Can you think of a better way to spend the New Year than with a good and bloody gothic horror? I’m sure plenty of people can, but there’s certainly a market for it, and BBC’s Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat, the great minds behind Sherlock, have created a new adaptation of an old tale, Dracula. In keeping with their usual style, Dracula is a three-part series, marked at around 90 minutes per episode, and of course, is an adaptation of an old classic novel. 

The story that Gatiss and Moffat brought to the screen follows the tale of Dracula (Claes Bang), an ancient warlord turned vampire from Transylvania, as he pursues his desire to move to England, where he believes he will live a more entertaining life with more civilised, vibrant people. All the while, he is locked in a battle of wits with Sister Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells), who seeks to both understand the beast, and stop him from murdering countless innocents.

Whilst the modern-day retelling of Sherlock worked perfectly and might have worked in this iteration of Dracula, the beauty and magic of the tale is in its gothic horror. The first two episodes were full of it, only to have it completely taken away in the final episode. Suits are wonderful, certainly, but who is Dracula without his billowing cloak? Unlike the tale of Sherlock Holmes, the tale of Dracula is largely thematic, and had the Gothic element been absent from the beginning, it would not have been very jarring, but the last thing any Dracula fan wants – and it is a very niche audience – is for Dracula to feel clinical.

The show has other flaws. The plot twists end up underwhelming, and the show would have benefitted far more from sacrificing shock value in lieu of, perhaps, deeper characterisation. Its poor attempts at including LGBT representation are overshadowed by blatant queerbaiting, and the fact that whilst portraying Van Helsing as a strong female character, the writing completely underuses the characters of Mina (Morfydd Clark) and Lucy (Lydia West).

That’s not to say the show, or rather the first two episodes at the least, were not incredibly enjoyable. The performances of Bang and Wells, are astonishingly good, especially together, and they provide bright colour to an otherwise dark palette. With dialogue generally being a strength of Gatiss and Moffat’s work, some of the scenes are simply outstanding. When the show is good, it’s excellent, it’s just a shame it struggles to maintain that excellence in the final episode. 

In short, were it possible to rate a show episodically, it would be an entirely different song and dance, but as it is, the episodes are almost self-contained, and if you’re a fan of gothic horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or even just very tall men in capes, it is certainly worth a watch. There’s an entire film’s worth of content before the helicopter turns up, and that should be enough to satiate your thirst.

3 stars

Image: Movie DB

Paige Cockbain is a Screen Contributor.

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