TV Review: Dracula

Wednesday 13 November 2013 by

Dracula, 2013, TV Series, SkyThere’s a brand new series to fall in love with… Sky’s reimagining of Dracula (created by newcomer Cole Haddon) sees the king of all vampires terrorising Victorian London. Lead role and producer goes to Jonathan Rhys Meyers (of Bend it Like Beckham and The Tudors fame), with some familiar TV names to follow. But did the pilot have bite? (see what I did there?)

Dracula – episode one – The Blood is the Life

Our series begins in suitably Gothic fashion, in a darkened crypt as thieves run their hands over the gruesome sarcophagus of a mysterious man. One thief, however, has the tragic misfortune of being the mysterious man’s dinner, to bring him back to life.

Jump 10 years forward, to Victorian London and a very swish party hosted by American newcomer, Alexander Grayson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). We are quickly introduced to our central characters – including Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Mr Selfridge) and Mina (Jessica De Gouw, Arrow). If you’ve never read Bram Stoker’s novel, then these two vanilla characters are going to be vitally important – as hinted at when Grayson first lays eyes on Mina.

Forget mystery – it doesn’t take long for it to be confirmed that Grayson is, in fact, Dracula, and that Mina’s tutor – the stiff-lipped Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann*, Stalingrad) – is also part of the plot. Nice to get all that neatly out the way so we can focus on the sex, gore, and magic.

Good stuff.

This is a reasonable beginning to a series. It feels ever so familiar to all the other huge productions to grace our screens of late – slick, glamorous, sexy (bordering on the raunchy more often than not) and mystical. But, if I’m honest, I’m not really a Jonathan Rhys Meyers fan… his portrayal of a fat Henry VIII consisted of him turning down his mouth and speaking in a husky, deep voice, so I don’t really rate him as an actor. But played a cold, dead, cruel guy? Not so bad.

There’s a bit of me that wishes they had done full-on Buffy vampire faces instead of simple vampire teeth and I’m more curious about Lady Jayne Wetherby (Victoria Smurfit, About A Boy), who has more sass than the others and seems a better-formed character overall. It’s so hard to tell what to expect from an opening, because it’s more a political manifesto promising what’s to come rather than any juicy plot. We had a couple of deaths, some good questions, and a nice introduction to our central characters – but on the whole, much like Harker and Mina, this was a very vanilla introduction.

I quite like Harker and Mina as a concept – Mina the studious, clever medical student, and Harker the bright young journalist upstart. It’s a bit of a different idea to Bram Stoker’s imagining – perhaps to lead in to a Victorian setting of ideals and intrigue.

The setting itself? A very familiar Victorian London – smogged, with a sheen of propriety covering lust and intrigue and backstabbing. It’s the London of gothic novels, of Jack the Ripper, of Sherlock Holmes. There’s something comforting about returning to the dirty, smelly streets and feeling a frisson of excitement at the promise of a new enemy stalking the streets.

I’m not sure how much patience I will give this series if it fails to offer a good story arc – there’s not enough in the depth of characters to justify clinging to it. Second episode – step forward.

Rating, Review, Three

Did you watch Dracula? What do you think?

Meet the cast:

Lord Thomas Davenport is played by Robert Bathurst
Alexander Grayson is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Browning is played by Ben Miles
Jonathan Harker is played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Abraham Van Helsing by Thomas Kretschmann
Mina/Ilona is played by Jessica De Gouw
Lady Jayne Wetherby is played by Victoria Smurfit
R.M. Renfield is played by Nonso Anozie
Lucy Westenra is played by Katie McGrath
Lord Laurent is played by Anthony Howell
Lady Laurent is played by Charlotte Asprey

*Who has already had some Dracula dalliances: he played Dracula himself in Dracula 3D in 2012.

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