It’s 20 years since David Lynch’s surreal TV dream was first broadcast and for the first time fans can get the whole shebang in one big boxset – the delightfully quirky brilliance of the first series and the meandering madness of the second.
Having already shown what an imagination he had on the big screen (notably Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart), Lynch was given free rein to create a world of wackiness for the small screen and it arrived, with the help of co-creator Mark Frost, in the shape of Twin Peaks. The story is set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest – Twin Peaks, population 51,201. Or rather 51,200 as homecoming queen and all-round perfect schoolgirl Laura Palmer is found murdered and wrapped in plastic in the local lake.
Not only is this shocking in itself but it soon becomes apparent that Laura was not the innocent many thought and that criminal activity and the long held belief that there is “evil in the woods” are the gruesome reality. The FBI investigates in the form of Special Agent Dale Cooper (MacLachlan). Using a combination of “bureau guidelines, deductive technique, Tibetan Method, instinct and luck”, Coop teams up with the local sheriff, Harry S Truman (Ontkean) and his willing if not always able team of law enforcement to find out who killed Laura Palmer.
Groundbreaking when unleashed on an unsuspecting public back in 1990, Twin Peaks still holds much of its charm. Always with an eye for visual originality, Lynch created a world all of its own. Full of primary colours, outlandish characters and an underlying 1950s feel, he also managed to combine humour, scares, atmosphere, thrills and melodrama to great effect. (It's also worth mentioning that this is a beautiful transfer to DVD.) Together with Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable, haunting score and the sultry tunes of crooner Julee Cruise, Twin Peaks made an indelible impression on a whole generation of viewers hungry for something that bit different.
Watching it again now brings back some great memories. There’s even more coffee, doughnuts and cherry pie than I remember and the cast is universally terrific. MacLachlan is impossible not to like while Audrey (Fenn), Shelly (Amick) and Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) are no mere eye candy, with each of them strong, individual characters. David Lynch himself even makes a few cameo appearances and does a fine job, while Miguel Ferrer as the brilliant but short-tempered forensics expert Albert Rosenfeld is a hilarious joy. There are also some interesting minor roles in the second series, with David Duchovny as transvestite DEA agent, Billy Zane as Audrey’s love interest and a very young Heather Graham who plays a pivotal role in the conclusion.
When it first aired, the series ended after eight episodes and this was considered far superior to the 22 episodes which made up the second series and to a certain extent this is the case. For a start, Lynch and Frost are less involved in series two and when others take the reins the quality does suffer, most notably when Laur's killer is revealed - something it transpires was to an extent forced upon the creators. So for a while it all gets a bit humdrum but overall, this is fascinating stuff, a funny, surreal, inventive and at times downright terrifying soap opera of the highest order. Dancing dwarves, gentle giants and a lady who talks to her log may not be for everyone but buy into it and you’ll discover a weird and wonderful world. Just be careful: the owls are not what they seem.
EXTRAS **** A very decent package of largely retrospective extras which at about three hours will delight even the most ardent Peakie. Log Lady introductions – a peculiarly grainy picture and an obtuse statement from the Log Lady before each and every episode which soon outstays its welcome; Lost and Found – five deleted scenes; Production Documents - a collection of stills of some production notes from the show; A Slice of Lynch - David sits down with "Madgekin" Amick, "Kale" McLachlan and John "JW" Wentworth for a slice of pie, a cup of coffee and a fascinating conversation about some Twin Peaks history and trivia; Secrets From Another Place - 110 minute documentary on how the show came to be, from the creation of the pilot, through the two very different seasons, as well as a look into the atmospheric music of Angelo Badalamenti; Saturday Night Live - an episode of the comedy show was hosted by Kyle MacLachlan in 1990 and this has his opening monologue and a pastiche sketch of Twin Peaks; Twin Peaks Festival - a short documentary about the annual fan festival and an interactive map of Twin Peaks - select the locations for some background and trivia; The Black Lodge Archive - the music video for 'Falling' by Julee Cruise; image galleries; on-air promos; messages from a 1-900 hotline updating fans on the show; and Lucy Bumpers, a collection of continuity-type announcements voiced by Kimmy Robertson who played Lucy.