The main mystery of BBC horror adaptation Dracula has been a simple one – why does Claes Bang’s vampire fear the cross, when other of his kind do not? – but over the three feature-length films from Sherlock’s Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, there have been no easy answers.
At first, Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells) theorised that he reacted against the fundamental goodness of faith and religion, which Dracula laughed off, while in episode two he suggested that his antipathy was in fact absorbed from drinking the blood of generations of Transylvanian peasants terrified of the church.
Sister Agatha dismissed this, however, and in Dracula’s final episode we learned the real truth – which, if you’ve not seen the episode, is a total spoiler so look away now.
Dramatically revealing that Dracula does not, in fact, need to hide from sunlight, Dolly Wells’ Agatha/Zoe Van Helsing explains that an awful lot of the Count’s “weaknesses” (sunlight, needing to be invited in, the cross) actually stem from his self-hatred and need to remain outside in the shadows, founded in the fact that for all his years on this Earth he’s been terrified of death.
A former warlord who has seen all his descendants buried, Dracula subconsciously wishes he could be brave enough to die – and in seeing the crucifix Jesus died on, Helsing posits, he’s reminded of how weak he really is.
“Now we know why this works,” she says, “because it speaks of the courage you long to possess. The courage it takes to die.
“You seek to conquer death – but you cannot until you face it without fear.
“You will live forever, in shame,” she concludes.
So there you have it – as it turns out, the power of a crucifix over Dracula stems from his own self-esteem issues, and not any great religious feeling (though it’s possible he wasn’t wrong about the peasants’ fear affecting him a little). Clearly a man (or bat-man) that needs to practice a little self-care.
All three episodes of Dracula are available to stream on BBC iPlayer now