Doctor Who’s season premiere was a nosedive in the ratings for that series. It didn’t even crack 5 million viewers in the UK and it only hauled in about 700,000 of the Whovian faithful in America. These are the lowest numbers yet. Jodie Whittaker’s turn as the Time Lord (Lady?) has been a ratings disaster.
It’s not her fault… Not entirely her fault. Chris Chibnal, the show’s showrunner has turned in the most boring scripts the show has ever seen, including the ones he did for much better producers than himself. He’s been reduced to making ultra-woke episodes, in order to (a.) attract fawning press coverage and (b.) assure future employment for himself because if you destroy your business in the name of SJWism you will never be out of work.
I’d say it was certain to be canceled but the BBC is a government owned monopoly, so it’s safe enough, unless BoJo makes good on his threat and gets rid of the TV License Tax. In which case the BBC will have to try and make money for the first time in its history.
Such a pity when you look back on the show’s heyday. The weekly numbers in Britain and America were huge. Big enough to lift BBC America into Tier 1 cable status, Tennant had emo girls throwing their panties at the TV and the best episode of the year, the one everyone looked forward to, was the one that would be written by Steven Moffat.
When Russel Davies decided that five years was enough, fans were worried about who was going to run Who. And then they were delighted to find out it was going to be Moffat.
Who could do a better job than the guy who wrote, Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and (best of all), Blink? This was going to be great!
And then it wasn’t.
The shows with Amy Pond were mostly all right but some of Moffat’s weaknesses became pretty obvious, pretty fast. Writing a whole season’s story arc was beyond him. He could easily handle individual episodes but the quality of his work suffered badly when he had to paint on a larger canvass. There were plenty of set-ups and (credit where it’s due), he attempted to provide payoffs for them, (take note George R. R. Martin), but the payoffs weren’t equal to the set-ups. Once you found out what the Pandorica was, you were left going, “oh, was that it? Is that all there was to it?” There were some good bits of dialog here and there. The man can certainly write a good joke, but advanced plotting just doesn’t seem to come naturally to the man.
Then there is his other besetting sin. His “strong female characters.” They are very brave and confrontational. They are sexually aggressive but maternal instinct doesn’t come naturally to them. In short, his heroines didn’t act all that much like women. They are very romantic men with tits. They are Gamma Heroines.
Anyway, it was under Moffat that the Doctor’s ratings first took a dive. But luckily for him, he had a monster of a backup plan called Sherlock.
Moffat’s co-writer on Sherlock is Mark Gattis who plays Mycroft Holmes. Gattis interestingly enough was also trying to get Doctor Who rebooted about the same time Russel Davies was. And thank god he failed. He’s only written five episodes and they were the most unmemorable adventures the Doctor had until Chibnall took over.
Sherlock is not only a phenomenon but a miracle as well. It’s made its leading man with the unspellable, unpronounceable name a superstar. In the ten years it’s been in production it’s only had fifteen episodes, yet interest remains rabid, despite the fact that none of the succeeding episodes have been anywhere near as good as the first one.
So, it’s safe to say that Moffat and Gattis’ record as a writing team is “mixed.” Consequently, it was with a combination of hope and dread that I clicked play when I saw that they had created a new version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
There are three episodes in this series, each one taking about ninety minutes. So really it’s a series of three movies (like Sherlock). And no it’s not a trilogy. Each episode is very much a stand-alone story.
Dracula started with that harbinger of all things horrifying, a credit that read ‘made in cooperation with the BBC.’
Spoilers from here on out.
Curtain lifts on a convent in Hungary in 1890. We meet a cadaverous looking Jonathon Harker, who is being interviewed about his recent experience at Castle Dracula. So at first, it looks like it’s going to be a fairly close retelling of Stoker’s novel. To put it mildly, that’s been done before.
Also the show initially, feels like Coppola’s extremely stylized version. I think this was a deliberate choice of motif since Moffat and Gattis appear to have gone out of their way to give it a slap in the face about halfway through the first episode.
Regardless, the basic framework of Stoker’s narrative is utilized.
Harker had traveled to Dracula’s castle. He slowly discovers that he’s a prisoner. Dracula gets younger as Harker gets older, ya-da, ya-da, you know the deal.
Things change about halfway in. The Woketardery makes itself felt in very short order at that point. Nihilist atheism is the bedrock of this version of Dracula. God does not exist, so why does Dracula fear the cross? Apparently, I was supposed to be intrigued by this question instead of exhausted by it. Van Hellsing is the atheist nun that’s interviewing Harker. Fine, whatever, I’d have been shocked if Moffat and Gattis were comfortable with a traditionally masculine hero.
And here are the rules for the vampires in this version. Vampires fear the cross unless they don’t. They fear sunlight. They will die from a stake through the heart. And they will also die from drinking the blood of the dying or dead, (Anne Rice should sue). Finally, vampires can absorb memories through drinking blood. Fine everybody, has to make their own Vamp Rules.
So Harker is trapped and is dying by inches but finds the most absurdly contrived ‘secret map’ this side of the Rise of Skywalker. With it, he finds his way to one of Dracula’s current brides, where he finds out about the whole vampire rules deal.
Anyway, shortly after that Dracula murders Harker and Harker then makes his escape. You heard that right. Harker becomes undead in this version. Turns out there’s lots and lots of undead in this ‘verse and nobody seems to know about them. Not just vampires but regular people die and become undead for no reason, and nobody seems to know about it except Dracula and Sister Van Helsing. Dracula tracks Harker to the convent, he has a confrontation with Sister Van Helsing and an odd sexual tension is established between the two of them.
I’ll give Moffat credit where it’s due, he can write a decent romance. There is a great deal of push and pushback between the vampire and the nun. Anyway, the Harker zombie invites Dracula in and he slaughters pretty much everyone in the convent, saving Sister Van Helsing for last.
Second episode, which was actually my favorite if I can be said to have a favorite. It took place aboard the Demeter.*
Basically, its a ten little Indians story aboard a doomed ship but you know from the start who the murderer is. It isn’t a bad twist on the tale and if they could have ended the story there, I might have bumped this up to Cataline Recommends with Reservations. But they didn’t. The episode ends with the Demeter being scuttled by Sister Van Helsing and Dracula climbing into his dirt box and entering some kind of coma for reasons of Deus ex machina.
Third and last episode takes place in contemporary London. Stoker’s narrative is resumed, it had a few elements that were okayish. Lucy Westerner, Dr. Jack Seward, and Renfield are introduced. Quincy Morris makes a cameo but as usual gets the short shift, (which is kind of bullshit considering he’s the one that killed Dracula in the book but everybody else does it). Arthur Holmwood doesn’t show up at all in case you were curious. Lucy is a party girl-influencer.
Anyway, the super secret Jonathon Harker Institute springs into existence and rescues Dracula from his watery grave. They imprison him in order to “study him.” His lawyer Renfield gets D-man sprung on the grounds that vampires don’t exist. And rather than try to kill Dracula the Harker Institute throws up its hands in exasperation and wandes off screen.
A lot of stuff happens that I don’t care about and neither would you as it’s pretty much all filler until they can hit the 80 minute mark. Anyway turns out Dracula isn’t damaged by crosses and sunlight, it’s all a psychological problem for him and the only thing he really fears is dying so he kills himself by drinking the blood of Sister Van Helsing’s grand niece who is dying of…
… The End.
It had a few things going for it, there were some easily identifiable Moffat jokes.
Woman: Is my husband drunk?
Dracula: That’s one word for it.
Stuff like that. The jokes are there and if you find Moffat gags irresistible then there is nothing I can do to stop you from watching this.
So, what didn’t I like? Why the one-star review?
Well, first and foremost the BBC’s Woketard clichés that got scattered all over it like a cow pie hitting a fan. Then there was the problem of Moffat’s setups without any real kind of payoff. They made a huge running mystery of why did Dracula fear the cross? Just having it be a pointless phobia was an incredibly weak sauce payoff. Clever dialog, shock twists and camera tricks, try to mask a light weight plot. And finally, there was the BBC’s cast-iron requirement that all of its productions be, not just atheist but anti-Christian in their deepest hearts.
When all is said and done, it feels like last season’s Sherlock Holmes. Setups and contrivances that signified nothing.
Cataline Does Not Recommend.
* Interesting choice of name on Stoker’s part. Demeter is a common enough Dutch name, but it’s also the name of the Greek goddess of Summer whose daughter is Persephone. She who was dragged off by Hades to be queen of the underworld.