Scotland is known throughout the world for many things – its proud people, its natural beauty, its contributions to popular culture through food, sports and entertainment, and its rich history and traditions (bagpipes, kilts, etc.). A large part of that tradition is based in popular folklore; tales of faeries and monsters that have been handed down over generations in Scotland. Those stories continue to endure today, and the new urban fantasy web series CALEDONIA mixes those classic tales with a distinctly dark modern flair.

The series’ first season of eight episodes debuted January 1st, 2014 on its official web site (see link below), and new episodes air every Wednesday. In addition to the main series, CALEDONIA features extra supplemental content including a hilarious gag reel,  plus short stories and character journal entries on the show’s web site. Also, the show’s Twitter page features ‘micro stories’ and quotes from its characters.

Created by Amy Hoff, an author of several (as yet unpublished) urban crime novels that mix the time honored traditions and folklore of Scotland with gritty, suspenseful mystery (on which the series is based), CALEDONIA follows the exploits of Detective Inspector Leah Bishop (played by Vharri Lavery).

A recently divorced graduate of the University of Edinburgh turned police detective, Leah joins Glasgow’s Caledonia Interpol police department and soon discovers that the folklore and fairy tales she studied in her college years has suddenly come to life in the form of her fellow officers: the Scottish selkie (seal creature) Detective Inspector Dorian Grey (played by Alasdair Reavey), and his brother Magnus Grey (Christopher Stanley).

Supposedly the inspiration for the classic Oscar Wilde novel, Dorian takes on both animal form in the sea as a seal and human form over land as a handsome, elegant man. However, unlike his brother, the dashing and debonair detective Magnus, Dorian is a ‘taken’ selkie whose heart belongs to one woman and whose life belongs to that moment in time when he became a part of her life. Meanwhile, Magnus uses his brains, personality and outer beauty to crack the toughest cases along with Leah and Dorian. Together, they seek to solve the mystery behind an unexplained series of brutal faerie killings that have baffled the country.

Hoff, who serves as a Ph.D researcher of traditional Scottish folklore at Aberdeen University, was inspired to create CALEDONIA by both Scotland itself and by its folklore.  In fact, Leah Bishop’s character was inspired by many of Hoff’s personal experiences as both a resident of Scotland and as an observer of its incredible history.

“I have lived in Glasgow for several years, all the while studying faerie stories, monster mythology, and other aspects of fantasy in Scottish culture. The city is equal parts rough and magic, and the concept for Leah Bishop’s detective stories was born from this dichotomy,” she says.

Along with Scotland’s history and mythology, Hoff cites some of literature’s most famous detectives as another inspiration for CALEDONIA. “I am also a fan of Sherlock Holmes (I did my Master’s thesis on the Holmes stories, and Jekyll and Hyde), (Agatha Christie’s) Hercule Poirot, and other clever detectives. I wanted to create a young female detective as compelling, flawed, and clever as my favourite characters from literature,” she says.

In addition, she also sought to show viewers a side of the country that is not often depicted in popular entertainment; one that’s reflected throughout each episode of CALEDONIA. “Glasgow does not often get to be the location of a fantasy story, and through fantasy we wanted to show what the reality of everyday city life in Scotland is like. The combination of Scottish folklore and everyday modern life makes it unique, and its comedic aspect showcases the Glaswegian sense of humour. Too many programmes focus entirely on a shortbread version of Scotland; we wanted to show the Scotland we know and love,” Hoff adds.

Along with a rarely seen view of Scotland, the characters that inhabit the world of CALEDONIA are also unlike many portrayed in films, TV shows and web series. Bringing those characters to life is a mission that has personal meaning for Hoff.

“I have an extremely rare degenerative disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. One of my characters is a disabled merman (perfectly able in the water, but must move around on land in a wheelchair). We are committed to showing diversity, which will become more obvious in series 2 as we expand our characters to incorporate the multicultural aspect of the modern city of Glasgow.  This is hinted at in series 1 and becomes more apparent as series 2 begins.”

The series’ cast is comprised mainly of talented actors from the CCT (Cult Classic Theatre), and while they’re known for their stage performances of various existing works, CALEDONIA is the beginning of a new era for the troupe. “CCT was formed in 2010 as a way to put cult classics on the stage, but CALEDONIA is our first original work and marks our transition from the stage to the Internet screen,” Hoff says.

From there, Hoff and editor Jan van der Black quickly began the daunting task of prepping, producing and distributing CALEDONIA to the web. Recalls Hoff: “We started with a trailer, and then shot Caledonia over the course of several months. Now, Jan prepares the episodes and the cast works on re-recording so the episodes are ready for release every other Wednesday.  It was challenging to film in some locations given that people often interrupted us; there was once a riot on the beach in Ayr and in Glasgow we had to dodge water balloons!”

With exciting drama, suspense and fantasy elements, CALEDONIA will not only appeal to fans of various genres, but it will also be a favorite with those fascinated by some of Scotland’s storied myths and legends. “I think anyone with an interest in science fiction or fantasy would enjoy it, and especially those with an interest in Scotland, Celtic mythology, or mythology in general. If the character in Caledonia originated in Scotland, it is always the Scottish version of the monster (for example, Desdemona is a baobhan sith as opposed to the usual fanged vampire). I would like people to be able to learn about the vast number of creatures and stories available within Scottish folklore,” Hoff says.

While Hoff hopes that CALEDONIA will achieve greater success as a web series, her main goals for it are to show viewers a side of Scotland that’s far different than its more common perception – and that no matter how bad things can get, good will triumph in the end. “The overall message of this show is an uplifting one – that no matter how dark something seems, there is always a spark of light, and even in the darkest alleys of the most violent cities there is magic waiting to be found. The message is also that Scotland is so very much more than the tartan image, and there are countless stories waiting to be read, shared, and loved by new audiences around the world.”

(Note: Hoff is currently working to add closed captioning and subtitles to the series.)