A little known fact about me is that I have this thing for stories about Dracula. Ever since I read Bram Stoker’s novel in high school, I’ve found myself drawn to the various interpretations of the character. So when I heard that NBC was launching a series with a unique twist on the Dracula story…I was intrigued.
Dracula takes all the known characters of the novel and rearranges them somewhat. Rather than hunting down Dracula’s trapped body to destroy him, Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) sets the vampire free….to gain his help. See, the doctor was betrayed by the Order of the Dragon, the same Order that turned Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) into a vampire in the first place (and killed his beloved wife Ilona). Both have a mutual desire to get revenge on the Order, and so they enter into a pact of mutual cooperation. Until the Order is destroyed, the pair will work together. A side condition stipulates that Van Helsing will also investigate ways to allow Dracula to move about more freely in sunlight (something a vampire normally cannot do).
Dracula and Van Helsing then spend a significant amount of time in America, where Dracula reinvents himself as an American entrepreneuer named Alexander Grayson. Having built a large fortune creating strange and wonderful inventions, “Grayson” now comes to London, promoting his latest invention: “wireless electricity”, an invention which, if accepted, would render the use of coal and oil obsolete for lighting and bankrupt most of the members of the Order.
Also in London is the beautiful Mina Murray (Jessica DeGouw) (who bears an exact resemblance to Ilona, it should be noted), her fiance Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a sometime writer and lawyer, and Mina’s best friend Lucy (Katie McGrath) (who, in this version of the story, has genuine romantic feelings for Mina and doesn’t know how to express them or understand them). Renfield (Nonso Anozie), in this version, is Grayson’s loyal servant, the latter having saved his life in the states.
I loved this show from beginning to end. The backdrop of Victorian England was beautifully arranged, and the complex love triangle between Grayson, Mina and Jonathan was executed perfectly. I even enjoyed the plot arc that followed Lucy trying to understand how she felt about Mina (spoiler: it ends badly).
And yet, despite the brilliant casting, the complex story and a quickly grown cult following…the show was cancelled after a single season. To say I was angry would be an understatement. I don’t try new television shows very often for a reason, because when I invest, I go all the way. As for why the show was cancelled…if I remember correctly it had something to do with high production costs, and also that the ratings weren’t high enough to justify continuing the series, blah blah, which is all ridiculous because, once again, NBC chose to place this show in the Friday night slot (aka the “kill slot” where shows go to die). I don’t know why NBC insists on sabotaging themselves like this, but it is super frustrating.
Thankfully, the sole season of Dracula has since been made available on DVD (I picked up a copy the first chance I could get.) There are only ten episodes, but it remains some of the best television I have seen in recent years.
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