At first co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss didn’t seem to know what type of Dracula they wanted theirs to be. Apart, perhaps, from everybody else’s - the scary and silly, the gory and funny.
The start of their three-part adaptation was like a compilation of the genre through the ages - a vampires’ Greatest Hits, Best of The Count, or Tribute to Transylvania: ‘Fangs For The Memories.’
A cross between the modern horror of flesh-eating extravaganzas True Blood, Hannibal, and The Walking Dead and the old-fashioned camp of 1970s/80s parodies like Love At First Bite or Leslie Nielsen in Dracula: Dead And Loving It by Mel Brooks.
Too familiar: Transylvania’s vampire was Moriarty with fangs and Van Helsing just Holmes with a crucifix. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss turned Dracula into Sherlock 2, by Jim Shelley
It opened with the Count looking as ancient as David Bowie’s vampire in The Hunger and ended with him, rejuvenated, grinning to his next victim: ‘I’ve been dying to meet you!’ A line delivered with all the gravitas and phoney ‘charm’ of Robbie Williams if he’d been in Carry On Screaming!
A terrifying image admittedly. That strange groaning noise we could hear was the sound of Bram Stoker turning in his crypt.
Eventually it all fell into place. The type of Dracula they wanted was…Sherlock. The Count was merely Moriarty with fangs and his perennial nemesis Van Helsing their new Holmes, only with a bag full of metal stakes and a cross (and God).
The two were locked in a battle of wits, in both senses - as you’d expect with Moffat and Gatiss.
Opinion: The start of their three-part adaptation was like a compilation of the genre through the ages - a vampires’ Greatest Hits, Best of The Count, or Tribute to Transylvania
Like any fight between the forces of Good and Evil these days, it was no longer enough for the hero and villain to just try and defeat their (seemingly indestructible) adversary.
They had to match them when it came to amusing one-liners, clever quips, and camp comments too.
At the end of this, the first round, I made the score a draw, although Dracula certainly won the last category.
Bursting from the body of a black dog/wolf after a spot of shape-shifting, he quipped to the Mother Superior and the Sisters: ‘I don’t know about you girls but I do love a bit of fur!’
‘You’re a monster!’ wailed Jonathan Harker when he saw the vampire for what he was.
Thoughts: Dracula is a cross between the modern horror of flesh-eating extravaganzas True Blood, Hannibal, and The Walking Dead and the old-fashioned camp of 1970s/80s parodies
‘And you’re a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect!’ Dracula purred back.
In the hands of Moffat & Gatiss, Stoker’s creation Abraham Van Helsing (a professor) had become Agatha (a nun) and, she told Dracula, ‘your every nightmare at once. An educated woman in a crucifix!’
When Dracula emerged from the beast’s body he tried to rile her, mocking her defence plan: ‘your Army of the Faithful can’t look me in the eye.’ ‘You’re naked and they’re nuns,’ she observed simply. ‘It isn’t your eye they’re not looking at…’
Unfortunately in terms of the bodycount and amount of blood split/consumed it was safe to say Dracula was clearly ahead. A head belonging to Joanna Scanlan from The Thick Of It as the Mother Superior.
Disappointing: Van Helsing's explanation for being in the convent/a nun was classic Moffat and Gatiss: ‘like many women of my age I am trapped in a loveless marriage'
‘She was clearing her throat but I think it’s fine now,’ Dracula told the nuns, holding her head aloft as blood spurted from her neck.
Claes Bang was fantastic as Dracula (‘enjoying himself enormously’, as they say) – matched barb for barb by Dolly Wells as Sister Agatha. They worked their socks off – or perhaps acted their hearts out – dashing back and forwards between styles, keeping all the writers’ plates spinning.
But not even they could alter the fact that the downside of the humour was, crucially, Dracula was no longer scary – neither as a vampire or a drama.
This was hard to imagine when we first met Harker - being questioned by Van Helsing after he’d (supposedly) escaped the Count’s clutches: his mottled skull covered in huge abscesses, neck marked by a love-bite scar, and bizarrely unaware of a fly crawling across, then into, his eye.
Harker eventually realized with dismay: ‘I’m dead.’
Like any fight between the forces of Good and Evil these days, it was no longer enough for the hero and villain to just try and defeat their (seemingly indestructible) adversary
‘Undead,’ Van Helsing corrected him. ‘But apparently not yet a vampire. One must cling on to any good news that there is.’
In the meantime she wanted to know everything about his time with the Count: ‘dinners, conversations, intimate moments’ – by which ‘if you had sexual intercourse with Count Dracula?’
As it turned out Moffat & Gatiss said their incarnation wasn’t