Dracula (the BBC’s 2020 take)

Well, having being pretty unimpressed with the extraordinarily dull and desperate War of the Worlds, and falling asleep (twice!) during the new year’s episode of Doctor Who, I wasn’t expecting too much from Dracula. I mean, it’s a well-worn story and given their recent form, I wasn’t sure the BBC was going to do it justice.

Turns out I was wrong. This was the most polished piece of dramatic writing I’ve seen from the BBC since Killing Eve, and I suspect there’s a good reason for that.

But before we start on the writing, let’s talk about the genius leads: Claes Bang and Dolly Wells.

Bang takes a masterfully camp and comedic turn as the Lord of Darkness, supported by a cast of typical idiots who, literally, let him get away with murder. But since they’re idiots, you don’t really mind when he starts hacking through them like Satan’s lawnmower. The scenes are gruesome, graphic, but done with such over-the-top humour, I don’t think anyone could really get too upset about them – aside from the bit where folk are pulling off fingernails. I don’t like it when the undead start removing their own fingernails 🤢.

But the bit that really had me in stitches?

When Dracula is captured by a shady scientific institute and locked in a bunker! How does he escape? Does he hypnotise the guards, get himself release, then kill everyone in a murderous frenzy of blood and entrails?

No, he logs on to the prison wifi using the tablet they’ve given him, guesses the wifi password ‘Dracula’ – this is what I mean when I say they’re almost asking for it – and then sends an email to his lawyer.

And the brilliant Dolly Wells plays Van Helsing across the centuries, matching Bang line for line in wit and delivery, and adding a suspect Dutch accent for good measure.

To be honest, if you’re trying to decide who was the lead, then you might find it a hard job to pick between them.

So what about the story? Well it races across the centuries, looking back as well as forward, leaving plenty of moments of confusion before the big reveals. Dracula did seem to manifest new powers as needed, and this raised an eyebrow occasionally, along with a few details that made me think, “Mmmm … not sure about that.”

For one thing, I wasn’t sure why he didn’t decompose when he was trapped under water, without access to a blood for a century. At the start, he’s shown as an old man, presumably because he hadn’t had access to blood for a century. But there were things trapped in the castle that he was feeding off, so why was he old?

But on the whole, Dracula worked, and worked beautifully, and I think the reason it worked is because it had a definite Killing Eve quality about it: horror and humour delivered by great actors who bring a mysterious intensity to their complex relationship.

Brilliant stuff. Ten out of ten. So how about another series?

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