Dracula Review: Blood Vessel
You know, the more I watch these three-part feature-length Moffat stories, the more I think that their existence is a vary tactical choice: by the time you’ve sat through a couple of hours of the show, you feel like the time sunk is worth just following through on a final episode for. If this had been a six-episode story, for example, I would have quit before it even hit the halfway mark. But here, after that gruellingly awful second episode, I’m at the might as well just grit my teeth and get through it stage of watching any Moffat show.
Okay, so I think the biggest problem with the way that this second episode unfolds is really the problem with the point of view. The voyage that this ship takes in the book is one of the best sequences in the story, but Bram Stoker had the sense to frame it as a murder-mystery from the point of view of the crew. You make it from the point-of-view of Dracula, as Moffat and Gatiss chose to here, and you not only strip away most if not all of the tension, but you miss out on a solid chance to explore characters who aren’t our titular bloodsucker.
And look, Claes Bang is giving this his all here, and I don’t think he’s at fault with this version of the iconic vampire: it’s just that there are only so many times I can listen to him talk over the heads of the characters around him and directly to the audience in stupendously bad puns on his bloodsucking nature without tiring a little, you know? Add to the fact that this version of Dracula is meant to be this sexually voracious and utterly irresistible incubus, but comes off more Uncle Monty in Withnail & I, and his presence is more a vague irritation than anything else.
Oh, and there are just so many irritating Moffat-isms in this episode, too – the game of chess as a metaphor for a meeting of the minds, a fake-out which reveals most of the episode has been taking place inside the head of one of the main cast. We swap out an intriguing and handsome period setting for a “hah! Got you!” twist that yanks the story up to present day in the final moments. Great character actors (including Sacha Dhawan, who is having one hell of a week) are stuck with empty roles, and somebody has to exclaim “ah, you’ll have to be cleverer than that!” because I presume its in their contracts to fit that into every single show they’ve ever made together. Fits nicely on a tote bag, I guess?
Now, I spoke a little bitin my review of the last episode about the Big Gay Shit question, and I want to just comment a little more on that here: this episode featured two men (Nathan Stewart-Jarett and Misc Historical Twink) who were romantically involved with one another explicitly, after all. And, you know, forget good LGBT representation for a second – let’s be real and admit that this isn’t even good human representation. Their relationship is given next to no screen time, and yet drives a major part of Nathan Stewart-Jarett’s final moments, as he is apparently so mad with grief at the loss of a man who he has barely exchanged a kind work with on screen that he dramatically dies at the hands of Dracula. It’s just atrociously bad writing, and, after the set-up with Johnathan as Dracula’s wife last week, I had hoped that we might get something a little more substantive this time around. But no! Just another Vastra-Jenny re-do, where gay couples are built from power imbalances and apparently mutual disdain. The less said about the painfully overdone predatory bi of Dracula, the better. But maybi read my article about vampires and bisexuality here, if you’re feeling a bi(t) offended bi it.
More than anything, though, this episode was just incredibly boring. It felt like a tick-box of all of the tricks we’ve seen before, nothing that actually felt like it came from a place of genuine originality (apart from the reveal of where Dracula’s fear of crosses came from, which was legitimately inspired and a wildly frustrating reminder that this writing duo can make smart changes to their source material when they feel like it). The side characters were empty, despite noble attempts from the people playing them, and even our leading man just feels like a one-man vampire pun-machine more than a character.
But hey – only one more episode after this. Maybe next time, I’ll trust my gut and avoid committing to a full season review. Though at least, out of the kindness of their hearts and the cunningness of their schedules, they make them short for me, eh?
I’ll be reviewing the next two episodes over the following two days, so please do check in for those. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon – you can also pick up a copy of my debut novel, Rape Jokes, right here, and check out my other current recapping projects here!
(header image via Doctor Who Companion)