With Sherlock, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat showed an aptitude for modern retellings of classic stories. The show was a laudable attempt to bring a character very much of its time into the contemporary world, helped by a game cast, sharp dialogue and clever twists. However, critical acclaim appeared to incite malaise and the show gradually became irritatingly beholden to its own cleverness.
For that reason, it was high time Gatiss and Moffat tried their hand at something new. An adaptation of Bram Stoker’s titular novel wasn’t an obvious direction to take, but an intriguing one nonetheless. The first episode promises much, respectfully tipping a hat to its source material while introducing a fresh reinvention of the notorious antagonist.
Danish actor Claes Bang takes up that mantle and does a pretty great job with the material he’s given. At the beginning of the series we are given a Dracula that correlates with the usual stereotypes associated with the character, including the sort of thick Transylvanian accent we’ve all attempted at lame Halloween parties. But it’s not until the prosthetics are shed that we see Bang come into his own as a sexually overt, occasionally bestial incarnation of the Count.
It’s a fun performance that will do the actor’s burgeoning reputation no harm.
Sadly, Gatiss and Moffat’s story is way too familiar for Dracula to ever be anything more than predictable and, at its worst, very irritating. The writers indulge all of the tropes that caused their Sherlock to become so annoyingly self-knowing, including twists that are a lot less smart than their originators think they are.
Another issue is that no character besides Dracula himself feels remotely consequential. They are all just members of a paint-by-numbers supporting cast, there to only occasionally foil their nemesis’ plans. This is evidenced most clearly in the final episode, which is so profoundly dull that I had to Google the ending to remind myself what happened.
This is a shame because there’s real potential in Dracula. But one suspects that its writing team have finally shown themselves to be one-trick ponies with very little to declare but their own assumed genius.