Post by JoannaB on Jan 15, 2020 20:09:31 GMT -5
Dracula: BBC's New TV Series
Described as fun, smart, scary and with just the right whiff of ham, BBC One’s new series Dracula is a ripping good yarn. Adapted by Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the show is presented in three 90-minute parts. Basically, it’s an entertaining, revitalizing story, reveling in its absurdity, clever without being clever-clever, and strewn with comic and dramatic flourishes that give one the feeling this isn’t just a treat but a tribute – to the author, to the season, to the intelligent viewer.
Everything one requires in a TV series is here: A dark, unmappable labyrinthine castle. Gnarled hands resting on balcony ledges, their unseen owner lurking in shadowy recesses. Terrified locals. Bats. Crying babies. Primal fears inescapably roused.
The story unfolds within two time-frames, the Now and the Then. In the Now, where we begin, a strangely-deformed man is being interviewed in a nunnery by Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells) who is arguably the best nun of all time, and not just because she has no time. “Like many women my age I am trapped in a loveless marriage, maintaining appearances for the sake of a roof over my head,” she says briskly. She is investigating the man’s tale of escaping someone he calls Count Dracula. The man’s name is Jonathan Harker and he is played by John Heffernan with the same utter conviction brought to the story by the rest of the cast via a script and direction that are all refreshingly devoid of any shred of cynicism. One may point, as apparent disproof of this assertion, to Sister Agatha’s response to Harker’s failure to realize the significance of an SOS message written in English in the heart of eastern Europe: “You are an English man,” she explains. “A combination of presumptions beyond compare.” But one would be wrong. She is simply a truth-teller, unfettered by convention. This is quite different.
Harker was brought by a fisherman to the nunnery, having been found washed up on the banks of a nearby river muttering about forces of evil. He looks a half-formed thing – bald and white and smooth, a cross between Voldemort and Ryan Reynolds’ irradiated Deadpool – as well, it turns out, he might.
Harker is a lawyer who was sent to advise a mysterious client on some legal issues at his castle. That’s the Then. The client is an unsettling, old, old man with a Transylvanian (is it?) accent who says exactly the things you want an old, old man with a Transylvanian accent and an unmappable castle to say. Things such as “I don’t drink … wine,” and “The people around here have no flavor.” “Perhaps you mean ‘character’?” suggests Harker gently. “Perhaps,” replies the old, old man. When asked if there is anyone else living in the place, he replies, “No. There’s no one … living here.” It is around this point that one commences settling into a more comfortable position.
The client takes a shine to him, and so Harker must stay. His health fails, he becomes weaker by the day – but the years fall away from Dracula until he stands revealed as Danish actor Claes Bang, embodying exactly the wolfish charm and diabolic spirit one loves to see in a prince … the prince of darkness, that is.
It’s a bloodstained love letter, beautifully and delicately scented with just the faintest hint of ham required of Gothic yarns; a homage to all the great Counts who have gone before, but still entirely its own thing. And, like the best of Gatiss and Moffat’s Sherlocks, with the searching intelligence that promises to flesh out the foundational story.
Source: Lucy Mangan, The Guardian, January 1, 2020.