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March 19, 2013

untitledJekyll is a BBC genre tv series written by Steven Moffat before he did Sherlock and made his jump to Doctor Who.  It revisits ideas from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde but moves the action to a modern setting.  The story centers around Dr. Tom Jackman played by James Nesbitt and his wife played by Gina Bellman who played Sophie in the recently concluded and highly recommended series Leverage.  I first encountered Ms. Bellman in the British sitcom Coupling which was also written by Steven Moffat.  At this point I am going to warn everyone that spoilers will commence so read further at your own peril.  Actually, I’m not going to cover all of the surprises that this series has to offer as there are an awful lot of them but, some will be unavoidable in discussing the show.

As with a number of British series Jekyll consists of only six hour length episodes.  The story goes straight into the action where we see Dr. Jackman, who is already quite aware of his dual personality problem.  In fact, he is actually a number of months into dealing with it as the story opens.  He has separated from his wife and children and hired a nurse to help deal with his “other half”.  By the end of the first episode we meet Hyde who is also played by Mr. Nesbitt and is, at first, largely what one would expect.  I just wanted to stop here and mention that Nesbitt’s acting is really quite exceptional.  His transition, while aided with a minor amount of make-up (contacts and a change in hair styling), is carried almost completely by his considerable acting talent.  The change is so complete that you can tell within seconds of his appearance which character Mr. Nesbitt is portraying at the moment.

As the story advances, we learn that Mrs. Jackman, as well as some other individuals, are in the process of attempting to track down the good doctor.  This is all revealed within the first episode.  Like I said, the story drives straight into the action.  Over the course of the remaining episodes we learn more about Hyde.  In fact, it is Hyde, ironically, given the name of the series, who the show is really all about.  We learn that Hyde is more than just the monster that we are first introduced to.  The story even links everything back to the original Stevenson novel through an episode with flashbacks to the past where we meet the author himself.

The story really is really building upon, rather than reinventing the Stevenson novel.  The connection to the original material is cleverly handled by means of an organization, seemingly backed by the British government, that has taken a rather unhealthy interest in Mr. Hyde after his initial appearance in the 19th century.  It is these events that, within the story, turn out to be the basis of the original novel.  However, we also learn that Stevenson deliberately altered some of the “facts” of the original case for the novel at the request of Dr. Jekyll himself.  Through this we ultimately learn that Hyde is not simply just the distillation of the evil within Jekyll’s personality and, what exactly he is has a good deal to do with why the government would like to get their hands on him.

There is one turn of events in Jekyll that may strain some people’s suspension of disbelief a little too much.  When Hyde ultimately confronts his captors it doesn’t go well for either side but, Dr. Jackman fairs better via a characteristic of the dual life form that, while previously established within the series is still somewhat fantastic.  Ultimately, I didn’t have a problem with the mechanism as it wasn’t explained completely enough for me to be able to analyze it too closely and, this reason may, in fact, may be why it wasn’t.  Regardless, this was only a small bump in an otherwise interesting and well crafted story.  Jekyll is available within the US on DVD but, it is also currently available on Netflix streaming and, if you are a subscriber is definitely worth a look.  I would also like to add that if you have read this far, and haven’t already watched the series, that I have given away less than half of the surprises that await you in Jekyll.

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  1. Hungry for More Hyde? | Monster Movie Kid

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