Synopsis: The action takes place aboard ship, The Demeter, which is heading to England, as the dastardly and dangerous Count Dracula (Claes Bang)takes a step closer to his ambition: establishing a presence at what he sees as the centre of the civilized world. There, he plans to disperse his very essence. Attempting to stop him is Van Helsing (Dolly Wells), who must employ all the wits and cunning able to be mustered. The stage is set and the showdown about to pick up the pace . . .
What Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat have brought to the screen with Sherlock, they achieve a similar success with their take on Dracula.The action takes place aboard a ship, which provides the well-established Gothic trope of using an enclosed space to bring a sense of claustrophobia. It works brilliantly, and allows the pacing of things to have a natural feel, as the journey must eventually end. Just as the ship is going towards its destination, so too is the plot in this episode. There are surprises too, along the way, by the writers. Viewers are constantly second-guessing themselves as to whether the scene being viewed is taking place as it it is seen, in an imagined scenario (just as scenes from Sherlock are sometimes sometimes played out in the realm of the mind. What works incredibly well is that it can switch between settings so well, and not risk ruining coherence. The essence of the book’s ability to ask questions, by way of the unreliable narration is wonderfully captured and used powerfully.
Dolly Wells takes much of the screen and brings the sense of determination so indicative of Van Helsing. The character is portrayed so well that at times she carries the whole scene, despite having to compete with the incredible talent of Claes Bang’s Dracula. The chemistry between these two stars is palpable and complex. Their ability to appear as two sides of one story is sublime, at times. The fact they can helps to create the shared consciousness that is reminiscent of Sherlock and Moriarty. It’s rare to see such a natural feel onscreen. As well as adding to the drama, the smoldering undertones of desire come through with effortlessness.
Youssef Kurkour , Jonathan Aris and Samuel Blenkin are part of a strong supporting cast, who help to illustrate exactly why they were cast. Each has a quality that Dracula desires, and brings that to the proceedings with aplomb. It could easily have felt claustrophobic in the wrong way, with having multiple strong personalities in one scene together. Instead, each shows why they are unique, earning their place in the story, whilst helping to do the same for one another, simultaneously.
The set looked wonderful and the sense of motion created whist the action occurred above decks was extremely intelligent work. Even the wind appeared as if it was genuinely blowing and considering much of the actionb took part at night, nothing looked too difficult to view, with the lighting being managed skillfully. Things as simple as simple as a candle-lit room was done with absolute precision. These details matter in anything, but especially considering Dracula’s inability to withstand daylight.
A standout highlight was the cloud of mist that shrouds the ship. As well as looking eerie and appearing as fog, rather than smoke (more credit here to the effects team for getting this spot on). The use of it was another way to show what dark magic the most famous vampire of them all (sci-fi pulse must apologise to Blade about this, but that is the truth!) is capable of.
Costume wise, there was plenty to appreciate. The fanciful clothing of the upper-class passengers was offset well against the plain clothes of the ship’s crew; perhaps this was another attempt to take what has become so well-documented in the book, and represent displays of opulence and material wealth as something ungodly. A sense of the plainly dressed as a symbol of the rejection of avarice (certainly, this would apply to the attire of Sister Agatha.
Generally, this episode was an improvement of last night’s. It had a tighter feel, and a self-contained story. The action was still able to flit from space to space, and there was certainly more of a sense of genuine suspense, as the evil Count continued his reign of terror, aboard the ship. As well as the aforementioned use of one location helping to bring a sense of the inevitable closing in on and around the other passengers and crew travelling on the ship, the way that psychological manipulation was written into the show was an absolute joy to watch.
As the episode drew to a close the pay off came, in an exciting confrontation, that again was laced with the “terror of the mind” that this story so heavily draws on. Whilst exchanges of dialogue between the two central characters doubled up as essential exposition, the duality of an age old “good vs evil” was also explored, and at times the lines between them were not so much blurred, as the the very concepts thrown into question. Another fine example of making what has helped the novel to maintain its status as a stalwart of Gothic Literature. Hopefully, the final installment will offer more of the same smartly-written drama and at times chilling terseness.
- Incidental Music8.1