The latest horror classic to be revitalised for the 21st century, Jekyll and Hyde is set during 1930s London where Robert Jekyll, having moved from Ceylon, is trying to uncover the secrets from his past. However, he’s inherited the curse of his grandfather in which, when angered or in danger, he undertakes a twisted transformation into the powerful, yet unhinged Hyde. As Jekyll tries to find the answers and search for a cure for his condition, he is continuously drawn deep down into Hyde's world of monstrous creatures and freaks of nature. This show is basically a reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, having a Hammer Horror-style theme and tone about it, as well as bearing a similar style and flair to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies.
On the one hand, it appears to be aiming for a family audience in the manner of Doctor Who, yet it’s a show that falls awkwardly between two stools: too creepy and intense for younger viewers who’d love its sense of adventure, too pantomimey for older viewers more interested in full-blooded horror. In the end, it can become occasionally messy as a result, however, it is much more enjoyable than one can possibly imagine. It’s true that its relation to the literary novel is probably passing at very best, but it has a unique design quality about it, having a gothic aesthetic that entirely befits the movie, right down to the fog-bound streets of 1930s London. Of course, the story of Jekyll and Hyde is on that cusp of thriller and horror, almost in the same way that giallo films were made when they started out. As the series goes on, we see more monsters and demons making an appearance, which is trying to relate to the Doctor Who or Hammer Horror aspect of its target audience, and the creatures are creative, if at times unoriginal.
Newcomer, Tom Bateman was completely engaging in his dual role as Jekyll and Hyde; in both parts, he manages to display his full acting range, going from compassionate to maniacal continuously. If anything, it was a pure showcase of Bateman’s acting talents, even if his performance as Hyde was somewhat camp. In fact, nearly all the actors’ performances were somewhat campy (we’re talking row of pink tents level of camp here), but if anything, this works well with the overall charm of the series. Each actor brings something new and unexpected to the show, thanks to the likes of Natalie Gumede, Donald Sumpter, or Christian McKay. The real standout, unsurprisingly, has to be Richard E. Grant, who brings real deadpan quality to the role of the head of Military Intelligence Other (MIO) – tasked with keeping monsters under control and under wraps – as well as still managing to being wonderfully louche, magnetic and sparky in both his delivery and mannerisms. Other standouts include Natasha O'Keeffe taking wing as a wickedly arch (and drop-dead sexy) femme fatale, and Wallis Day, who becomes an important part in the final three episodes, yet gives an incredibly gutsy performance that sees her as a rising talent to watch out for.
In the end, Jekyll and Hyde is a consistently entertaining romp, which does indeed struggle to find its tone. It is tonally all over the place, and as a result of that, it’s also struggling to find its target audience. There are strong positives to it with its selection of charming performances, the show’s rich sense of style and flair and the action/adventure sequences are indeed action-packed. Jekyll and Hyde is interesting and fun up to a point, and if showrunner Charlie Higson manages to iron out the creaks and bumps in the road, then this show might have legs. Sure it’s flawed fun, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
JEKYLL AND HYDE: SEASON 1 / CERT: 12 / SHOWRUNNER: CHARLE HIGSON / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: TOM BATEMAN, RICHARD E. GRANT, NATALIE GUMEDE, DONALD SUMPTER, CHRISTIAN MCKAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW