Having a story that is over 120 years old, it was always going to be a challenge to offer something original to the piece.
Stephen Moffat (better known for Sherlock and Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss have made a galliant attempt to do this, which just falls short of being one of the best adaptations in living memory.
The writers clearly know there stuff and pay respect to previous incarnations with locations, shot and character beats that honour some of the movies; including Christopher Lee’s version and Bela Lugosi.
What they do so well throughout this three-parter is subvert some plot points but not at the expense of momentum. From the moment an inquisitive nun quizzes a disfigured Jonathan Harker about sleeping with Count Dracula, we know we are in for something unfamiliar.
It would have been so easy to stick to gothic tropes laid down for the past 98 years (since Nosferatu), but instead Gatiss and Moffat are bold with their choices.
Having said this, the finale does unravel slightly as the plot is fast-forwarded to the modern-day and feels slightly rushed as we hurtle towards a final confrontation between Van Helsing and Dracula. The ending does feel quite poignant and it was a relief to not have a conclusion that solely involved a stake to the heart or burning to death in sunlight.
Performance-wise Claes Bang smolders in the titular role, with a keen mix of menace, humour, and sexuality. Man or woman, no one is safe from Dracula’s clutches if he is hungry. This adaptation paints the vampire as a parasite on society who sucks the literal life out of Harker and is also a master manipulator when required.
This is fully realized on his journey overseas as passengers start to go missing and Dracula plays others off against each other before finally being revealed to a skeleton crew.
Bang is Dolly Wells though in the role of Sister Agatha, who is, for the most part, more than Dracula’s equal in wit, intelligent and intent. For an age-old tale, it would have been so easy to write a weak role for a woman but Agatha really is the big surprise who chews the scenery in almost every sequence she is in.
Special effects-wise there are some pleasant surprises, including Dracula emerging from the body of a wolf and a burn victim that will seep into your nightmares for days.
What the BBC’s version of Dracula has shown, is that there is plenty of room for new interpretations of age-old tales. This three-parter was never going to please everyone but it was never meant to.
BBC’s Dracula is now streaming on the BBC iPlayer.