I myself get very nude and kill people in every episode and have absolutely no issue.
— Alex O’Loughlin, PinkRayGun.com, September 2007
Warning: If you are squeamish about bodily functions, please don’t read this article. 🙂
(Writer’s note: My knowledge about vampire mythologies are limited and I have never studied any of the other vampire stories and their mythology. I am only using what we see and hear in Moonlight and from that together with physiological facts, I make conclusions.
I did this Moonlight study, only because of Alex and his wonderful character Mick St John that fascinates me endlessly, nothing else)
Why do vampire stories need mythology and why do we need to know something about it when we watch a story? It is very simple. It is not real. It is like a game or a sport. It needs rules to function; otherwise you can’t play it or enjoy it. I find that the games and sports where I know the rules the best, I enjoy the most. Every vampire story is a different game and we can enjoy the game better if we know it´s rules.
Vampires call themselves “undead”. For all intents and purposes their human bodies died when they were turned. So what still function in their bodies and what does not? We will take a closer look at different systems and processes in the body to clear up some of these questions.
First we must understand that their bodies are in a constant process of decay and recovery. Heat, oxygen and moisture will speed up the process of decay and therefore they will avoid it at all cost.
On the other hand, blood as food and the cooling down of the body helps with recovery and they need it desperately to survive.
But I’ll tell you, mate, once I put those teeth and eyes in, it’s like I’m wearing a mask. It completely shifts me away from who I am. Mick St. John as a normal guy, before he vamps, is one character, but Mick St. John in full vamp is another beast altogether!
— Alex O’Loughlin, Starlog, March 2008
Every time I watch Moonlight, I find something new and this is what I have learned so far. If anybody have read or seen any other explanations please comment and we can discuss. I am making a lot of conclusions from what we see and nothing is really based on facts that I have read or seen anywhere else. It is also a very long time since I have studied physiology so we focus on the simple processes and not really doing an in-depth study of it at all (If we do, we might find to many loopholes :wink:).
1) Do the Moonlight vampires feel pain and do their senses work? – In other words does their Nervous system work?
The Nervous system is involved with senses. Pain will go hand in hand with the ability to experience touch.
Touch (and pain):
According to Mick in Episode 8 – 12:04 am, yes they do feel pain – he says that these old wounds still ache sometimes. We can also see when they are stabbed, staked and shot, how it hurts them. Josef also shows his pain and talks about his
experience of pain with Mick when he is removing bullets from his back in Episode 10 – Sleeping Beauty.
Therefor I conclude that their Nervous system functions and can send those impulses of pain to the brain. They can also see, hear, smell and taste rather well, which also indicates that those waves and impulses are being sent across the Nervous system – even beyond normal levels of intensity.
It also make sense if you think of them as intelligent creatures with a brain that function and that they are still able to think, speak and experience emotions. It is all impulses throughout the Nervous system that makes it possible – otherwise they would have just been mindless zombies.
One thing that Mick uses a lot, is his exceptional sense of
smell, especially when it comes to blood……he is even able to determine that the blood found in a vile, belongs to a specific person. In Episode 1 – There is no such thing as Vampires, he only needed a whiff of the professor’s freshly spilled blood to recognize it.
In Episode 8 – 12:04am he even talks about the smell of
fear in the blood of the person that was slain. In Episode 7 – The Ringer he went looking for the burned body of a dead woman, in the building that was destroyed by a fire.
In Episode 1 – There’s no such thing as Vampires, Mick talks about hearing things a hundred yards away. He can even hear heartbeat (also of an unborn child) as described in Episode 4 – Fever. And in Episode 9 – Fleur de Lis, he could actually hear things a microphone could not pick up.
In Episode 8 – 12:04 am Mick talks about their visual perception that is off the charts, when he has to look at surveillance footage at the jail.
We also see in Episode 15 – What’s left behind, that he can see in the dark.
Their taste however is limited to blood only, it seems. But it is so enhanced and refined, they can even taste blood types. In Episode 16 – Sonata, Josef let Mick taste Simone’s blood, to verify that it was not her blood found at the crime scene.
2) Do the Moonlight vampires have a heartbeat? – In other words does their blood move around in their bodies and does their Circulatory System or Cardiovascular System work?
Their hearts beat …… we see that with the vampire that is executed in Episode 8 – 12:04am. (Yes he was already a vampire then). We also hear it with Coraline in Episode 10 – Sleeping Beauty – her heart beats until she escapes, otherwise the hospital personnel would have picked up her lack of vital signs. It all makes sense, because the beating of the heart is derived from an electrical impulse that keeps it going and we have already established that their Nervous System works.
It would seem that the circulation of blood through their bodies is what makes it possible for vampires to move around and function ….. when they get staked in the heart, they are paralyzed because their blood can’t move around any more.
A question that has been asked, is whether the vampire, Donovan Shepherd in 12:04am, in fact died when he was executed?
My explanation for it is, no he did not die but was paralyzed in the same way as when a vampire gets staked. I would call it being “chemically staked”. With execution they normally would inject three different substances. One of them actually blocks the electrical impulse in the heart (It would be the same substance that Dr Andy from Three Rivers would use to stop his patient’s heart from beating, when he wants to operate on it).
After they then pronounced him dead and while he was tugged away in
his freezer in the morgue, the chemicals would get eliminated from his body over time and he would become “un-paralized” and very much “alive” again – well vampire undead, if you like. 🙂
I will revisit the whole blood and sensation thing later on, because it is important for other systems.
3) Do the Moonlight vampires eat and drink?
That brings us to the Digestive System (Gastrointestinal system). There are two functions involved here. One is of food physically passing through the system and the second is of food actually being broken down (digested) and then being used as fuel for a normal human body. The second function is not needed and their bodies can’t digest food, because we know vampires only live on blood – Mick tells us that in Episode 13 – Fated to Pretend.
The undigested blood from other living creatures that the vampires drink, gets transferred into their own blood stream, where it does its work of recovery and helping the body to function.
In theory all fluids should then be able to pass into the Circulatory System. From there the drinking of the alcohol. Alcohol will help with preservation of the undead body, but any other fluids will just speed up the decay. My theory is that they can’t really taste the alcohol, but they can get inebriated from it – because it works on the Nervous System.
Therefor they drink to get drunk and not for the taste – If they want taste, they add some blood to it, as we see Josef do on some occasions.
Solid food will just go through the system untouched , because it can’t be digested – marshmallow in marshmallow out. This is why vampires don’t eat …. it is all for nothing. They can’t taste the food and they can’t digest it, so why would they.
If the vampires don’t eat they do not need a toilet. This brings us to the next question.
4) Do the Moonlight vampires use the toilet and for what purpose? – This question because of the urinal in Mick’s bathroom next to his freezer.
Why would the vampires need their Renal System (Urinary tract) to work and therefore use an urinal …… because they do, otherwise they would not have gone to all the trouble to put one in Mick’s bathroom for us to see.
The kidneys are just a filter that cleans the blood. Blood passes through it and the impurities that are
inside the blood are eliminated through the bladder. There are no chemical processes happening here, it is just filtration. In other words, it is for cleaning of the blood and getting rid of excess fluids in the system. A function that vampires will need because blood is so important in their existence.
5) Do the Moonlight vampires breathe and for what purpose? Does their lungs function like humans – in other words exchange Oxygen (O2) & Carbon dioxide (CO2)?
The Respiratory System is the one that are the most difficult to interpret, because nothing specific is said about it. I have however picked up a few clues on it.
that the vampires only use their lungs to take in air and pass out that same air (like a bellows – thank you SJ for this one) No exchange of Oxygen (O2) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the lungs happen. Therefor I say that they only imitate the breathing proses for two main reasons. 1) To actually look human and 2) to have air that can pass over their voice boxes, so that they can speak. (And it can also help with good posture :smile:)
Reasons why I say their lungs don’t perform as normal human beings:
1) Vampires will avoid anything that can enhance decay – O2 is one of the main causes of decay. It gives life to the living, but it helps to speed up the rotting process
in the dead (look at any fruit after it has been plucked – if you can keep it away from heat, moisture and O2, it will keep longer)
2) The process
of O2 being converted into CO2 actually gives off heat – Vampires have no heat signature as been discussed in Episode 10 – Sleeping Beauty.
3) If they needed O2 to live as undead, they would not have been able to survive, sleeping in airtight freezers.
4) In Episode 7 – The Ringer we see that Hank Matola while fighting with Mick, shoves his head under water. He opens his mouth but he doesn’t drown or inhale water – something that would have happened if he needed the air and opened his mouth like that under water.
There are however some questions to be asked:
- When Mick wakes up in his freezer he gives a big yawn. Is he yawning like we do from lack of O2?
I believe he is actually just filling his lungs up with air again.
- Another incident that happens in Episode 7 – The Ringer, is Mick taking fingerprints from the door in Coraline’s apartment. He blows onto the door. Is it warm
air or cold air? If it was warm air like normal humans will exhale, the door or the air around it must then be very cold to produce that effect of frosting on the door.
Therefor I conclude that it is actually cold air that he blows onto the door that shows the finger prints. Cold air could only come from cold lungs and not from lungs where any process of O2 and CO2 exchange actually took place.
6) Are the Moonlight vampires cold?
Next we move on to the skin. Most vampires stories specifically state that the vampires feel cold when touched and it is kind of logical. They do not have processes that generate heat and it is specifically stated that they don’t have a heat signature.
In Moonlight, none of the humans that ever touches Mick says anything about him feeling cold. Either the creators just ignored this because they found it too difficult to work with or they were thinking of some other explanation.
My theory is that the vampires actually take on some of the heat from the air around them and even start to decay a little every day outside of their freezers and that makes them warm to touch. What happens to meat outside the freezer? It becomes warm and then start to decay (Thanks Alicia for that one).
7) Do the Moonlight vampires sweat?
In Episode 10 – Sleeping Beauty Mick tells us that vampires don’t give off heat signatures and that is why Josef has cameras up as security, that can tell him what kind of visitors he is getting. Humans sweat to cool them down and if vampires don’t need cooling down, they won’t sweat.
But we see Mick sweat and burn up in Episode 4 – Fever and also in other episodes when his body is under severe stress. How do we explain that then?
We are told that vampires can be killed by decapitation and being burned, but they can also die a very slow and painful death by rotting away when exposed to heat and the sun for too long (like the meat outside of the freezer, that I talked about earlier).
So in fact Mick is rotting to death in Fever. What happens when something rots – it gives off moisture and heat. From there I came up with a theory that Mick is not sweating like us to cool down, but he is oozing moisture
and giving off heat from his decay while he is exposed to the sun and heat for so long.
My apologies to everyone that loves this episode so much (myself included) – nasty to think the delicate flower was actually rotting. 😀
8) Can Moonlight vampires have sex and do they enjoy it?
Josef and Mick talks about it a few times and also of the fact that there is no problem for vampires and humans to have sex. To explain how it is possible we need to think of what we actually need to have sex and to enjoy it – sensation and circulation. Sensation we get through out Nervous system. Touch, feeling and thoughts are the things we need to get
stimulated and it happens as impulses move along the Nervous system. Circulation is needed to move blood to the parts of our bodies that need to function during the whole exhilarating encounter. Without those two ingredients, no enjoyment I am afraid.
Lucky for our Moonlight vampires, they have both those systems functioning and even in heightened form, so they should have a more enhanced sexual experiences than we as mere mortals.
My study is far from complete and nothing is cast in stone, because it is all speculation ……. I think it will take me many more years of many more Moonlight re-watches to figure it all out.
I loved Mick more than anybody. I had to live in his skin every day and every night for a long time.
— Alex O’Loughlin, Boston Herald, 1 October 2009
And lastly, any advice for the vampire wannabees out there?
This is dedicated to Spursy for all the many questions she always ask about Mick’s vampire body. And a special thanks to SJ and everybody that participated in our last Moonlight re-watch on The Junk Drawer.