Within seconds of beginning my search for where I could watch this six-part UK-based web thriller, it had been compared to not one (Saw) but two (Seven) American movies and not one (24) but two (Lost) American television series. At almost the same time, Girl Number 9 was letting me know it was made specifically for the internet, and unlike anything I had seen before.
Written by James Moran (Doctor Who, Torchwood,Severance) and starring Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood), Joe Absolom (Doc Martin, Personal Affairs), and Tracy-Ann Oberman (Doctor Who, Eastenders), the series has a lot of BBC talent to back it up—along with a huge advertising campaign. The Guardian in particular did a very interesting piece that was open-ended: it began its review at episode 1 and then added information as each subsequent episode was released. The author also encouraged its readers to join in the discussion in the comments section, and the dialogue that resulted was often heated but with several extremely valid points about the weaknesses and strengths of the series.
The format of the show itself is an almost unique approach, if not a bit on the transparent side: six episodes running at less than five minutes each were released over a span of six days beginning on October 30th. The show will be viewable for free for 30 days, at which point it will go offline and offer a DVD of the series, which promises to be jam-packed with special features including a behind-the-scenes documentary, commentaries, interviews, script, gallery, trailers and other special features. According to the show’s website, the DVD will also contain “a feature length version”. No word on if this means they originally shot the series as a feature film and then cut it down into a half-hour format, though this seems unlikely since all the press boasts that the show was specifically written with the web in mind.
Needless to say, I’m confused by the show’s seeming intense need to be exclusively for the internet yet making all it’s comparisons to traditional media. The show also does a half-hearted attempt at interactivity with a few in-your-face ARG elements. Within the first minute, the killer is giving you a web address and a number (incidentally, I watched the episodes at the web address he was giving…so I was a bit confused as to what I as a viewer was supposed to do with that information). They track locations using IP address, which is the very first thing any mildly tech-savvy puzzle-solver would instantly try. Basically, I wish that if they had gone for ARG elements, they really would have committed to them and offered the viewers a bit of a challenge.
The plot of the show itself definitely does have its comparisons in films like Saw and Seven, so much so in fact, that I was calling the killers moves before he even made them. Whether this is just plain creepy on my part, or actually positive in the fact that it gives the audience a sense that they are smarter than the killer and thus invests them in the story…I’m actually leaning towards thinking this was probably not what the creators of the show intentionally had in mind. Also, SPOILER ALERT: if you are going to make it clear this show is “mature” by cursing almost a dozen times in the first minute, at least have the guts to show us the little girl getting ripped from limb to limb instead of using horrible sound design and over-the-top reaction shots.
Girl Number 9 will be available until November 30th on the shows webpage at http://www.canyousaveher.com. You can pre-order the DVD of the series at the site as well.