I caught sight of Jekyll among my belongings recently – I’ve been estranged from my DVDs recently – and pulled Jekyll, Moffatt’s update on the Robert Louis Stephenson classic, off the shelf.
A lot of Moffatt tropes are recognisable – and there’s a lot of Doctor Who in it, in various ways. It was probably the last big thing the Moff did before moving onto Doctor Who and there were a lot of suggestions that James Nesbitt was next in line to be Doc 11. Same for Paterson Joseph, although probably not on the strength of the role he plays here
Anyway, I thought I’d do a Caves and Twins on it as I thought the links to Doctor Who were interesting, and it’s quite fascinating in its own right.
Oh, but obviously I’m calling the good bits Jekyll and the bad bits Hyde.
The part he was born to play? Perhaps, Nesbitt’s manic energy suit him well as Hyde but he’s suitably morose – or angry or frightened, quite a gamut of negative emotions here – when required.
Nesbitt gets a bit of help form prosthetics and make-up when he turns to his dark side, but it’s mainly all him. Tics, mannerisms, the way he holds his body, delivery and lots of energy.
It’s the kind of performance that will have people who disliked Tennant’s ‘zany’ acting reaching for the remote but it feels more appropriate here and it’s balanced by lots of good moments.
As Hyde, Nesbitt is believably unhinged, atavistic, frightening; but he’s also funny, disturbingly childish and vaguely tragic.
With someone else in the lead role Jekyll might have been painful to watch.
One of the few people to play this totally straight – and Jekyll needs someone holding it together. Lawson makes Peter Syme a troubled villain who’s never particularly dislikable.
Zips along at the usual blink-and-you’ll miss it pace, crammed with Moffatt’s wit and black humour, though there are some real clangers too.
Everything fits together very nicely, some trademark Moffat cleverness with the twists and turns but everything seems to stack up very nicely in the end.
The narrative zooms back and forth too, meaning that over the six hours it’s on it doesn’t really feel stale.
I’m not going to spoil it but there’s a whole mercenary spot that takes up about ten minutes of the last episode and is simply used to set up a lame gag/pay-off. It’s utterly stupid.
This is interesting because it reflects a recognisable trope in modern genre TV – the idea that women are bloody brilliant. They’re not just eye candy, they’re not even simply resourceful, clever people. They have to be presented as some sort of demi-Gods, so in Doctor Who Rose is brilliant and brilliant and brilliant, as we’re told time and time again; Donna Noble can’t just be a bit of an idiot, she has to be a God as well; Amy Pond is at the centre of time, or something.
Here we’re told again and again that Gina Bellman’s character is brilliant and amazing and that becomes a rather handy get-out for Moffatt but it’s all a bit tiresome too – and unbelievable when Claire continually refuses to believe what’s right in front of her eyes; something Hyde even ridicules.
The focus on Claire in the narrative is admittedly a more interesting one that Jekyll glugging a steaming potion – and there’s a nice bait and switch – but it’s another example in modern TV of a rather curious trend; the emasculation of a male lead character by the male lead writer. Suck on that one, Freud.
A stupid idea that never comes off. Their dialogue is full of crashing innuendos and idiotic banter and none of it is in any way believable, down to their last appearance where they evade a crack squad of armed tropps by, er, running away from them slowly.
Their inclusion reeks of an awful ‘aren’t we clever’ element that Moff revisits more frequently thsn I’d care to think about.
…which leads to…
Kinda related to the lesbian detectives, but Meera Syal is a terrible actress. Michelle Ryan doesn’t seem right as the hired help and Gina Bellman struggles with some of it too.
Paterson Joseph is a fine actor but he’s woefully miscast as deep south wideboy with an accent that’s not as bad as it might be, but is still awful.
…which leads to…
Can Moffat write for women? Not on this evidence. Bellman, particularly, gets some utterly appalling lines that would sound stupid coming out of anyone’s mouth.
Joseph also gets some real howlers – ‘tonight is the orgasm’ as well as his cod yankee stuff – and Moff is on full ‘machine-gun dialogue’ mode with Hyde that’s become tiresome mainly because ) I suspect – of how frequently it appears in Doctor Who.
I think he just about gets away with it here because of Nesbitt’s delivery though.
Mark Gatiss must have some serious dirt on someone. He seems to crop up in any kind of genre piece in a daft little cameo when he’s comfortably the least impressive actor on screen.
Here he gets another tic-laden opportunity to distract, as Robert Louis Stephenson rejoicing in a bad Scots accent.
The American Lady
Barring her final moments in the last episode, something I unfathomably did not see coming, another example of a bad accents and a silly character that just look ridiculous in the middle of everything else.
All in all it’s a genuine curiosity. I like it, but I’d acknowledge that it has some significant problems. At the centre of everything is Moffatt’s eye for a clever narrative and Nesbitt’s genuine tour-de-force.
The prospect of Nebsitt as the Doctor, following Jekyll, did not seem so bad. In fact it seemed positively intriguing.
And Lawson would make a superb Master.