So there we have it, Jekyll and Hyde, rebooted, jazzed up and neatly packed for the delectation of the comic book and Doctor Who fan.
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. But it is the case that the broadcaster has looked enviously at BBC1’s weekend schedule for years and longed for a teatime franchise of derring-do and supernatural capering. And it appears to have finally delivered.
Robert Jekyll is the grandson of the first Dr Jekyll who has inherited this unwanted gift and steadily discovers his, erm, temper from the seclusion of Sri Lanka where he has been placed in the care of kindly Dr Najaran and his wife Gurinder.
As his darker side becomes apparent to him and to others, he hotfoots it to London (below) where he attracts the attention of Richard E Grant’s super spy Bulstrode (bottom pic), doing what Richard E Grant does well: comic relief with a hint of menace.
Bulstrode is a monster hunter in London and it seems that we will be getting a fair few fantastical creatures in this series. Tonight’s special effects-bothering guest star was a rabid dog-like creature called a Harbinger that Grant managed to subdue with some panache.
Essentially, Fast Show alumnus Charlie Higson has reimagined Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Victorian yarn, setting it in the 1930s but with Gotham-style comic book yarns of goodies and baddies and monsters. Lots of monsters, judging by the trailer of upcoming episodes.
Tom Bateman’s Dr Jekyll, the hero with the split personality, is suave and dashing before his transformation and there are plenty of posh boy actors out there with the requisite good looks and acting panache for that, but I was quite impressed with his darker side, the charismatic and sexy Mr Hyde.
Hyde can throw a punch effectively but he’s also the kind of creature you would imagine seducing a woman rather than tearing her throat out, and Bateman really pulled that off.
Hyde also feels like he inhabits the tradition of TV’s latest crop of antiheroes, people who maintain a pleasant-enough surface but have hidden nastiness, like Dexter or Breaking Bad’s Walter White.
Is it too violent? When I interviewed Higson he seemed unconcerned about the early evening/late teatime slot, given all the mayhem and death on show. As the author of teen horror books he is convinced that these sort of subjects help young people make sense of the world. “Kids will be happy with it, they love all that stuff,” he laughed. And he should know.
Because this isn’t a real place, it is a world of painted glass backdrops, a bit Batman, set in the 1930s but with enough of foothold in the real world to maintain the menace. It’s an interesting and bold idea. And I think it works.
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