Dracula, BBC One
- Brian Donaldson
- 18 December 2019
This all-new Dracula has charm and sarcasm to die for but ultimately lacks any heft or bite
With the future of Sherlock firmly up in the air, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have turned to another icon of the canon for alternative ribald festive fare. Spread across three consecutive nights and lasting four and a half hours, it might be a tall order to expect viewers to hang in there for the duration. This Dracula has a fair amount in common with Sherlock, the titular neck-chomper oozing charm and spitting out sarcastic lines with an inbuilt menace not a million miles away from Andrew Scott's Moriarty.
Danish actor Claes Bang does a decent turn as the louche Count who spouts the Queen's English, while his arch nemesis here (a spirited, god-doubting nun called Sister Agatha) is played by Dolly Wells who is handed the task of mastering a Dutch accent. The gist of the three parts is a well-trod set-up: episode one has lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) visiting Dracula's Transylvanian abode where he is tormented by various ghouls and teased by his shape-shifting host; the second part is set on the bad ship Demeter (yes, this episode is called 'Blood Vessel') as Drac heads for England, with the climactic 90-minute drama following the undead dude's fate on UK soil.
While employing as many different methods as possible of portraying Dracula plunging his fangs into flesh through sound effects, colour schemes, and camera angles, the sheer number of assaults on the jugular leave the viewer a bit numb to it all somewhere around the middle of episode two. Meanwhile the corny lines which Bang is forced to utter get wearing rather quickly: 'I've been dying to see you' or describing a new companion/potential victim as 'fresh blood' are typical examples.
Enjoyable up to a point but threatening to become a little ponderous in its telling, there is very little tension afoot. This is especially true in 'Blood Vessel' when no one on the ship has a clue who is bumping passengers off, while the jump scares all arrive at the points you'd expect them to. Still, as episode two draws to a close, Moffat and Gatiss leave us with enough of a promise that something much more compelling lies ahead for the last hour and a half.
Episodes watched: 2 of 3
Dracula airs on BBC One, Monday 1–Wednesday 3 January, 9pm.