In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Thursdays, Sky Living. Starts October 31st
There are many TV reviewers whose style it’s possible to want to emulate. Sam Wollaston of The Guardian is generally not one of those, largely because his reviews can be summarised as “I didn’t understand that and I had to ask my girlfriend what it was all about.”
But for once, I’m going to have to follow in his less than illustrious footsteps by saying “What? What did I just watch?” Dracula follows on from Hannibal by being an NBC/Sky Living co-production in which a European cast appear in a colourful horror story. Here, the story is a take on Bram Stoker’s Victorian classic Dracula, in which lawyer Jonathan Harker comes across a certain Count Dracula, who has a thing for his wife Mina, discovers that Dracula is a vampire, and then with the help of one Abraham Van Helsing, kills the blood-sucker.
I say ‘a take’ because despite the Victorian setting, as far as I can work out, the plot of this Dracula sees journalist Jonathan Harker and girlfriend Mina Murray come across an American industralist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors), who is actually the vampire Dracula with a dodgy US accent. Dracula has been resurrected by Abraham Van Helsing to help fight the shadowy organisation of English people (including Robert Bathhurst), the Order of the Dragon, who want to run the world using the money from their petroleum and who killed Dracula’s wife, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Mina. Dracula has a nifty wireless electricity invention based on geomagnetism that will stop that ambition, he reckons.
And while that covers the bare bones of the plot, I have literally no idea what else is really happening. There’s another couple (Ben Miles from Coupling and Victoria Smurfit) who might be vampire hunters and who carry around heads in bags. They also faked the whole Jack the Ripper thing to cover up vampire activity, and Smurfit spends days doing martial arts training next to a vampire in a steel cage. Katie McGrath from Merlin – half the cast are Irish doing bad English accents, by the way – is a posh girl whose motivation for anything is equally unclear.
It’s all set in Victorian times, but there’s wireless electricity and I’ve no idea how the Middle Ages Transylvanian warlord Vlad the Impaler would know how to create it. Almost all the women wear clothes that would have shocked decent society back then. There’s flashbacks to shagging and I’ve no idea why Mina is the apparent reincarnation of Dracula’s wife. And why does journalist Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) just sit there writing ‘visionary’ and ‘egotistical’ on his unlined notepad when he’s supposed to be interviewing someone?
Together with Da Vinci’s Demons and Atlantis, it’s as if TV has now decided to start throwing aside any sense of plot coherence or historical authenticity in favour of just throwing things at our screens and hoping that something, anything will be cool and work.
It all looks quite pretty thanks to being filmed in Hungary and there are some good fight scenes and vampire special effects. But between the bad accents, absolute incoherence of the plot, poorly defined or bizarre motivations for everyone involved, this is largely a show aimed at people who like wizzy gothic things happening at night with a hint of sex and blood, irrespective of whether it makes any sense.