“Dracula” is a British-American TV series with a new take on the classic Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” written in 1879. Even though Dracula himself, as well as other vampires, have been subjected to numerous myths, movies and TV shows, Cole Haddon, the creator of the series, gives a neat and original interpretation of the story of Dracula. The series premiered last October, just before Halloween.
The series is based at the end of the XIX century in Victorian era London, where Dracula posing as an American industrialist Alexander Grayson, arrives. Alexander introduces himself as someone that will free the Victorian society from the necessity of oil products by implementing the idea of wireless electricity. However, scientific achievements are not the only reasons Dracula has returned, his and his allies main goal is the destruction of a secret group that has existed for several centuries – The Order of the Dragon, which is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of his love. His revenge plans, however, are being hindered by new-found feelings for Mina, the double of his beloved Ilona.
Still from “Dracula”
The main characters
The characters that are strong, constantly evolving and growing are one of the strong suits of the series. Alexander, who is cursed to forever be a blood-lusting creature, from an impulsive and a swift revenge seeking monster becomes a wise being with economical understanding, who takes his vengeance not by mass murder, but by destroying the Order’s main source of income – the oil industry. A second plot line is also created – a vampire falls in love with a human. Even though it is not a particularly original concept, it is presented in a pleasant way – Alexander doesn’t give in to his feelings, he doesn’t try to win Mina’s heart, even though he can’t bear to abandon her, because “if I leave her, that will be my end” as he told his servant. During the moments, when Dracula is with Mina he forgets his savage nature and sees in her his lost lover, which makes this romantic story interesting. However he also realizes that Mina is not the reincarnation of Ilona which saddens and makes him glad at the same time.
Jonathan Harker, who is Mina’s fiancé, from a simple, poor and seemingly harmless journalist gradually becomes a jealousy-ridden man that stops acting like himself and starts to distance from his loved one. Mina is a talented, promising student of medicine, who becomes a charming woman, and because of her passion for research, almost falls victim to her teacher, and because of her importance to Alexander faces more dangers during the course of the series.
Still from “Dracula”
There are other important characters that we will also meet – Van Helsing, a revenge-seeking doctor of medicine, who becomes an important ally of Dracula, a vampire hunter Jane, who hunts vampires at night and becomes a respectful lady of the city by day, important members of the Order, whose stories are revealed as the plot progresses.
The fact that the show runners don’t encumber the viewer with a massive amount of characters and their storylines is commendable, for example the time between Alexander’s resurrection and his arrival at London is skipped over, because it’s more important for the viewer to see a few important events, rather than the full life story of the character.
The escalation of the theme of good and evil
If you haven’t started watching the show and only read a short description of it, you might assume that Dracula would be depicted as an evil beast with only a few positive qualities that he was once a human. The reality of the series is quite different – the writers are questioning the viewer’s evaluations of some characters being more or less moral than others, rather than just being good or evil. It really is difficult to say which is worse – a creature with instincts to quench its thirst by drink blood, even though it values the life of a person, or an organization that claims to be a stalwart defender of the light, but would do anything to stay in power. “I only see darkness in you. At least I am pursuing light, even if it burns”. – Alexander’s words to one of his adversaries. The decision to let the viewers decide what is good or evil is an interesting one, but a successful nonetheless.
Still from “Dracula”
The biggest criticisms that the series received were for the deviations from the original story by Bram Stoker. The fans of the original Dracula are in for a disappointment, this famous character is portrayed as a slightly better version of a “Twilight” vampire – handsome, sexy, reserved, dangerous, but deeper, wiser and not glittering in the sun. And even though the original names of Mina, her friend Lucy and her fiancé Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing and Dracula are kept, their relationships differ from the source material.
On the internet this series is considered by many viewers to be one of the darkest. Even though it’s only logical that a TV show about the creatures of the night – vampires would be dark, it is a critique of the camera work and directorial decisions: a few scenes are so dark, that it is quite difficult to understand what is happening on the screen, which doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience. There are plenty of films that solve this issue very easily, so perhaps dark and obscure scenes were intended by the show runners?
There aren’t many “Save the Cat” moments in the series, where the villain (who would be Dracula), does something righteous and his further questionable decisions are forgiven by the viewer. It is a moment, an action, which allows the viewer to feel a slight sympathy for a character, even if he might be evil. As Dracula tries to balance good and evil, the viewer also has difficulty deciding whether he is a likeable character or not. The objective of the writers is to influence the viewer, who should question the concepts of good and evil, while also feeling a slight sympathy for Dracula, even though it was a wasted opportunity at the beginning of the series.
If you are a die-hard of the story of Dracula, I wouldn’t recommend this series. The deviations from the original story might leave you disappointed. I also wouldn’t recommend it to those that expect a lot of action and bloodshed. However, those that do not feel deep sentiments for the Bram Stoker’s novel and enjoy costume dramas, subtle plots and political intrigues will find it quite a treat.