I’m leaving Tom of course, though arguably until my head is more sorted out, a bit of distance between us is best. But it’s also that, after a week, I’ve really started to feel at home here. I know my way about, my Spanish has improved from non-existent to basic, and it’s warm. While  I’m still on an adventure, it lowers my spirits to know that I’m back driving north. Into winter. Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 13: On the road again, to Millau”

The Big Trip, Day 12: Barcelona – is this now?

It’s raining again.

By now this isn’t much of a surprise. After all, it was starting last night, when we sank into sleep listening to Elvis singing American Trilogy at about 1am after cans of both Estrella and San Miguel. But this is some serious rain, thundering off the van’s plastic roof loudly enough to drown out any music you might want to listen to. Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 12: Barcelona – is this now?”

The Big Trip, Day 11: Barcelona, still, but some rays of sunshine

After the gloomy, rainy recent days, it’s a relief when we wake and squint, bleary eyed, through the windscreen at a recently absent friend – sunlight. I can’t help feeling the high drama of the past couple of days has been accentuated by the gloomy weather. Even so, it’s never been less than about 15 degrees C, a lot warmer than back home. Tom, who’s been here for a month now, thinks this is “chilly”. Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 11: Barcelona, still, but some rays of sunshine”

The Big Trip, Day 10: Barcelona – after the storm

We don’t get much time to rest after the tumultuous events of last night. I have to be awake at 8am, because the previous day I’d called the RAC European breakdown service to get the van’s grease-leaking front wheel bearing looked at. They’d seemed quite efficient, and had promised that a mechanic would be there at 8am Monday. Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 10: Barcelona – after the storm”

The Big Trip, Day 9: another rainy day in Barcelona, and I face some difficult truths

After my first decent night’s van sleep in Barcelona so far, I wake yet again to the sound of rain pattering off the fibreglass roof. Huh, I’ve come all the way to southern Spain, and I’ve brought the winter with me. Continue reading “The Big Trip, Day 9: another rainy day in Barcelona, and I face some difficult truths”

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 6–Puppy Love

“If people find out about about vampires, werewolves and ghosts, there’ll be lynchings. There’ll be riots. It’ll be like the tuition fees march all over again.”


With, presumably, the last two episodes of the series earmarked for the climax to this year’s Big Plot, this week’s Being Human felt like a bit of light relief. It was perhaps the first true standalone episode this year, in the sense that it could be removed from the series as a whole without making a difference to the overall story. But it was more than just filler; it now feels like we’re properly bedded in with the new characters, and this gave all three of the gang a chance to flex their comic muscles with more than a hint of pathos. And for a wonder, we actually got a script that wrote Tom as more than a one-dimensional comic relief idiot, which truly was a relief.

Obviously, the events this week were spurred by the Big Plot, as geeky teenage werewolf Allison set out to find Tom after seeing him on Cutler’s now widely viewed YouTube video. It was also the first time our less than internet-savvy gang got to find out about this (“Don’t tell me you’re still on MySpace,” sighed Allison at their blank incomprehension of the word ‘Facebook’).

Cutler too was having problems, as a comedy trio of 80s style vampires turned up at the warehouse to usurp his ‘management’ for the Old Ones. These were fun, but obviously one shot characters from the start. Golda (Amanda Abbington) was like the worst boss you’ve ever had (“If you don’t like it, complain to your line manager. Oh wait – that’s me.”), and her eventual comeuppance was like a bit of wish fulfilment for every downtrodden employee. For once, in fact, you found yourself rooting for Cutler, as his typically Machiavellian schemes drew Tom and Allison into doing his dirty work.

Meanwhile, Hal was being played for laughs more than Tom this week, as his OCD rituals struggled to compete with the temptation of sultry Scots tomboy Alex (Kate Bracken). The story actually drew heavily on both of the guys’ awkwardness with women, and of the two, Hal seemed to draw the short straw. His quiet serenity at rearranging the eggs in order of size interrupted by a girl who actually fancied him, he was stuck with a distinctly old-fashioned view of ‘courting’. “Write her a poem, then go and speak with her father,” was his advice to Tom on the matter, while Annie’s view was “get her drunk and snog her”. It can be funny that Hal has so singularly failed to move with the times, but there was possibly a bit much of that here – at least he eventually reminded us that he’d “seduced thousands of women”, although that felt more like a hollow boast by Julio Iglesias.

Just so everyone had an equal share of the action, Annie was stuck babysitting a cantankerous, pervy old ghost, after she accidentally killed him in the mistaken belief that he was trying to kill Eve. Anthony O’Donnell was surprisingly likeable as the Rigsby-alike old git, who made for a suitably comic house guest as the boys’ action unfolded around him. It’s noticeable that, of all the varieties of supernaturals in the show, the ghosts seem to have been given shortest shrift lately in terms of their mythology; so it was nice to get back to the world of redemption and Doors into the afterlife.

Mind you, it did feel like a bit of a disconnect that there was no mention of Annie’s recent, unanticipated relish for killing, in the wake of what happened with Kirby. After the portentous dialogue last week about that, I would have expected some reference to it after Annie, however accidentally, killed again. A more eagle-eyed script editor might have spotted that, and put in at least one line acknowledging it.

After much of the usual leching after Annie, it transpired that Emrys’ unresolved issue was to psychically torment his loathed ex-wife and her too-cutesy piano teacher husband. After a previous (and amusing) bit of misunderstanding in which Annie mistook a cupboard for Emrys’ Door, his real Door finally materialised. This led to much talk along the lines of “when you get your Door”, which seemed a little odd; Annie has already passed up one Door to save Mitchell, then been dragged involuntarily through another, from which Mitchell rescued her. I’ve got a feeling that for her, as far as Doors are concerned, the regular rules no longer apply. But it was surely a significant bit of foretelling as Emrys pointed out that her redemption might not necessarily involve doing something “good”. I’ve got a feeling that’ll come back to haunt her (so to speak) by the end of the series. And with all this talk of Annie moving on, are the showrunners preparing for her to leave too?

However, the heart of the episode (hence the title) was Tom’s burgeoning romance with Allison. Ellie Kendrick was genuinely sweet as the gawky teenage weregirl, making a character that could have seemed like a cardboard copy of Ab Fab’s Saffy believable and charming. She also got some proper character development, as she went from Blue Peter badge-wielding debating champion to eager vampire slayer – a development Tom was none too keen on. The montage of her ‘training’ in vampire killing, to the title tune of ‘Puppy Love’ was fun and sweet, but in the end maybe she was too light a character to be kept on.

That’s a shame, as the rapport between her and Tom worked well. Michael Socha rose to the challenge perfectly as his character was finally written as a shy, sensitive virgin however many vampires he may have killed. His final, all-too-transparent pushing away of Allison was a little heartbreaking; she felt like a character who could have stayed on. But then so did Emrys. And Adam, last week. It’s notable that the ‘guest’ characters this year have been so memorable that they felt like potential additions to the main cast; possibly an indication of a show in transition. Or, if you’re one of those (and there’s quite a few) who simply haven’t taken to the new characters at all, an indication that the main cast aren’t as interesting as those around them.

This was, ultimately, a fun and amusing romp of an episode. It was never less than entertaining, and made me laugh a lot, but was really pretty forgettable. It was chiefly notable for giving Tom some proper character action, and for the foreshadowings of the climax to the Big Plot, as future-Eve appeared through Emrys’ door and made herself known to Annie. A ‘filler’ episode then, but a rather enjoyable one. This may be Being Human on auto-pilot, but it’s still miles better than a lot of other cult TV shows on right now.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 5–Hold the Front Page

“He’s not the Nemesis. He’s far too much of a nob.”


Yay, Adam’s back!

After last year’s endearingly obnoxious portrayal of the 47 year old vampire forever caught in a teenage boy’s body, it was great to see the excellent Craig Roberts return to Honolulu Heights this week. With his charmless innuendo, teenage awkwardness and outdated 80s pop culture references, Adam was an instant hit last year; as a result, you couldn’t help feeling that bringing him back was something of a fan pleasing move, when the show still seems a little uncertain with its new formula.

Nonetheless, this fan was pleased to see Adam back. After his enjoyable reprise of the role in last year’s webseries Becoming Human, Craig Roberts slipped back into the role as comfortably as an old pair of shoes. The 80s references were present and correct from the outset as, on first meeting Tom, he instantly referred to him as “Littlest Hobo”. There’s an amusing interview with Craig Roberts in SFX, in which the actor confesses (with much the same sweariness as his character) that he didn’t know half the references himself. Thankfully the interviewer is able to fill him in on who exactly Suzi Quatro is…

Adam was accompanied by his latest conquest, an ever-so-proper girls’ school headmistress called Yvonne Bradshaw. Selina Griffiths as Yvonne gave the character an amusing comedic rapport first with Adam and then with the rest of the household. Her initial, rather kinky, teacher/schoolboy relationship with Adam was genuinely funny, as his crudities were met with a clip round the ear to which he responded, “sorry, miss.”

But there was obviously something a bit odd about Yvonne from the outset, signalled pretty clearly by the fact that she could see Annie. Mind you, Annie was being a little careless in her assumption that she was invisible to Yvonne – if she actually had been, Yvonne would have been confronted with the image of a baby floating in midair.

Yvonne was obviously something supernatural then, and as soon as she began telling her seemingly exaggerated stories of her irresistibility to men, the penny must have dropped for any fan of horror stories. When Tom started to make puppy eyes at her after she touched him, it was obvious – Yvonne was a succubus. The offspring of a demon and a human, she was cursed to bewitch every man she touched, then kill them with the act of what Annie tactfully whispered as, “s..x”.

Now, granted, not every casual viewer is likely to be as aware of succubi as they are of vampires and werewolves, so for some Yvonne’s identity may have come as something of a surprise. But, I have to say, not for me – even The X Files once featured a succubus chasing poor old Walter Skinner. And even if the viewer didn’t know the name of what she was, I have to say that we’ve seen this plot before in all manner of genre shows – mysterious female inveigles her way into ensemble cast, setting all the men against each other by bewitching them with desire. It’s been done on shows as varied as Red Dwarf, Deep Space Nine and Futurama. It is, in short, a cliche that’s already been richly parodied.

The fun to be had in this episode, then, was seeing how  the Being Human gang reacted in a situation which is already familiar to your average fanboy. And, fair enough, there was some fun to be had here. Hal’s reaction to first Adam and then Yvonne was pretty amusing; Adam being less than impressed with Hal’s status as an Old One was soon followed by Hal’s Lestat-lite courting of Yvonne once she’d finally touched him. Recalling his conquest of a girl in the 17th century (“I gave her a thousand tulips”), he followed it up by quoting one of Keats’ love letters, which Adam could only counter with, “there was a young girl from South China…” The whole scene was a spot on parody of lovelorn, Twilight-style vampires, nicely skewering that particular cliche which is still being mined by True Blood. It was almost a shame that it turned out to be a fevered dream of Hal’s, though that was pretty clear from the moment he appeared to have killed Tom.

Tom, for his part, was once again the broader comic relief. Not only did he moon after Yvonne for most of the episode (his sexual fantasy of her as a barrister quoting nonsensical Latin was a highlight), he also again proved himself utterly useless at dealing with the wider world in his doorstep ‘interview’ with the scandal-hungry journos camped outside the B&B. “Piss sticks!” was his response to a query about Adam’s non-appearance in photos as he mindlessly repeated everything the unseen Annie said to him.

I must admit, I’m really starting to get irritated with using the character as this kind of comic relief. I get that Tom is meant to be an innocent, with a sheltered, old-fashioned upbringing that can sometimes cause social awkwardness. That’s kind of cute (as was Michael Socha appearing in nothing but his boxers initially). The trouble is, the show’s writers seem to be interpreting this as ‘Tom is a complete moron’. While that does make for some good comedy, it doesn’t make for a believable, sympathetic character, something Tom certainly was last year. Michael Socha is capable of more than broad comedy, and I’m hoping the writers give him something a bit more serious to do soon.

The strengths and weaknesses of the characters were, if anything, magnified by the fact that the story took place almost entirely within the confines of Honolulu Heights. In some ways, that was a good thing; I like that we’re truly beginning to see the new gang as a proper household, with Hal doing the washing up (“marigolds”) and all taking turns to mind the baby. It was also (as usual in this kind of story) the lone woman who spotted something was amiss.

Lenora Critchlow once again got many of the episode’s best scenes and lines, alternating between comedy moments (“I could have been in catalogue when I was 16. But you don’t hear me going on about it”) and more of last week’s darkness. As she nudged Hal on to terrify the persistent journalist who’d noticed that Adam was invisible to cameras, you wondered where this new, bloodthirsty Annie had come from. It was chilling when she told Hal that after ‘killing’ Kirby, she was hungry for more – “it’s addictive”. Hal, who knows a thing or two about killing, got to nicely reverse roles as he tried to teach her something about restraint.

The Big Plot was threaded through all this, if a little lightly, intersecting with events at the B&B with intrepid journalist Pete (Sacha Dhawan out of The History Boys, who isn’t on TV enough in my opinion). It turned out that staking out lecherous schoolteachers was just Pete’s day job; he’d been building a case file on vampires. To his misfortune, this led him, via Adam and the police footage of Tom, to Cutler, still working on his big werewolf reveal propaganda.

Having already mocked up the corpse of a werewolf ‘victim’ in the woods, Cutler was more than happy to use his newfound press acquaintance to further his aim, posing as a ‘reliable source’ about vampires to show that werewolves were worse. Pete, it turned out, wasn’t quite taken in, managing to hoodwink Cutler into a trap by inviting him in to the hotel room then drawing a crucifix on the door.

That Cutler managed to outwit him using a ploy Hal had used once (killing him then using his body as a shield from the crucifix) was a shame; Pete was an interesting character we could have done with more of. But it also provided a chance for a bit of exposition to explain away the inconsistencies in the show’s vampires. Hal, as an Old One, has no fear of crucifixes, though it wasn’t always so. We can also extrapolate that, as an Old One, he has other powers not shared with your run of the mill vampire, though I seem to recall he still had to be invited in when he first showed up at Honolulu Heights.

Indeed, the show’s mythos was (perhaps unintentionally) expanded considerably this week. Up till now, we’ve only been aware of three kinds of supernaturals – vampires, werewolves and ghosts. There was the ‘Type 4’ zombie we encountered last year, but she only existed because of Mitchell’s tinkering with the afterlife. At the time, Mitchell himself seemed surprised that there was another kind of supernatural being.

Now, we not only have succubi in the mix, but also, by extension, their demonic parents. You could charitably assume that Hal was aware of these while Mitchell wasn’t because Hal is so much older. Nonetheless, if the show’s supernatural universe starts becoming too cluttered, it might be less believable that it could be kept hidden from the normals; indeed, give the incompetence of Adam, Tom, and last year Mitchell in staying ‘off-camera’, it’s already looking implausible that their secret wasn’t out years ago.

Be that as it may, this was a mostly amusing romp, with an unexpectedly sweet ending as Adam realised that he really did love Yvonne, spell or no spell. His contention that love is always out of fear of being alone was mournful and surprisingly mature; thankfully he was back to obscene hand (and tongue) gestures as he climbed into Yvonne’s car to leave for happier climes. The Big Plot was mostly to the background this week, only apparent in Cutler’s manipulation of the hapless Pete; Hal did have a dream that his ‘destiny’ was to kill Baby Eve, but he was bewitched at the time, so who knows how much of that to believe?

As watchable as ever then this week, though some may have been put off by the over-familiarity of the plot’s basic premise. Still, great to see Craig Roberts back as Adam, and as he made it out ‘alive’, I’m hoping it’s not the last we see of him. Hal continues to work well as a markedly different replacement for Mitchell, but as I said, the temptation to use Tom as ‘comic relief idiot’ is one the writers would be well-advised to steer clear of. This episode was fun, but not one of the show’s classics.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 3–The Graveyard Shift

“Sometimes I think the only demons worse than him must be the ones he’s fleeing from.”


After a thoughtful, character building piece in last week’s Being Human, the action (and the convoluted plot) were back with a bang in this week’s episode, The Graveyard Shift. There was a lot going on in Jamie Mathieson’s script – I’d say perhaps too much for one episode, resulting in a slam bang piece that felt like a chapter of a story rather than a story in itself.

Not that there wasn’t plenty to enjoy. Amidst all the plot advancement – Eve’s destiny, the vampire prophecies, the Old Ones heading for Wales in a boat – there was plenty of the character based humour the show seems to be recovering with its new cast. In particular, we learnt a lot this week about Hal, the ultra-repressed, OCD-ridden vampire who refers to his supernatural status as “my condition”. After last week’s cliffhanger, in which Fergus learned of Hal’s return, we got an opening flashback very much in the mould of those we used to see for Mitchell, showing his past as a Big Bad, slaughtering all and sundry with Fergus. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, massively reminiscent of the flashbacks to Angel and Spike’s historical killing sprees in Buffy.

At this point, I think the show needs to be a little bit careful. Up till now, the writers have been at pains to distinguish Hal from Mitchell (though both characters’ resemblance to Angel has never been shied away from). The flashback to 1855 was nicely done, with Fergus and Hal (gratuitously shirtless, not that I minded) covered in blood having slaughtered the inhabitants of a big country house.  But Mitchell too was a former Big Bad, revered among the vampire community for his previous life as an unrepentant killer, as frequently shown in flashbacks just like this. As we learn from Fergus, Hal’s past as a vampire Old One is arguably way more prestigious than Mitchell’s. But the similarity was there, and I think the show’s going to have to be careful not to make Hal – in some ways – seem like a carbon copy of his predecessor.

Still, Hal in the present is very much a different vampire to Mitchell. Socially awkward where Mitchell was easy going and blokish, this week saw him forging a more friendly relationship with Tom. The tension is still there, of course – initially, Tom’s carrying stakes around just in case, while Hal almost turns him over to Fergus and the gang. But the episode quite skilfully built the beginning of a believable friendship between the two; not quite on the level of Mitchell and George’s easy mateyness, but by the end of the show, you could see them getting there.

This started by having the aloof Hal having to get a job, in order to pay for the baby stuff that Annie is currently having to spectrally steal from Aldi. In a week which has seen much debate about the UK government’s Workfare (read ‘slave labour’) scheme, with the Work and Pensions Secretary decrying objectors as ‘job snobs’, this was curiously timely. Initially, it seemed like Hal thought counter work in the same cafe as Tom was beneath him; later, though, as they grew closer, a Jaws-style pissing contest over who’d had the worst jobs revealed that Hal had done some pretty grim stuff to earn a living.

Nonetheless, Hal seemed to find the job rather distasteful at first, with his glacier-speed table wiping and lettuce chopping. It was only when he and Tom began to build up that camaraderie you tend to have with your co-workers that he lightened up a it. We got some nicely humorous business with Goth-ish wannabe writer Michaela, who amusingly tried to freak the boys out with her ‘edginess’ (mostly comprising terrible poems and drawings). She resisted the boys’ competition to see who could get her number because they weren’t ‘edgy’ enough – something that would come back to haunt her later.

Michaela, along with vampire recorder Regus, provided much of the broad comedy this week. How funny you found this depended on your tolerance for a character who was a little too broad and comical to be realistic – for me, anyway. Laura Patch put in a good comedy performance, but Being Human has never been that kind of comedy. It was too much like caricature rather than character to be believable.

By contrast, Mark Williams, returning as Regus, pitched the humour of his character just right. It’s nice to see that even a vampire can be a nerd and a loser (“my lunch fought back. I mean, who carries a crowbar to walk the dog?”). Williams played him as genuinely weary of 400 years of being a nobody, thrust into the spotlight by his interpretation of the mysterious prophecy.

He also developed a sweet but creepy rapport with Annie, who was this week struggling to accept Tom and Hal as being more than just lodgers. It’s good that the new trio haven’t just fallen straight into the pattern established when the show began. It’s always traumatic when a beloved flatmate moves out and is replaced by someone you don’t know, and for Annie that’s even harder as both of her ex-flatmates are now dead.

Annie spent a lot of the episode advancing the Big Plot, firstly in a genuinely tense confrontation with Fergus and then in mountains of exposition with Regus. As the oldest hand in the show, Lenora Critchlow has the confidence to pull this off while the boys get all the action, but I’d just as soon see some return to the dark, powerful Annie we’ve occasionally seen before.

Perhaps that will come to pass by the end of this series, but for now, she seems largely stuck with relationship building and comic moments. There was quite a good one of the latter, as Regus blackmailed her into telepathically sharing her memory of her first sexual encounter – only to discover that, being from her point of view, he was actually going to experience what it felt like to have sex with ‘Dave’ (“Don’t worry, I don’t remember it lasting very long”). Annie’s always been the show’s real moral heart, steering George and Mitchell back to the straight and narrow when necessary, and now she seems to have become a den mother in addition. All very well, but I’d like to see her take more of a role in some of the action again.

Said action erupted as Fergus and a gang of vampire heavies turned up to storm the cafe, and there was much shouting, hissing, and brandishing of stakes. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Michaela got caught up with Hal and Tom, only to end up with her throat slashed when Fergus and his heavies crashed into the B&B. Inevitably, the lonely, creepy Regus brought her back as a vampire – this made me groan, but I was relieved that the new happy couple headed off for happier shores. It was a little contrived, but I think that might be my dislike of Michaela as a character colouring my opinion. At least the script got in some not too subtle digs at the vampire-worshipping fangirls. Pointing out Regus’ Twilight T shirt, Michaela asked, “are you taking the piss?”, only to receive the inevitable reply, “well, you started it.”

Still, an actual vampire battle in the B&B was a welcome bit of excitement in a show that has had so much happen between seasons. I was genuinely surprised to see Fergus offed so quickly; Anthony Flanagan has made him a rather good villain, and I expected him to be around a bit longer. There was no sign of Cutler this week either, fisticuffs plainly not being his thing. Still, I believe that makes him the only vampire villain left not in a Hoover bag at this point.

And Hal nailing his colours to the mast after initially convincing Fergus that he was back to his old ways was a superb – and necessary – bit of drama. Up till that point, like Annie, he was undecided whether the flatmates were his actual friends. This was the moment when he decided, and as a consequence convinced them too. I’m very much enjoying Damien Molony as Hal, and hope the show survives its cast change to see a bit more of him.

By the end, then, of a tumultuous episode, we were back with Hal and Tom slouching on the sofa watching TV just as Mitchell and George used to. The point that “it’s similar but different” was made amusingly but unsubtly, as the boys rejected watching “something about conmen” in favour of Antiques Roadshow. Still, as Annie sat down to join them, it felt like something of an equilibrium had been forged with the new trio. In many ways, the show could have ended right there – but no, we still have the Prophecy to deal with, along with a boatload of vampire Old Ones and a ghost from the future intent on killing herself as a child. Still, on this evidence, our new gang of heroes may have bonded well enough to deal with those things.

Being Human: Series 4, Episode 2–Being Human 1955

Annie: “Things have changed a lot recently.”
Pearl: “That’s a pity. Over 55 years and I’ve never had to change my lineup.”

Being HumanAnnie

OK, this is the episode that’s convinced me I want to stay with this show (though judging by my Facebook friends, I may be in a minority). After the sturm und drang of last week’s Big Plot shenanigans, this week Being Human concentrated – quite rightly I think – on establishing the new characters and their place in the show. Despite the loss of George and Mitchell still being very keenly felt, this was a real return to the blend of comedy and horror that made the show so much fun in the first place. It’s not the show it was, to be sure. But it felt, unlike last week, like a promising new direction.

Lisa McGee’s script was rather excellent; full of quotable lines, it had me by turn laughing my head off and then gasping at the drama. All right, I think the comedy was most to the fore, but it was used to inform the drama (and vice versa) in precisely the way the show used to before it got so hung up on its own mythos.

Oh, the mythos is still there, and we’re obviously going to see some developments this year with the threat of vampire domination and their ongoing war with humanity and the werewolves. I was glad to see that both Fergus and Cutler survived last week’s massacre at the groan-makingly named ‘Stoker Import and Export’ building (though bafflingly they’re still headquartered there).

Of the two, Fergus is the more obvious baddie. Like last week, Anthony Flanagan invested him with genuine menace beneath an apparent bonhomie, and he’s very much a trad vampire with his first response to everything being to kill and feed – “We need fists and fangs”. But charismatic though he is, Cutler is the more interesting of the pair. A ‘vampire of the times’, we first encounter him using homeless people as a ‘focus group’ for his werewolf transformation footage propaganda. Fergus’ first reaction is to immediately kill all the humans (“we missed lunch”), and then more tellingly, compare Cutler to a certain political figure – “we don’t need a vampire Peter Mendelssohn”. Cutler’s withering putdown to this – “Did you mean ‘Mandelson’, or are you calling me a 19th century German composer?” – was gold, and I’m hoping their bickering double act will be a running thing.

Fergus and Cutler aside, we also saw Future Eve (if indeed the ghost from the future is her), who was directing the plot by sending the ailing Leo, together with Hal and Pearl, to see Baby Eve in her capacity as Warchild and Saviour. I’m still not sure about this aspect of the plot, and may have to watch last week’s again – is the ghost from the future really Eve? If so, her mission to kill the infant version of herself, while noble, is a time paradox more head scratching than anything in the Terminator movies.

But these Big Plot aspects were fairly incidental to the episode’s USP, which was, plainly, to set up the new household. It’s being done in a nicely gradual way;we’re already getting used to Tom as the new resident werewolf, and with this in train, here comes new vampire Hal. Only glimpsed last week, this week Damien Molony got a large slice of the action to establish this new bloodsucker as a very different vampire from John Mitchell. He’s far more introverted, with his archaic suit and clipped 1950s English accent (though I’m pretty sure I detected traces of Molony’s real Irish twang once or twice).

He also has an endearing tendency to OCD, with his strange superstitions and rituals. He never stops at petrol stations on the left hand side of the road because it’s bad luck – which must cause problems on dual carriageways, considering we drive on the left in this country. He also has a daily ritual of setting up complex domino chains, but never actually knocks them down, preferring to then carefully put them away.

As he explains, this is a method taught to him by Leo for controlling his primal urges; I like that. For as we saw in an electric confrontation between him, Tom and a slimy pawn shop owner, he could be very dangerous indeed. That scene, with Tom’s initial loathing of the stuffed wolf head leading to the owner pulling a shotgun on him, felt like the writers and the actor really setting the stall out for Hal as a character.

Molony was chilling as he calmly explained what killing was like, how easy and exhilarating it was, and how hard it was to live with afterwards. You got a real sense of how many times he’d learnt this himself. As the shopkeeper said, “you’re either a man of God, or you’re speaking from experience.” Molony’s regretful, faraway look as he replied, “I’m not a man of God.” was perfect, and it was a good one liner the likes of which the show used to do so well. The whole scene reminded me of nothing so much as a scene in Doctor Who story The Happiness Patrol, in which the Doctor, held at gunpoint, calmly and firmly talks his would-be executioners into putting down their guns. I wonder whether the resemblance was intentional?

But we also got Hal’s housemates Leo (werewolf) and Pearl (ghost) turning up with him, in a nicely timed comic bit after Tom had declared that Baby Eve wasn’t going to be suddenly visited by three wise men proclaiming her the Messiah. It had ben pretty well-publicised that the show’s new lineup was going back to the original mix – one vampire, one werewolf, one ghost, so plainly they weren’t going to stay around long. As it turned out though, the resolution of their storyline was every bit as affecting as the characters we’d known since the show began.

As much as the writing, this was down to the actors involved. Tamla Kari as Pearl had a nice interplay with Annie from the outset, with her bitching about the B & B’s decor, not to mention her smug assertion that she’d managed to make a vampire/werewolf/ghost household last for decades while Annie had barely managed a few years. And it was a brilliant, laugh-out-loud moment, in keeping with the show’s traditions, that the one snipe Annie just couldn’t take was when Pearl criticised her tea-making skills!

Good though Kari was, Louis Mahoney as Leo was again the best of the new crew. He was both funny and heartbreaking as the dying werewolf, with his assertion that he once saw Louis Armstrong – “though it could have been Shirley Bassey. I was really drunk” – and his obvious tenderness for his supernatural companions. I must say though, after this and his turn in Doctor Who episode Blink, I do wish someone would give this talented actor something more to do than dying emotively in bed.

All that said, the ultimate resolution to his and Pearl’s plot was a little predictable; they’d always loved each other, and having worked this out at the end of his life, could both move on through their doors, together. It was sweet, but signposted as soon as Leo sent Tom off to buy that mysterious ring.

In the same way that Hal is very different from Mitchell, Tom is clearly nothing like George, and again that’s a good thing. Theirs is obviously going to be a fractious relationship, nothing like the best mates that Mitchell and George were from the very beginning of the series, which is perfectly in keeping with their wounded and mistrustful natures. Hal may be best friends with another werewolf, but he still can’t touch Tom without interposing a handkerchief between their hands; and Tom never even came to trust Mitchell, so as far as he’s concerned, all vampires are still the enemy.

This all came to a head as Hal, alone and upset, tried to fall off the wagon by feeding off the nasty pawn shop owner. As he and Tom pointed a shotgun and a stake at each other, it was down to Annie to make an uneasy peace, and set the scene for that final shot of all three of them on the sofa, uneasy allies but housemates at least.

Ah, Annie. As the last one standing of the lineup that fans came to love, Lenora Critchlow has a heavy load to bear this series. On the evidence of this episode, she’s more than up to the task. Although an ensemble piece, Annie really dominated the action, with her usual mix of comedy and pathos. She got all the best laughs, from her mothering of Tom – “no stakes in my shrubbery!” – to her cobbled together ‘ceremony’ in an attempt to heal Leo, in which she randomly spouted every bit of Latin gobbledegook she could remember – “carpe diem, veni, vidi, vici, Dolce, Gabbana…”

But she also got some of the best moments of pathos. Hal saw straight through her cheery exterior – “Your mask. It’s almost as good as mine.” Then there were her tears as she tried to stop Tom and Hal killing each other. She’s lost her two best friends, and despite her cheeriness, is far from dealing with it well. She’s the same old Annie, but there’s something sadly ironic that out of the three housemates who started, it’s only the dead one who’s still around.

So, the new lineup is complete. They’re not mates yet, not like the old gang; Tom is very much like a teenage son to Annie, who’s also relishing being mum to Eve. Tom and Hal seem to have reached an uneasy peace, but I’m sure it’ll take a while before they even trust each other. Still, for all the show’s ever growing mythos and Big Plots, it feels like we’re back to its original format – three supernatural beings sharing a house, trying to deal with their own monstrous natures and ‘ be human’. In a way, the character change could even be a good thing; it felt, last year, like they’d gone as far as they could with Mitchell and perhaps George too. This way, we have a new gang to deal with the same problems in different ways. However much you loved the original cast, that’s got to be a good thing – and on the strength of this episode, for me, it is.