STRANGE DAYS AT BLAKE HOLSEY HIGH / BLACK HOLE HIGH
(Global TV, Discovery Kids, NBC, October 5, 2002-January 28, 2006)
Shadia Simmons – Corrine Baxter
Michael Seater – Lucas Randall
Noah Reid – Marshall Wheeler
Robert Clark – Vaughn Pearson
Jeff Douglas – Professor Noel “Z” Zachary
Valerie Boyle – Principal Amanda Durst
Lawrence Bayne – Victor Pearson
Tony Munch – The Janitor
Black Hole High, or Strange Days at Blake Holsey High in the United States, was centered on the titular boarding school. The school was located next to a laboratory, Pearadyne Industries, which specialized in various technologies and quantum physics until an accident in 1987 caused several employees to disappear and the lab to be shut down. Ever since, strange things have happened at the school. Random disappearances caused by time-traversing wormholes (or black holes), Pearadyne technology run amok, and strange mutations in the student body that altered their personalities or physical attributes.
Created by Jim Raspas, he conceived of the idea during a period when he was looking for work and heard Discovery Kids was looking for a science show. He thought it might be fun to have a show where the rules of science were turned on their head. A fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter, he added the element of a group of kids encountering and dealing with strange occurrences. Discovery initially passed on the idea until Canadian production company Fireworks Entertainment expressed interest in making it. And with Discovery’s newly-formed partnership with NBC, they saw the show as a perfect fit for their Discovery Kids on NBC programming block.
The series began with the arrival of new student Josie Trent (originally meant to be a Latina, played by Emma Taylor-Isherwood), a brilliant and spirited rebel who had a turbulent relationship with her mother, Kelly (Lori Hallier). Once she arrived at the school, she became enthralled with uncovering the reason behind the mysterious happenings and the secret of Pearadyne. She would befriend and join the school’s Science Club, who would become enwrapped (and sometimes the victims of) the mysteries themselves. They included Corrine Baxter (Shadia Simmons), Josie’s roommate and the daughter of a psychiatrist and neurosurgeon who was a perfectionist and always wanted things her way; Lucas Randall (Michael Seater), the school conspiracy theorist who always had his suspicions about the happenings on campus, which were verified when he witnessed science teacher Professor Middleton (Steve Jackson) disappear into a wormhole; and Marshall wheeler (Noah Reid), a talented musician and ambitious entrepreneur with his own moral code that sees him not minding breaking rules, but has him against lying and cheating. Leading the club was Middleton’s replacement, Professor Noel “Z” Zachary (Jeff Douglas), who believed in engaging his students with unconventional teaching methods and was just as curious to get to the bottom of things as they were.
Running the school was Principal Amanda Durst (Valerie Boyle), who had begun her career there as a science teacher in 1977. She was extremely strict and was quick to hand out detentions for those breaking the rules; however, much of that was motivated by her desire to keep the school’s secrets. Durst seemed to be under the influence of the ever-present and menacing Victor Pearson (Lawrence Bayne), one of the co-founders of Pearadyne and head of the school board. Victor ran Pearadyne with the aid of a stress ball belonging to Josie that became infused with limitless energy, which he took from her during one of her trips into the past. In order to keep tabs on the Science Club, Victor had sent his son, Vaughn (Robert Clark), a popular student and bully, to join them as his spy. And then there was the mysterious Janitor (Tony Munch); a person from the future transported back through a wormhole. He was the observer of the observers; a group of people dedicated to guard and maintain the time stream. He provided Josie help, although often in cryptic fashion, and left secret messages beginning with “Shrink” that often related to an episode’s plot and the developing storyline. He would come to take on Josie’s clone (Taylor-Isherwood with her sister, Sally, as a stand-in when the two were together) as a protégé and send her to be trained as an observer. Finally, there was Andreas Jack Avenir (John Ralston); the mysterious benefactor of the school who seemed to be present in various eras of its history. He would eventually be revealed to be Josie’s father and the real cause behind all the strangeness as he attempted to gain control over the universe.
Other characters included school bullies Tyler Jessop (Christopher Tai), a self-important womanizing show-off who frequently antagonized Marshall, and Stewart Kubiak (Dru Viergever), a star athlete that loved to mock the Science Club, especially Lucas; Madison (Talia Schlanger), a stuck-up cheerleader; Will (Liam Titcomb) and Jarrod (Marc Devlin), members of Marshall’s band, Magnet 360; and Sarah Lynch Pearson (Jenny Levine), Victor’s wife and Vaughn’s mother who co-founded Pearadyne and disappeared after her ambitions caused the accident in the lab.
Strange Days at Blake Holsey High began airing in Canada on Global TV and NBC and in the United States on Discovery Kids and NBC (as one of the launch programs of the Discovery Kids on NBC programming block) on October 5, 2002. The show was filmed at the Auchmar Estate on the Hamilton Escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario. It was written by Raspas with Bruce Kalish, Jeff Biederman, David Garber, Lorianne T. Overton, Skander Halim, Joe Rassulo, Richard Clark, Suzanne Bolch, Kevin May, Jeff F. King, Thérèse Beapuré, Jeffrey Alan Schechter, Kevin Lund, T.J. Scott, Ian G. Saunders, Andrew Nicholls, Darrell Vickers, Elizabeth Stewart, Amy Jacobson, and Jennifer Kennedy. Each episode was structured around a particular scientific principle, blending in some of the typica teenage drama often associated with a school-based program. Carlos Lopes provided the music, with Fusion Sound and Picture and Good FX providing the special effects.
After the first six months on air, Strange Days ended up in syndication worldwide. It performed well, earning renewal for three seasons; however, the third season was actually supposed to be part of the second until the production decided to split it in half. It also racked up multiple award nominations, including a Daytime Emmy, Young Artist, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Gemini, and Directors Guild of Canada, however it won none of them. Production ultimately came to an end when Fireworks was sold to ContentFilm (now part of Kew Media Group) in 2005. A film called Strange Days: Conclusions was aired in 2006, wrapping up the main storyline and bringing the series to a satisfying close. That film was later broken up into three episodes and aired as an abbreviated fourth season.
In 2004, it was announced that the first season would be released to DVD in the United Kingdom. However, this release was pulled without any explanation, despite being made available for pre-order on various sites. To date, no official home media releases have been made. In 2010 and 2011, Strange Days returned to the airwaves briefly on The Hub, the network joint venture between Discovery and Hasbro. Raspas has posted frequently on a message board dedicated to the show, as well as on Twitter, with behind the scenes information, details about trying to get a Strange Days reboot off the ground and even webisodes with the original cast. None of those attempts have come to pass as yet.