Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Twin Peaks

US tv series/serial (1989-1991). Propaganda Films/Lynch-Frost Productions/Worldvision/Spelling Entertainment. Pr Harley Peyton. Exec pr Mark Frost, David Lynch. Dir Graeme Clifford, Caleb Deschanel, Duwayne Dunham, Uli Edel, James Foley, Frost, Lesli Linka Glatter, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Todd Holland, Tim Hunter, Diane Keaton, Lynch, Tina Rathborne, Jonathan Sanger. Writers Tricia Brock, Robert Engels, Frost, Scott Frost, Lynch, Peyton, Barry Pullman, Jerry Stahl. Created by Frost, Lynch. Novelization The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer * (1990) by Jennifer Lynch. Starring Mädchen Amick (Shelley Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne), Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward), Joan Chen (Jocelyn Packard), Catherine Coulson (Log Lady), Eric Da Re (Leo Johnson), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Miguel Ferrer (Albert Rosenfeld), Warren Frost (Dr William Hayward), Piper Laurie (Catherine Martell), Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer/Madeleine Ferguson), Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings), Lynch (Chief Gordon Cole), Everett McGill (Ed Hurley), Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper), James Marshall (James Hurley), Chris Mulkey (Hank Jennings), Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Michael Ointkeen (Sheriff Harry S Truman), Wendy Robie (Nadine Hurley), Russ Tamblyn (Lawrence Jacoby), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Grace Zabriskie (Sara Palmer). 30 45min episodes. Colour.

In the small town Twin Peaks the body of the murdered Laura Palmer, highschool queen and assumedly pure lass, is discovered on the riverbank. FBI agent Cooper is called in, because this seems the further work of a Serial Killer, although various of the local boys are suspected. In the event, it proves that the killer is Laura's father Leland, in his alternate personality as Bob – Bob is the Dark Lord of the series, which is full of the sense of Wrongness – but before that there is much weirdness and fantasy as the layers of the small town are stripped away.

Hypnotic and distracting, complex and cluttered, intelligent and trashy; with TP, David Lynch and Mark Frost succeeded in making quintessential tv-noir. The series, building on the original full-length pilot, is part Dark Fantasy, part detective fiction, part soap opera, all compulsion. Hooked onto the simple premise of murder, TP develops far beyond expected boundaries to create a Reality entirely its own. The extreme complexities of plot are matched only by the rich characterization and convoluted symbolism.

Where many tv shows highlight episodes taken in isolation out of their characters' fictional lives, TP builds up a textured web of reality, in which characters' ambitions and Dreams, large or small, play equal weight, and fit together in continual overlapping patterns. From crime detection to teenage romance, from ecological concern to arson to cookery, the web is completed. In a place where "the owls are not what they seem", no action is necessarily trivial, and all actions have consequences. Amid its layers of supernatural power and elder wisdom, melodrama and violence, the show becomes, above all else, realistic, albeit on its own terms. The reality of TP is a product of its balanced blend of the mundane and the fantastical. Just as Agent Cooper brings his own eccentric beliefs and practices to the town, so the town by stages reveals its own eccentricities to him, and to the viewer. The star-crossed love of Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings remains external to the central concern – the murder of Laura Palmer, and the mystic power of the Black Lodge – yet it is neither marginal nor untouched by the strangeness of its context. Via the dominating, lurking, shadowy presence of Bob, through whom the destructive power of the Black Lodge is enacted, the themes of incest, domestic violence and sexual exploitation are lifted out of the mundane and given a new twist. In TP it becomes truly possible to hate the sin and love the sinner, and the helplessness of the oppressor becomes apparent. Leland Palmer is as much a victim as Laura – and Laura herself is as potentially destructive as Leland has been. Major Briggs, seemingly the most conservative of men, holds the key to some of the mysteries of the Black Lodge, and through his very nature moderates the series' careful balance of the natural and the supernatural. Human responsibility goes hand-in-hand with human weakness, and the answers are presented obliquely, implicitly. Agent Cooper's visions and dreams reprove his direct questions, yet present him with answers whose meaning must be hard sought-for. The creatures of Cooper's dreams – the servants and inhabitants of the Black and White Lodges – do indeed speak in tongues.

Assisted by a mesmeric soundtrack, and by careful, atmospheric cinematography, TP is rich in resonance and detail. Its plots belong in both the real world of the viewer and the fictive, fantasized world of the town Twin Peaks. Through its clever, intricate, blending of genres, it becomes one of the most powerful new realities within both fantasy and tv genres. The viewer is engaged: there is a sense that the realities of this world are continuing after the credits close.

A direct-to-video movie derived from the series was issued as Twin Peaks (1989): it contains material largely from episodes #1 and #3, plus some new footage, and is engrossing but, finally, incomprehensible. Lynch returned to his small town in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). [KLM/JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.