Jekyll and Hyde was first announced by the babbling continuity announcer with “contains some violence and scenes that young children might find upsetting”, so it’s going for the Doctor Who audience, then, although older viewers have found that upsetting by the fact that the episodes during Capaldi’s tenure to date have been frequently tedious, thanks to some incredibly poor writing. Writing partly partaken by Steven Moffat who also oversaw BBC1’s Jekyll starring James Nesbitt which ran for just one series back in 2007.
And this new Saturday-night-style drama is shoved onto a Sunday night to avoid clashing with Who as well as Strictly Come Dancing. I hate SCD, but with so many people watching that and Great British Bake Off, as The Jam sang in Going Underground, “the public want what the public gets(!)”
We see Robert Jekyll (The Tunnel‘s Tom Bateman) is working in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, performing medicine, yet he can’t bring back the life of a girl who’s just been crushed by a 10-ton lorry after the driver was spooked by an elephant jumping into the road… or can he? His mentor and foster father, Vishal Najaran, had just joked he could do “magic”, at which Robert tutted, but now he’s just managed it… But the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ element is there because one moment he’s helping the girl, the next, he’s turning evil and wanting to kill her.
As Najaran comments of the situation when it’s reported in the press: “It is written like something from a cheap adventure story”, and that’s rather much how this is depicted here. It’s all done in a very simplistic fashion, perhaps to appeal to the family market.
Weirdness is brought in with a harbinger, a bizarre creature which snarls: “He is coming… your powerful one. You will be helpless.. before him. He has woken.. and there will be death. He is a man within a man. Unstoppable. The old gods are rising.” (good job I had the subtitle on to catch all that)
In response, “Harbingers – they may turn your mind inside out, but they never lie”, comes from Richard E Grant, in his usual devlish tones, as Sir Roger Bulstrode, running the government department MIO – Military Intelligence Other, aka the one that deals with monsters. He’s back in London, which is where Jekyll is also headed.
Twisting the camera at an angle a la Batman, he’s seem quickly sorting out a fight in an alley by turning into Mr Hyde, also doing the same in a bar, to which comes the brief conversation with landlady Bella (Natalie Gumede):
- Bella: “You’re a very confused young man, aren’t you?”
Jekyll: “What am I?”
Bella: “You’re a pain in the arse, that’s what you are.”
Wanting to return to Ceylon, Jekyll soon learns the crap has hit the fan back where he’s spent the majority of his life, and all the Najarans have been murdered, causing him to grunt appropriately.
This is the first of ten episodes. It’s not something I’ll stick with for the duration, but it may work for family viewing as while it’s got decent production values, for this viewer, it’s just ‘okay’. Sadly, there are times when a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack would really have suited it to up the menacing tone, yet ITV still haven’t pulled their finger out to output multichannel sound (same with Channel 5, in fact). However, if there is one, maybe it’ll survive for the eventual DVD release.
It’s also interesting that this series managed to secure ZERO advertising in its first ad break – there were just clips for other ITV forthcoming programmes including that annual jungle-related crap. It’s a shame as it deserves better than that, but there were proper adverts in the other breaks.
Jekyll and Hyde continues next Sunday ITV at the slightly later time of 7pm. When I first heard about this series, I assumed a 9pm slot, so it won’t get to be as violent as you’d expect, but perhaps in the fantasy world it might get away with more than you might assume.
Episode 1 Score: 6/10
Director: Colin Teague
Series Producer: Foz Allan
Executive Producers: Foz Allan, Charlie Higson and Francis Hopkinson
Creator/Writer: Charlie Higson
Music: David Arnold and Michael Price
Robert Jekyll: Tom Bateman
Sir Roger Bulstrode: Richard E Grant
Lily Clarke: Stephanie Hyam
Captain Dance: Enzo Cilenti
Garson: Donald Sumpter
Bella: Natalie Gumede
Maxwell Utterson: Christian McKay
Ravi: Michael Karim
Dr Najaran: Ace Bhatti
Gurinder Najaran: Lolita Chakrabarti
The Harbinger: Dee Tails
Sackler: Tom Rhys Harries
Hotel Manager: Robert Wilfort
Adelie: Amy Bowden
Mister Wax: Oliver Gilbert
Henry Jekyll: David Bark-Jones
Brannigan: Amit Shah
Hannigan: Phil McKee
MIO Officer: Neil Bishop
Olalla: Wallis Day
Saylor: Dacio Caballero
Bell Boy: Rhys Isaac-Jones
Edward Hyde: Thomas Coombes
Gabriel Utterson: Angus Wright
Sir Danvers Carew: Robin Hooper
Hils: Ruby Bentall
Postman: Raja Ganeshan
Beggar: Nathaly Nanayakkara
1st thug: Carl McCrystal
Porter: Steve Munroe
Bella’s girl: Deborah Rosan
Maggie Kendall: Niamh Walsh
Young woman at window: Melanie Wilder
Small girl in clinic: Kasuni Narmada Kurulugama
Gangster: Alex Bertuchi (uncredited)
Sailor: Chris Cowlin (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.