Special Feature Sequels

I’m a sucker for TV series finales. I’ll even watch ones for series I have previously had no interest in, just to see how things are rounded up. This is probably due to my general liking for closure. Be it in films, television shows or real life, I like to see loose ends sorted out. At the same time I’m a sucker for reunions or comebacks. Seeing fictional characters brought back to life just intrigues me for some reason. From the dawn of DVD on, I have noticed a nostalgically pleasing trend in the production of special features that is particularly interesting; that of creating semi-sequels to long completed film and television series.

The first example that I’ve been able to see was actually produced for release on VHS back in 1993. For the most part, Time Machine: The Journey Back, a documentary on the classic 1960 film-adaptation of H.G. Welles’ The Time Machine, plays like a standard behind the scenes ‘making of’, but during the last 15 minutes the show unexpectedly shifts into a full blown short-film sequel starring two of the original actors and recreating sets last seen over thirty years ago. The short isn’t particularly ambitious in scope, mainly consisting of two old friends catching up with one another, but in terms of production quality it is clearly a professional effort – made on a sound-stage, with industry standard lighting and shot on costly 35mm film. Low-key seems to be a common quality of special feature sequels. Perhaps the fact that these sequels are tucked away in the bonus material section of disks means that production feels more informal, making it less daunting to approach a follow up. In the case of The Journey Back the result is a understated and comfortably nostalgic coda to a fondly remembered film that would never have warranted a feature length sequel in its own right.

Perhaps my favourite DVD sequel, again hidden away at the end of a behind the scenes documentary, is presented as part of the complete Spaced DVD box-set released in 2004. Of the examples of this unofficial genre that I have seen, this mini-finale is the only one that feels like an indispensable part of its predecessor. With the chances of Spaced returning, even for a one off special, becoming ever more unlikely, this particular bonus effort is rendered increasingly valuable, bringing closure to a series that has never really seemed to reach it’s natural conclusion. On DVD, however, we have a coda that leaves me hoping that this really is the end, and not just a throwaway gag.

Another great example of this sub-genre that I’m quite surprised more people haven’t seen is the 2004 short film The Cat That Looked At A King based upon a short story from Mary Poppins Opens The Door by P.L. Travers and featuring Julie Andrews! Although it is never mentioned in the course of the film and she wears modern attire, Andrews is clearly playing Mary Poppins – she repeats famous lines from the 1964 film, the sets looks identical, she even jumps into a street painting – and that’s a big deal. It also somehow adds to the magic of Poppins if you try to do the math and work out she must be far older than the average human in order to still be alive and working in modern day England. The story for the short is pleasant, if nothing spectacular, but the film thrives more on the fact that you are watching the unexpected return of such a beloved character. A low-key short film like this is the only medium in which this could happen.

On the less effective front we have, Liberty Hall, a sequel to the Doctor Who serial Mawdwyn Undead and starring the ever wonderful Nicholas Courtney as the long running character Brigadeer Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart. My main problem with this short is that it has no real reason for being; the script simply has the Brig recount previous adventures we have seen before, while adding no original insights to speak of. A bit of a shame really, as this could have been the chance to give a well regarded character a nice low-key send-off that isn’t possible on television.

Just this year Lost, which attracted so much attention over its TV finale, was given an extra DVD-exclusive mini-episode in order to round off loose ends.

This would appear to be the highest profile Special Feature Sequel to date, implying that the genre shows no sign of stopping. So are there more of these unofficial semi-sequels out there? I think I’ve written about all the ones that I have seen, but I’d love to find out about more if you care to comment!

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2 Responses to “Special Feature Sequels”

  1. Andrew Orton Says:

    Great article! On the extra extras front, Operation Good Guys did a new ‘Where Are They Now?’ style episode on the boxed set.

    • illegibleme Says:

      Thanks, another one to add to the list! In fact, since writing this article a few days ago, I have remembered tree other examples. This year alone, Syfy are planning an online Battlestar Galactica prequel, Chevvy Chase returned in a new National Lampoon’s Vacation film for an online ad campaign, and the prematurely cancelled series that I can’t recall the name of right now released a mini-finale exclussively to DVD. This really is an emerging sub-genre.

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