Dracula: Review: Season 1 Ep 1

DraculaTV2013NBC, 25 October 2013

Dracula is awakened from his elaborate mechanical coffin and adopts the persona of Alexander Greyson a rich American industrialist in order to inveigle his way into London society.

Though still set in 1896 and still featuring most of the same characters from the novel, this ongoing series is definitely not an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Nor does it situate itself alongside the many other film versions of the book—except perhaps for the Francis Ford Coppola version (which itself drew on the BBC mini-series from 1977). The most striking theft from the Coppola is having Mina as a re-incarnation of Dracula’s long-dead wife, potentially an odd choice given the dramatic moves away from the source material in all other respects.

These narrative changes are not so much twists on the original, as a complete shift of tone, plot and theme. The premise of this new series is so utterly different, it begs the question of why bother with Dracula at all. The setting up of the storylines in the first episode screams ‘this is not Dracula’. It is a mash-up (or better yet, a collision) of characters from the novel with an alternate industrial history that has some Steampunk things going on in the corners.

Dracula’s motivation (it seems) is to stop Thomas Edison’s inventions from defining the development of civilisation as we know it, replacing it with his own vision of the future. To this end, he wants to get rid of the pompous industrialists and entrepreneurs swaggering through London high society. Throw into that mix a version of Van Helsing that you won’t recognise and a secret society bent on eradicating Dracula. The latter are a little confusingly known as the Order of the Dragon, which given Dracula means ‘son of the dragon’ seems to be a misnaming. Order of the Dragon Slayers might be more apt!

Overall, this gives the impression that the series creator Cole Haddon wanted to redo Dracula, but then Carnivale‘s Daniel Knauf came in as showrunner and stamped it with his own thing. True or not, it remains to be seen how successful this conjunction of disparate elements will be in the long run. In the meantime, there is some fun to be had in this opening episode. It will be interesting to see whether this series can develop into something engrossing.

Verdict: Gaslight romance with added vampirism.

Episode 1 ‘The Blood is the Life’: 7/10

Brigid Cherry

 

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