You can’t go wrong with Jack the Ripper when it comes to the villain on your TV show. It is truly amazing how much mileage you can get from a serial killer with less than half a dozen victims attributed to his handiwork. I mean, seriously in the world of modern day serial killers, that number makes Jack the Ripper an amateur who probably wouldn’t even be making the local news yet. But when you toss in the fact that his identity remains a mystery more than a century later and that whole Victorian London atmosphere thing, well, like I said, you can’t go wrong with doing at least one episode about Jack the Ripper.
Thriller: Very Truly Yours, Jack the Ripper
“Thriller” was one of the many anthology series that dominated television in the 50s and early 60s and was hosted by Boris Karloff. If you think that the idea of transplanting Jack the Ripper from Victorian England to contemporary New York (whatever the time period in which the film or TV show takes place) is something new, then you would be wrong. Working gals are being offed in New York almost three-quarters of a century after his last victim in Whitechapel bit the dust. Is Jack the Ripper not only a serial killer but an Eternal?
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
When Carl Kolchak moved from the arena of TV-movies and into the weekly grind of a monster of the week, the very first monster the intrepid reporter faced was Jack the Ripper. Once again transplanted to contemporary times, in this Chicago of the 1970s. Everything about the killer stalking low-rent chicks in Chi-town bespeaks the Victorian gentlemen whose hobby was dissecting–or should it be vivisecting–prostitutes. But that can’t be right? The episode ends with electrocution, fire and the disappearance of the body. All that is left is a single shoe. A shoe that has not been made for…seventy years!
Could Scotty be a killer? Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is the last person that a certain belly dancer named Kara was seen alive as they walked off into an alley one foggy night. When she turns up dead and Scott is found holding the knife that killed her, the case against Scotty seems to be as cut and dried as that against George Zimmerman. Of course, we all know how that turned out. If you think that it’s pretty unlikely that Jack the Ripper could kill prostitutes in England during the reign of Queen Victoria and also show up to kill them in New York and Chicago during the reigns of JFK and NIxon, then try this one for size. The case against Scotty goes off into an even weirder direction than the one against Zimmerman. Turns out that not only did Jack the Ripper killed women in China and Russia, he also lowered the prostitute population on Mars and Alpha Eridani II.
This excellent and imaginative British TV show kicks off with the concept of Jack the Ripper again showing up in modern times, but still sticking around his original haunting grounds. Of course, Whitechapel in the 21st century does not much look like the Whitechapel where Jack moved around unnoticed and unidentified. The Jack the Ripper opening of “Whitechapel” sets the tone for a show that you should watch all the way through. Subsequent episodes are also based on actual British criminals who are not nearly as well known by Americans as Jack the Ripper.
The Outer Limits (1990s version)
If you had to pick the most bizarre TV episode to deal with Jack the Ripper, you could definitely make a very strong case in favor of the “Ripper” episode of the rebooted version of “The Outer Limits.” Although this is one of the surprisingly few cases of a TV show utilizing Jack the Ripper in his original time frame, that is pretty much where any pretense to authenticity ends. This particular TV take on Jack the Ripper includes an alien, infectious green goo, accusations of insanity and a frame-up of “Jack.”