Dracula is one of my favourite novels. I love the letter format and this tale unfolds with layers of horror that build up to some really dramatic moments, which is surprising given the way it’s written. With both Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat at the helm for this 2020 adaptation, along with the might of the BBC backing funding, Dracula is essentially three feature-film length episodes put together to form an anthology of Dracula’s adventures through time. With some nice ideas early on, Dracula does a reasonably good job following the exploits of the book, modernizing and spinning different elements to suit a new audience but yet somehow throws all of this out for one of the worst final parts to a series I’ve seen in quite some time.
Before we get there though, the story begins just like it does in the book, in 1897 with lawyer Jonathan Harker visiting Count Dracula in Transylvania. After finding himself trapped in the Count’s castle, what follows is a three-way jaunt between Sister Agatha, Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula himself. I won’t spoil too much of course but the first part paves way for the second, which follows the Russian vessel The Demeter and plays out like a slasher thriller, before a third and final part that takes place in London. While the settings are relatively unchanged from the source material, the execution completely warps any perception of the book, for better or worse.
With a mixture of dark humour and slick cinematography, Stephen Moffat takes his trademark style seen in Doctor Who and Sherlock, and brings it to the small screen again for this Dracula adaptation. The result is something chock full of jokes and stylish shots – some working really well and others not so much. Adding to this are numerous quick cuts and stylistic ticks one’s come to expect in Moffat’s arsenal. At his best, the man’s knack for a good plot twist is well recorded and certainly here we see this in all its glory. Unfortunately his Mr Hyde comes from his tendency to over-indulge and inflate his own ego, delivering convoluted and outright nonsensical plot threads for the sake of seeming to be edgy or more daring than he actually is. Dracula somehow shows both sides of this.
Despite its plot inconsistencies and a truly woeful final part, Dracula’s brightest point comes from Claes Bang who brings Dracula to life with a charisma and cunning, dark humour that makes this man so endearing to watch. He’s an incredibly compelling character and his scenes alongside Dolly Wells, who plays Sister Agatha, are arguably the strongest of the entire series.
Dracula is ultimately a series that’s two thirds brilliant and one third terrible. It’s a conflicting show to review as a collective whole as the finale essentially ruins the entire experience. It’s arguably as bad as some of Sherlock and Doctor Who’s darker days. It’s such a shame too because there’s a lot to like from this adaptation and I’m loathe to give this one too low a score given the excellent work done early on.
If you can take this as a two-part show, Dracula is all the stronger for it but the final third destroys any good vibes this one had going into it. If you can prepare yourself for that beforehand then this is worth a watch but to be honest, if you’re the least bit interested in the true legend, I’d strongly recommend reading the book instead of this one. Or at least watch the first two episodes and skip the final part.