Sunday, July 29, 2007

Jekyll (spoilers)

Steven Moffat’s Jekyll succeeded in modernising a classic tale not by turning Jekyll into a yuppie and setting it in Canary Wharf, but by reinterpreting the source material and creating a sequel where none might have been thought possible.

To tell his story he had a generous six episodes which might have been too many if he hadn’t employed so many interesting techniques, such as lengthy flash back sequences, one even flashing all the way back to the nineteenth century. One of the best aspects of the series was it’s refusal to tell the story in a straightforward way.

James Nesbitt’s performances as Hyde and as Jackman were splendid. Tom Jackman was reserved, understated and dignified while the irrepressible Mr Hyde was over the top enough to make Jim Carrey look like a stick in the mud. Hyde could have become irritating had his exuberance been overused but the character’s unpredictability prevented the viewer becoming tired of him. At any moment Hyde could change moods and scare the pants off you.

Gina Bellman, as Claire Jackman, was sexy, strong-willed and had a good line in snappy dialogue. The final episode saw Claire on the edge of panic as her children were threatened and her past was revealed to her. This left Bellman with a lot of screaming and panicking to do and her performance seemed less impressive as a result. A shame when she had been such a strong player in the preceding episodes.

Of the rest of the main cast Denis Lawson exuded white-collar evil throughout the series. His performance was excellent and his comeuppance most satisfyingly played out. Michelle Ryan seemed to have little screen time across the series but was fine when she appeared. Meera Syall was excellent as the unconventional detective hired to track Mr Hyde. A brief appearance from Mark Gatiss as Robert Louis Stevenson was an unexpected pleasure, as was Nesbitt's turn as the original Jekyll and Hyde.

Patterson Joseph is always entertaining and was obviously having fun here. Linda Marlowe was at times unbearable but her performance was integral to the twist ending which is a major achievement.

Previous dramatisations of the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde have opted to make their lead man up as a hairy beastie to depict Hyde (or to get someone else to pay the alter ego, Martine Beswick perhaps?). In this latest version Nesbitt is only superficially altered; his eyes and his hairline are tinkered with. The rest is acting. Revolutionary stuff.

The mad as trousers conclusion to Jekyll has inspired some talk of a second series. As it stands the conclusion of the tale is a fitting end to an always riveting and unpredictable series. It might be better to leave it that way.

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