Neverwhere is an urban fantasy television series by Neil Gaiman that first aired in 1996 on BBC Two. The series is set in "London Below", a magical realm coexisting with the more familiar London, referred to as "London Above". It was devised by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, and directed by Dewi Humphreys. Gaiman later adapted the series into book form.
Richard Mayhew, a Scot living in London encounters an injured girl named Door on the street one night. Despite his fiancée's protests he decides to help her, but that unfortunately also means that he suddenly ceases to exist for regular people and becomes real only to the denizens of 'London Below', whose inhabitants are generally invisible and non-existent to the people of 'London Above'. He loses his house, his job and nearly his mind as he travels London Below in an attempt to make sense out of it all, find a way back, and helps Door survive as she is hunted down by hired assassins.
In London Below the various familiar names of London all take on a new significance: for example Knightsbridge becomes "Night's Bridge", a stone bridge whose darkness takes its toll in human life; The Angel, Islington is an actual angel. London Below is a parallel world in and beneath the sewers. Its inhabitants are the homeless, but also people from other times, such as Roman legionnaires and medieval monks, as well as fictional and fantastical characters.
- Richard Mayhew - a young businessman, who discovers the world of London Below one day after helping the injured Door recover in his flat.
- Door – A young woman from London Below, the daughter of a noble family who were all murdered shortly before the beginning of the story. She possesses her family’s innate ability to “open” things (and not just doors).
- The Marquis de Carabas – The Marquis is arrogant, cunning and very self-confident. Though very much the trickster, he is a loyal friend of Door and her family. This character was inspired by Puss in Boots. Gaiman stated this as the starting point for the character, and imagining "Who would own a cat like this?"
- Mr. Croup – The talkative half of the pair of assassins, the Messrs. He is short, fat, and speaks in a pompous and verbose manner. Like his partner, Mr. Vandemar, he seems to be able to simply move from one place to another very quickly despite his ungainly appearance. He is the brains of the pair and seems be the one calling the shots, and he apparently has a taste (literally) for fine china. Much of the imagery used to describe him is that of a fox.
- Mr. Vandemar – Dull-witted, tall, and gangly, Vandemar is Croup’s polar opposite. He does not speak much, and when he does, his statements are often blunt and direct. He is quite brutish and seems to enjoy nothing more than killing and destroying things (even practicing his golf swing with live toads). He also has a tendency to eat live animals. The descriptive imagery likens him to a hound or wolf, and he even howls at one point when catching up with his mark.
- Old Bailey – An old friend of the Marquis, he keeps the company of pigeons on the rooftops and wears clothing made of feathers. He became indebted to the Marquis long ago, and so is charged with keeping a portion of his life safe for him.
- Hunter – A warrior of London Below; her feats are legendary. It is her lifelong obsession to slay the great Beast of London. The imagery used to describe her likens her to a lioness.
- The Angel Islington - An actual angel dwelling in the sewers of London Below. It is its duty to watch over London Below, though it failed at its previous task: guarding the city of Atlantis.
- Lamia & The Velvets - Vampire-like seductresses, dressed in dark velvet, who "suck the warmth" from their victims.
was first broadcast on BBC Two
from September 12 1996
. There are six half-hour episodes:
- Night's Bridge
- Earl's Court To Islington
- Down Street
- As Above, So Below
The idea for the story came from a conversation between Gaiman and Henry about a possible television series. Henry suggested a story with tribes of homeless people in London. Gaiman was initially reluctant to commit, as he feared that making the homeless appear "cool" would cause more young people to attempt to emulate the characters, but agreed to expand it from there.
received some criticism for its visual appearance. One major problem lay in the original plan to shoot on video (for budgetary reasons), and then later "filmise
" the footage to make it look like it had been shot on film. For this reason, the programme had been lit and shot in a manner appropriate to a film-based production. However, the decision to apply the filmisation process was later reversed.
In addition to what some considered the old-fashioned appearance of un-filmised video, the lighting set up with film in mind appeared garish and unsubtle on the more clinical medium. Gaiman himself commented that the loss of quality resulting from multi-generational VHS copies actually improved the appearance in this respect.
The six episodes were released in the US and Canada to DVD
as a two-disc set on September 9 2005
. Despite the DVDs often being advertised as region 1
, the actual discs are, however, region zero. The BBC have released the series on DVD on 23 April 2007
Neil Gaiman wrote a novelization of the television series that was first released in 1996, during the television show's transmission. This was accompanied by a spoken word release on CD and Cassette.
A nine-issue comic book limited series
began in June 2005
, written by Mike Carey
(who had worked on Lucifer
a spin-off from Gaiman's The Sandman
), with art by Glenn Fabry
The comic is an adaptation inspired by the novelization, rather than the original TV series. Thus the characters and settings do not generally resemble those seen in the series. The series is being published by DC Comics's Vertigo imprint. The collected volume was also published by Vertigo, in February 2007 (ISBN 1-4012-1007-4).
In 2006, a stage adaptation of the novel was produced by Cardinal Rep in Savannah, Georgia.
In 2008, another stage adaptation was created and performed by the Actors Gymnasium in Evanston, IL.
A script has been written for a movie version and was optioned by the The Weinstein Company. They are still looking for a director. IMDB lists the movie as "In-Development
Rumours of both the feature film adaptation and a sequel to the original story have been circulating since the original release.
Neil Gaiman has said a sequel to the book titled The Seven Sisters is a possibility. In Neil Gaiman's short story collection Fragile Things, when commenting on his novella The Monarch of the Glen, a novella that follows up on Gaiman's novel American Gods, he comments that a novella-length story in the world of Neverwhere, How The Marquis Got His Coat Back, remains half-written.
- Midnight Nation, a graphic novel in which the protagonist takes a similar journey.
- King Rat, a 1998 novel by China Mieville with a similar theme of a second city beneath London.
- Un Lun Dun, a 2007 novel, also by China Mieville, which focuses on an alternate-world version of London that can be reached by certain individuals. Mieville mentions Neverwhere as an inspiration in the novel's acknowledgements.
- Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities, a 2008 novel by Tim Lebbon and Christopher Golden, also involves an underground, unseen version of London, and a protagonist on the run from powerful assassins.