The BBC are known for good drama – from Bleak House to Poldark they manage to always have the best of the best when it comes to dramatic TV. With Jekyll they set out to prove once more that they are the best when it comes to drama, with the series described by writer Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) as a sequel to the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
As a sequel to the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, this tells the story of Tom Jackman – a descendant of Dr. Jekyll who has begun turning into his very own Mr Hyde. Wanting to have a happy normal life where he can spend life with his estranged wife and children in safety he uses the best technology he can get his hands on to keep Hyde at bay, even going as far as to hire someone to aid him in this. For a while this seems to work without Hyde making too much fuss but when an unknown organisation gets involved it’s clear to Tom that he doesn’t just have to fight Hyde.
Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt): A married father of two children, the doctor is being plagued by Mr Hyde – the other half of his persona who does not make life easy for Tom.
Katherine Reimer (Michelle Ryan): A psychiatrist and aid to Tom Jackman’s problem, she agrees to keep both Tom and Hyde’s secrets so long as Hyde never does her harm.
Claire Jackman (Gina Bellman): Caught up in the stresses of husband Tom’s life, she presumes he’s having a mid-life crisis and so has little sympathy for him. Perhaps if she knew the truth she would be more sympathetic.
Miranda Callender (Meeru Syal): A private detective hired by Tom’s wife Claire to find out what he’s up to. She finds out about alter ego Hyde and gives Tom some startling news, Stevenson’s novella was a real-life account, not fiction.
Peter Syme (Denis Lawson): Tom’s friend and boss. He cares about Tom but is also hiding a big secret from him regarding an organisation tracking him.
Benjamin Maddox (Paterson Joseph): An American acquaintance of Syme’s who belongs to a secret organisation that has been tracking Jackman and Hyde for some time.
The series consists of six 55-minute episodes that were originally shown on Saturday evenings after the watershed, clearly trying to pull in the same viewers who would have earlier been watching Doctor Who.
Episode 1: Tom Jackman hires Katherine as an assistant to look after himself and his alter ego Hyde. Claire employs a private detective to try and figure out why he left her but instead the detective finds out about Tom’s unwelcome friend.
Episode 2: After meeting the mother who left him as a baby and finding out about the organisation that wants Hyde, Tom panics and goes on the run.
Episode 3: Tom returns and finds out who is trying to track him and Hyde. Hyde, rather angry at this fact, decides to seek vengeance and is subsequently confined to a tiny metal cell-like box.
Episode 4: As the company is confronted and asked about what Tom really is, leading to more mystery, the viewer sees flashbacks of Tom’s past showing Hyde’s first moments of life.
Episode 5: Things start to heat up as Hyde takes over when Tom’s claustrophobia gets the better of him. Whilst looking through Tom’s memories Hyde finds some interesting information about Jekyll’s potion and someone very close to him.
Episode 6: In a surprising finale Tom and Hyde work together having found out just how far this goes. Tom’s real bloodline is also revealed whilst Hyde makes a sacrifice to save others.
Jekyll was a very different drama from the usual period-style offerings we have all come to expect from the BBC, and watching this will show you that there is also a very different side of their dramatic output. Its science fiction without being overly complicated and difficult to absorb, which puts some off shows such as Doctor Who.
If you enjoy mysterious drama with plenty of twists you will enjoy Jekyll, there are many questions that need answers and the clues are littered through the series just waiting for you to see them. Though a drama this also has plenty of humour, albeit dark humour, which mainly comes from Meeru’s character Miranda and of course our star Hyde.
This show is not for kids; there are strong sexual overtones, violence, and too many difficult questions that you won’t be able to explain the answers to. Best to keep this for evening viewing, away from younger eyes.
The humour was dark and rather quintessentially British, which was a wonderful respite from the slew of American sitcoms that were always being repeated at the time – which though funny were a very different type of humour. The prosthetic work on James to transform him into Jekyll was amusing partly because it wasn’t as big a change as you would expect, instead it was rather subtle but was also very natural looking. It was simple things like the dark British humour, the common backdrops we all see around us every day and the subtle difference to us between Tom and Hyde which was a huge difference to the characters which made this a joy to watch. It didn’t feel over the top or cheesy and made it easy to get absorbed in the story and the mystery.
The DVD (Now easily found second hand for a couple of pounds) boasts the original uncut episodes along with audio commentaries, an exclusive documentary and an anatomy of the scene section. At 330 minutes this should keep you going for a few evenings which works out at great value for money.
All in all, Jekyll is yet more proof that Steven Moffat can be one of our greatest writing talents when he wants to be.