Dracula: Dracula (2020)   Books Included 
January 1, 2020 3:42 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Moffat & Gatiss return with a three-part "adaptation" of Dracula on BBC One and Netflix.

Do we need a plot summary? It's Dracula, he does Dracula things. I'm marking this as "all episodes" because there are only three episodes and it ends on Friday.
posted by betweenthebars (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The trailer is a mixed bag... there's all this stuff that looks like it's meant to be serious, but then Dracula himself has such a Mel Brooks vibe. The Winona/Keanu Dracula movie was kind of a mess, but the visual design was brilliant, and it's hard to go back to some-guy-in-a-cape Dracula after that. Nevertheless, I will probably look at this just because I'm in the mood for it for some reason.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:19 PM on January 1, 2020

I have to admit that I approached this warily, not knowing if it would be from the keyboard of the Moffat who wrote some of my favourite Who, or the one who wrote that other thing that I'm still mad about.

Episode 1 was fun. It's not an adaptation of the book, which I doubt Mofftiss have read, but it's like an adaptation of misremembering Hammer horror films and getting them mixed up with Doctor Who when you try telling the plots to your friends.

On preview:

Dracula himself has such a Mel Brooks vibe

I loved how much Dracula enjoys bantering and telling bad jokes. The people around him have no flavour.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:43 PM on January 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think the people who are looking for Serious Literary Dracula will be disappointed. The bad jokes made me happy, but it wouldn't have been at all surprising if Kenneth Williams had been on one of the boxes.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:01 PM on January 1, 2020

This is a very, very funny retelling. The nun's deadpan is awesome.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 5:17 PM on January 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think it's probably best to go into anything by this team expecting knockabout disrespect, and that's certainly what we got. And probably what it needs - is there any seam more overmined than vampires? I think they're probably both very familiar with the novel, but wanted to tear it up, throw all the bits in the air and see where they landed, and it's enough fun that I really don't mind. So many references to different Draculas (so much so that I was put in mind of Kim Newman's masterful Anno Dracula series, which must also have been on the writers' minds) - for example, the "I don't drink... wine" line, the wall-crawling, Jonathan Harker looking like Nosferatu (though somehow mashed up with Renfield). And then all sorts of new (to me at least) elements - the vampire unpacking himself from a tiny box, Dracula pulling away a stolen skin like a Mission Impossible facemask.

And, it has to be said, Sister Agatha is the break-out star of the show.

I don't think it sets out to be anything more than entertaining, but it certainly succeeds there, and doesn't need to be any deeper. I put it on more or less on a whim, and hadn't given it any more thought than that, but I'm definitely on board for the whole thing.
posted by Grangousier at 5:23 PM on January 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

The question I have, does Moffatt know how to write a lead character that isn't a preternaturally observant asshole detective-type or does he just stick with that character because that is currently what sells?

Also, "without hope or help" and "beyond rescue, reward, judgement." He remembers using this for Capaldi, already, right?
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 6:19 PM on January 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Initially had a hard time getting into it, but once I realized that the snark was intentional... its starting to charm me.

Yes and super yes to Sister Agatha (especially because of her flaw of hubris). Mostly yes to sleazy Dracula*. Harker being a daywalker, too, well... only if they keep the comedy up.

Previous to watching this, I had just finished rewatching the pilot of Future Man where Akwafina had a line about how she'd fuck Luigi, and that his dick would be all hair(, like a cat's ?) - Dracula crawling from his wolf cocoon, wet and hairy, made me wonder if he was more domestic cat hairy or domestic dog hairy. You know, down there and which way the hairs were oriented.

Human evolutionary ancestors sported penis spikes so having it re-manifest isn't completely bonkers.

posted by porpoise at 10:41 PM on January 1, 2020

I feel like I'm the only person who hated this thing...but that might be partly because of my utter and complete done-ness over Moffat and Gatiss and how clever they think they are after the last season of Sherlock.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:57 AM on January 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

Is this as bad as Moffat's legendarily bad Jekyll ?
posted by Pendragon at 9:02 AM on January 2, 2020

I liked this.
And I liked Jekyll!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:41 AM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Wow, yeah, haven't watched this yet, but I really liked Jekyll, and thought it was fairly well regarded. "Legendarily bad"??

(I agree the last season of Sherlock was terrible, though)
posted by Roommate at 11:44 AM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Jekyll was bad. It was fun bad, but yes it was very very bad.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:56 PM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ugh. This was utter dross.

It clearly means to be arch and cheeky, hitting both humour and horror, but it misses both.

I liked Dracula himself but found every other character and interaction and plot beat and bit of writing just insufferable.

I kept watching because of the glowing reviews but I disliked it from the jump and it never got better. I'm glad other folks got something out of the experience but I have zero interest to see where this goes.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is this as bad as Moffat's legendarily bad Jekyll?

Yes! Moffula is so bad and honestly it is the kind of stupidly bad thing I needed for entertainment right now. I love it! Fingers crossed for Scotland Yard with vampires* in the next episode.

*But not a crossover with that other thing because I'm still mad about it.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:35 PM on January 2, 2020

Hit post too soon--my other thought is that it reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:48 PM on January 2, 2020

I'm guessing the "adorable barmaid" at the Rose and Crown moonlights as a governess.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:29 PM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you like spoofy vampires and missed the TV series adaptation of What We Do in the Shadows, it's worth, er, digging up.
posted by rikschell at 9:04 AM on January 3, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm going to go ahead and say that Dracula texting in ALL CAPS is the best part of episode 3 and "you know where to find me" was a surprisingly welcome reminder of the 20 minutes of Sherlock that I did enjoy (Lestrade). Additionally, this is probably the best and most appropriate use of "Angels" ever.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2020

Really lame ending. Not since The Strain has there been a more stupid-ass ending. In the end, Dracula and Van Helsing loved each and just wanted to fuck. Or something.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 7:40 PM on January 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ugh, definitely did not stick the landing. A couple of great jokes in there, though; the WiFi password one actually made us both laugh a lot . Also, vampire emoji!
posted by skybluepink at 2:53 PM on January 4, 2020

Why the fuck are they so bad at endings?

There were some genuinely great moments but surely someone must have said "Stephen, you appear to have replaced the last 10 pages of the script with a repeated shit emoji. What happened to the words?"

Also, stop torturing women you misogynist prick."
posted by fullerine at 6:12 AM on January 5, 2020

Part 1: Actually, this is pretty good!
Part 2: Hm, interesting developments. Really like Sister Agatha!
Part 3, start: Wow, what a twist!
Part 3, middle: hm, seem to be wandering a bit but still a good germ of an idea
Part 3, end: WTF was that?
posted by jazon at 7:38 AM on January 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

that was super cheezy and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:53 PM on January 5, 2020

There was some silly fun in there, but yeeeeeeesh. I think Moff needs to just go to therapy already.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2020

I enjoyed it as well, but agree that they didn't quite stick the landing. The ending felt very Stephen King-ish to me, especially when I looked at the clock and realized they only had 30 minutes to go.

The 'blood is lives' bit was clever and the show knew it was clever, thus they kept saying it over and over. Still, I like the idea that Dracula did not become a degenerate ghoul because he is choosy about who he eats. It would have been nice to see more of the influence the consumed have over him - there was a bit in the beginning about him looking like crap because he could only eat crap peasants since the locals were on to him. The mirror thing was neat as well, especially since they spent time on its implications with Lucy.

I also liked how they did the thing that every vampire show/story does - "People believe a lot of not true things about vampires!" - where it turns out that one of said people is the vampire themselves. Dracula living forever because he is afraid to die is also interesting, but could have been fleshed out more (not sure where they could put it, but blood-ghost Sister Agatha taking Dracula down memory lane would have been a fun interaction).

That said, the theory behind the three truths of Dracula (must be invited, fears the sun, avoids crosses) that they stem from said fear of death makes little sense. The cross thing fits, sorta, if you don't think that the dude who willingly died on the cross got up a few days later. You'd have to stretch way past the the three minutes dedicated to connect the dots between death and sunlight (shame of fear of death?) and further past breaking to get to the houses thing.

I guess it's a Moffat thing to go for Kewl Moments over consistency, but the shifting powers/influence of the Undead really irked me. Why didn't Lucy's fingernails fall out as a result of being fed on? Happened to Agatha and Johnny. What's up with the dead in their coffins not dying and how is that different than what Dracula does? The corpse that rose in India seemed to want blood, but the child zombie did not. If Dracula knows that you are what you eat, why did he keep feeding his Brides babies? He seemed to pity the restless dead in their graves, yet boxed up his victims.

I get that this doesn't have to be about, like, logic as it's a show about a vampires, but I would like some consistency between episodes rather than relying on Kewl Moments to carry the weight. Each of the three episodes had something I liked - Agatha, Rational Vampire Hunter | Demeter as Agatha Christie drawing room mystery | Ancient Vampire Meets Modern World (with sidekick Renfield) - and I wish there was more (the Making of Dracula with Sister Agatha), but that would have required better planning on the part of the creators.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:31 AM on January 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Why didn't Lucy's fingernails fall out as a result of being fed on?

She never got to that point. He killed her much more quickly than the others, while she was still healthy.

I liked the ending myself, because it was kind of interesting and I hadn't seen it done that way before. Between Stross and Watts there've been quite a few modern variants on vampires that follow strict rules. I liked the looseness of this one.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:17 PM on January 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

The corpse that rose in India seemed to want blood, but the child zombie did not.

Dracula arrived and dispatched the child before it could feed from Lucy.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:22 PM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

After slogging through e02, I've lost interest.

'Bram Stoker's - Dracula' with Oldman, Hopkins, Ryder was great, especially as it resisted CG (at the time!) and insisted on using physical visual effects and it was gorgeous and unique. There really wasn't a need for this particular show to have been made especially right now.

The Dracula here felt like a clownish version of Gary Oldman's. If it was intended, sorry, no-one was trying hard enough to make the pathetic laughable. (not clown-ist)

I agree with rikschell wholeheartedly - the 'What We Do in the Shadows' series improves on the original material and is absolutely delightful and worth checking out for a good time.
posted by porpoise at 7:12 PM on January 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Dracula and Lucy's "relationship" was shown being longer than Johnny or Agatha's - months compared to Agatha's big bite or Johnny's fortnight. At the point Lucy was bedridden, she should have been losing her nails.

If the kid zombie (or any of the undead trapped in their coffins) wanted blood, then they needed to show that more, especially given that the 'rules' set each episode did not seem to always apply to the next.

Again, I liked the show! But if your finale is based on understanding the Three Rules of Dracula, then you need to keep the Rules of Undeath consistent across the board. If something breaks the rules established, then that's something for our vampire hunter or secret society researchers to ponder out, something I'd want to see more of. I mean, you have Lord Ruthven right there! Let him be the Tybalt of the third episode and in his defeat, the heroes learn more that can be applied to Dracula as they discover how he's different. I admit I was half expecting to see Harker still hanging around, leading his namesake society, so that might be some projected disappointment on my part.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

’Britain is expected to achieve its zero-carbon targets almost thirty years early after Bram Stoker was discovered to be spinning in his grave at over 72,000 rpm overnight.

’Seismologists had noticed a faint hum from Stoker’s last resting place on Thursday evening, which rose to a staggering speed at about 9:15 yesterday evening and shows no sign of abating.

’”We quickly plugged him into a turbine and now he’s powering Wales and most of the South West on his tod,” explained power engineer Simon Williams.

’”It’s a mystery what might have caused this to happen. Stoker has occasionally shifted in his eternal sleep – there was what’s known as the ‘Keanu disturbance’ in 1992, for example, but this is unprecedented.

’”Possibly something on telly at just after, oooh, nine last night kicked him off and he’s gone like a rocket ever since.”

‘Scientists say that this couldn’t have happened at a better time, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – whose turning has been powering Birmingham from his grave since the finale of Sherlock several years ago – appears to be finally slowing down.‘
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:16 AM on January 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

"Also, stop torturing women you misogynist prick."

20th century Mina was killed by Dracula, burned and felt it, then stabbed. All for no reason. Her entire story could have been deleted without missing a beat.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 9:39 AM on January 7, 2020

20th century Mina was killed by Dracula, burned and felt it, then stabbed. All for no reason.
I think you meant Lucy. I agree, and it's really too bad, because I found the actress's performance quite moving. It's really one of the more elaborate fridgings I've seen.
I understand Lucy dies in the source material, but they changed all kinds of other stuff.
posted by ishmael at 11:12 AM on January 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think Lucy is there for "no reason." In each segment, Dracula is pursuing a bride. In the first it's Harker, the second Van Helsing, and finally Lucy.

Ultimately Dracula's "bride" is the person who has consumed his blood and therefore the blood of all of his victims which includes Harker and Lucy.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:13 PM on January 8, 2020

Interestingly, Van Helsing doesn't remark on how incredibly abusive this is. A woman who willing becomes a vessel of previous victims in order to "heal" her lover. The pragmatic nun of e1 and 2 would definitely not go for that shit.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I liked the many tiny visual echoes of Hammer Dracula and HORROR OF DRACULA in particular, but, as so often with these guys’ work, it was an incoherent mess which aggravated its faults by clearly being convinced it was the cleverest thing ever (this kind of thing needs to be in wild-eyed earnest rather than smug). I did dig Sister Agatha, but, ooof, that ending was quite the betrayal.
posted by praemunire at 1:12 AM on January 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed this, the first two episodes in particular. I think they succeeded very well at what they were trying to do, a hammy, fun, engaging Christmas tv show. I thought the leads were excellent.

I read that it was only commissioned in October 2018. I find it extraordinary that it can go from a commission to our screens in 13 and a bit months. That maybe explains some of the “let’s not over think this” vibes it gave off at times.
posted by chill at 10:43 AM on January 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was knackered and dozed off during the final episode when it was transmitted. Assumed I'd missed most of it, but on rewatching I realised I'd seen the first hour at least. Just a really weak ending, despite the fun notes like the wifi password and Gatiss's "rights"-wielding lawyer. Claes Bang was great thoughout the series, I'm a fan of mixed-sounding accents so his kind of Estuary-inflected English worked for me. Def agree that the Sister Agatha / Van Helsing character and angle was the best part of the whole piece, but I'm not too proud to now admit that I spent most of the first episode thinking that it was Julia Davis under the wimple rather than the equally excellent and amusing unknown-to-me Dolly Wells.

It was what it was and I enjoyed the good bits. Some trepidation for the almost inevitable Moff/Gatiss Frankenstein or similar.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:32 PM on January 13, 2020

The sass in this one was off the charts. Or perhaps I live in a sass-deprived environment?
posted by LegallyBread at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I actually did like the - well, okay, I didn’t like the ending, but I like the rough sketch out of what the ending could be. It was clear over the first two episodes that Dracula and Van Helsing were engaging in a very complicated flirtation - which makes sense, because Sister Agatha is a woman of the 1800s - a man engaging with and battling her mind, a man who adored her more the more she beat him, I can see where that would be incredibly attractive.

And it goes back to what she said in the beginning - in dreams, we commit no sin. Agatha knows her duty is to destroy Dracula for the humans he will kill otherwise. But in her dreams before death, she’s allowed another choice - one she’s earned by ensuring Dracula’s death.

The problem is that it’s harder these days to have sympathy for rapacious maws that cause pain and suffering before them than it used to be. So - Agatha shines, but Dracula’s arc is somewhat flat, and I can’t bring myself to care about the choices he makes because of his ultimate amorality.
posted by corb at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed this as it was. Well, in particular I loved the first two episodes and thought the final one was just fine.

I think framing Dracula's weaknesses as a mystery to be solved was a mistake and any solution would be unsatisfying (why does a fear of death mean you can't cross a threshold, or a circle of pages torn from the Bible).

I think it was a mistake to frame helsings interest in Dracula as a romantic one. It may well have been for Dracula, but it felt like a misread of their own character.

I also think there was just some odd plotting in the final episode. It spent a lot of energy to establish the harker foundation, and seemed to be going in an interesting direction, only to swerve to a completely different story. An odd choice given the tight focus of the first two episodes. It meant that we didn't really care about Lucy Weston initially because we assumed we were going for a "foundation meddles in something they don't understand" plot, but they just let him go when a lawyer turns up and don't really feature in the story again.

Its odd to me because the first two episodes ar very well plotted, and the characters very well drawn, so the third feels much more messy
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:57 AM on January 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I suspect the writers are both good at bright ideas, but not so good at following through methodically. The first two had the discipline of the book - either directly or as a response or inversion - but when they went off-piste in the third they really had no discipline at all. Reading that last comment I only just realised what they were getting at: That Dracula was a creature of the mythologies of others - he feeds on people, but at the same time in the act of feeding, they create what he is. So he goes to the enormous effort of relocating to a place where he might find a better class of food/creator.

Or that might have been what they were getting at, it's not clear; nothing is clear - the third episode is a bundle of the bright ideas they've had loosely bundled together. So everything is kind of vague. Like, I'm aware that the Jonathan Harker Foundation exists, but what is it actually for? Is it really just for containing Dracula? Or is it about studying vampires for medical reasons? Or is that also something I made up to fill in the space?

Generally speaking, whenever they needed to choose between options, they chose the least interesting, perhaps to make space for the next bright idea. I mean it's fine, but it's not a terribly good use of the money the BBC and Netflix have given them, and the goodwill they earned honestly in the previous two episodes.

And, yes, it's about time Steven accepted cremation is thing now, and moved on.
posted by Grangousier at 3:59 AM on January 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was bored and exhausted after a long ride on Sunday, and found myself "tasting" the first ep -- and then watching the first 2 eps, and pulled in my wife. I've never seen or heard of either Claes Bang or Dolly Wells, but holy CRAP are they both awesome. Bang exuded a wonderful and terrifying predatory charm throughout; he was a GREAT Dracula. And Wells, I mean, DAMN. I'd watch most anything either do at this point. (I mean, sure, I've been burned before on that kind of thing, but Wells in particular was just ASTONISHING, especially in the last episode.)

Bang was also set up to pleasantly invoke Christopher Lee in more than one shot, which was a lovely callback.

I laughed out loud several times, and was just generally riveted for all 3 episodes.

Are we doing spoilers here?
Part 1: Actually, this is pretty good!
Part 2: Hm, interesting developments. Really like Sister Agatha!
Part 3, start: Wow, what a twist!
Part 3, middle: hm, seem to be wandering a bit but still a good germ of an idea
Part 3, end: WTF was that?

I absolutely did not see the twist coming at the end of part 2, and they managed to do well with it for the first 3rd of part 3, but then they kinda whiffed the ending. But I don't really feel cheated -- it was a whiff, not an outright squander. And I definitely enjoyed how we got the rest of the usual cohort into the story in Part 3 -- most obviously Renfield, but also Quincey Morris, Lucy Westerna, and Jack Seward.

Also great were the threads of story that kept coming back, like the Count's ability to absorb memories and whatnot from the blood he drinks -- all of which was a setup, obviously, for the developments of Part 3.
20th century Mina
First, there are no 20th century characters in this; everything's in the 19th or 21st.

Second, the girl in question is a character from the novel, and has an actual name: Lucy Westerna. If we're going to complain about her being done wrong, let's at least use the name and not refer to her with some throwaway term. I mean, Lucy is the sort of fictional character that has her own Wikipedia page
Third, her arc is a kind of important part of the story; she can't just be thrown out if you mean to adapt Stoker, IMO.

From the linked article:
[Lucy] is prone to sleepwalking and is attacked by Dracula, who gradually drains her of her blood. She subsequently becomes a vampire, attacking children. She is then confronted and eventually destroyed by Van Helsing and her suitors, allowing Lucy to rest in peace. Lucy's death and subsequent transformation as a vampire motivate her suitors and Mina to join forces with Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker in hunting Dracula in retaliation.
(Emphasis added; I'd forgotten that part, but it explains the child ghoul.)
in order to "heal" her lover.
Was Van Helsing "healing," or entrapping and destroying? Because I definitely read it as the latter. She/they had an "in" with him, because he was infatuated with both Van Helsings; she leveraged that and her cancer to destroy him before he could take more lives or try to make good on his threat to rule the world.
posted by uberchet at 5:39 AM on February 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, and three other bits, all about Demeter passengers:

First, the young (gay, closeted) nobleman on board is another Easter egg: he's named for Lord Ruthven, a previous literary vampire who first appeared in 1819.

Second, Grand Duchess Valeria was played by Catherine Schell, who was a Bond Girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service a million years ago, and who was also in a classic episode of Doctor Who (City of Death, 1979).

Third, the tragic Doctor Sharma was played by Sacha Dhawan, most recently "famous" for playing a surprising character a couple episodes ago in the current run of Doctor Who.
posted by uberchet at 7:32 AM on February 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

« Older Oh My Ghost!: Oh My Ghostess (...   |  Doctor Who: Spyfall, Part 1... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments