Season of the Count: Dracula (2020)
Despite a reverence to Bram Stoker’s novel inherent in nearly every adaptation of Dracula, whether he is the lead of his story or not, it’s safe to say that many different and unique versions of The Count exist in pop culture. Even in these articles, Dracula is a special guest star in someone else’s story, more of a symbol of threat than a fully-fledged character in his own right. Which is why we end this short series with the most recent adaptation of Dracula, which aired on the BBC at the beginning of 2020.
Written by Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this adaptation is a mix of classic Stoker and whatever interesting ideas that the writing duo can bring to it. I’ll not mince words, I hate this adaptation. Dracula 2020 is the best example I can think of when it comes to how an adaptation can fail due to what has been added.
This is Moffat and Gatiss first job since the former left as Doctor Who showrunner, and since both of them absolutely lost the plot in the fourth season of Sherlock. They promised a new take on Dracula, a fusing of the novel with modern sensibilities, and that’s exactly what they delivered; it’s just that Moffat reminded us with this adaptation that he has a very limited understanding of just how far that modernity can go.
This version of Dracula might seem original if you haven’t seen Sherlock, or Moffat’s achingly long run on Doctor Who, or his Jekyll adaptation, or – well, most anything these two have done together before. It’s queerbaiting – the opening scene has Van Helsing asking Johnathan Harker if he’s gone to pound town with the Count, cue music, let’s never speak of it again. The Count bares a striking resemblance to Sherlock in his wise-cracking, high-functioning-sociopath energy. There’s even a Jekyll-style secret Government group to handle Dracula’s arrival in the present day. There’s a horrible sense of Deja-Vu as Moffat pulls from his ever-dwindling back of tricks, and it’s got nothing to do with the dozens of adaptations of this novel that we’ve already seen.
Claes Bang as the Count is a highlight here, if only because he’s far better than the material that he’s been given, but, for the most part, this Dracula is a perfect example of the limitations certain creators have when it comes to thinking outside their boxes. Dracula was put through the Moffat-Gatiss meat grinder, and came out the other side nothing but smug.
Check out the rest of the Season of the Count series on No But Listen!
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Episode Ninja)