Cult-TV Theme Watch: Black Eyes



Eyes are windows to the soul, right?  What if your eyes are opaque and black?  What does that mean?

Well, if you are watching a cult-TV series, eyes of black usually mean one thing, primarily: EVIL.

Throughout television history, eyes of black have represented, traditionally, a kind of “altered” state for characters, and not a good altered state either.


In the brilliant British series, Sapphire and Steel (1978-1981), Assignment #2 (a multi-part serial), finds Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) at a ghostly train station, battling an incursion of pitch-black darkness.  

Sapphire, a sensitive and telepath, is possessed by that encroaching darkness at one point, and during that possession, pitch black eyes.


The most notable example of eyes of black comes from The X-Files (1993-1999), however. There, the alien black oil infects human beings, and black goop floods human eyeballs.  Literally, humanity is overwritten by this black alien.  Krycek (Nicholas Lea) is one character possessed by the black oil during the course of the series.


In Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), eyes of black also represent the triumph of evil.  In the sixth season of this series, Willow goes “to the dark side,” literally and metaphorically, after the death of her beloved, Tara.  

As she becomes “Dark Willow” this character’s eyes go jet black.  The humanity they once held and transmitted is now gone.


During Smallville’s (2001 – 2011) decade-long run, inhuman eyes of black appeared.  The episodes “Wrath” and “Gemini” in 2007 featured a character, Casey Brock (Elyse Levesque) who became possessed by Brianiac, and flashed dead, black eyes.



Not all black eyes are evil, of course. Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) has deep, black eyes, a quality of all Betazoids, apparently. 

In Troi’s case, the eyes of black are soulful, not soulless.

Comments

  1. Sheri1:24 PM

    On reason Counselor Troi's eyes come across "soulful, not soulless" is that unlike all the others depicted, she has normal-sized irises. It seems to be some kind of trope or norm that in depicting people with black eyes, the poor actors are made to wear contact lenses that cover all or most of the sclera (the white of the eye) in addition to the iris (the colored part of the eye. This has the effect of appearing to increase the size of the iris, or eliminating it, which I guess production people think is more visually effective somehow. It sure increases the discomfort of the actors who have to wear scleral contact lenses, which are more uncomfortable to wear than regular contact lenses.

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