The BBC's new Dracula is fun, camp and takes a few risks with Stoker's well-known Gothic tale

If recent events in the Middle East are anything to go by, 2020 will be another year of chaos and disorder around the world, so what better way to welcome in the new decade than with lashings of blood and gore, with a side of camp?

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 3rd January 2020, 5:00 pm
Claes Bang plays Dracula in a new BBC adaptation. Picture: BBC/Hartswood Films/Netflix/Robert Viglasky
Claes Bang plays Dracula in a new BBC adaptation. Picture: BBC/Hartswood Films/Netflix/Robert Viglasky

Dracula (BBC1, Weds-Fri, 9pm) is an epic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s perennially popular Gothic horror. Written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, there are many nods to shows these two have been involved with before, from Doctor Who to Sherlock.

This Dracula, however, was a tribute to Hammer Horror, and Christopher Lee. There were turrets and towers, spooky coachmen, howling wolves and a saturnine Dracula (Danish actor Claes Bang), who was more camply creepy uncle than seductive bloodsucker.

So if Dracula was Sherlock, all too-clever-by-half with a nice line in witty ripostes – “You’re a monster,” Dracula’s guest Harker tells him. “You’re a lawyer, nobody’s perfect,” retorts the Count – his Watson was Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells).

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Agatha is the rationalist, a nun searching for a reason to believe in God in the face of evil, with just as good an armoury of barbs. The problem is, she is a more appealing character than the Count, and spin-off series featuring her should be a smash-hit.

It’s all great fun, and if it takes liberties with the original, why shouldn’t it? We’ve seen countless versions of this story, so why retread the same blood-soaked path?

You do that, it becomes parody, a sign of either not enjoying or not understanding the source. This version respects the original, the repressed sexuality, the fear of contagion, questioning faith, while taking some risks. And Gatiss and Moffat should be applauded for that.

Doctor Who (BBC1, Weds, 6.55pm) returned with a Bond-themed episode. While it was all a bit rushing around talking breathlessly, it was a lot of fun and looked a whole lot better than previous series.

Best sight on TV this week? Christopher Eccleston bleeding radiators in A Year in the Life of a Year (BBC2, Weds, 11pm), a spoof review of 2019. Every bit of this half-hour was crammed with laughs.