Charlie Higson’s innovative reworking of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th century novel deserves to be seen more as a sequel in its own right than an adaptation of the classic.
The plot moves away from the original tale, with Robert Jekyll (Tom Bateman) the grandson of the original Dr Jekyll as the central protagonist.
Jekyll finds himself in a fantasised version of 1930s London, on a quest to discover the true identity of his father. Running parallel to his mission, it is revealed that there are other, darker forces at play – leagues of ‘monsters’ and a government department designed to keep them at bay. The prophesy of a caged creature called a Harbinger, which is half man and half dog, lands Robert Jekyll at the centre of the two sides’ campaigns.
Whilst the majority of the action occurs in London, it is interspersed with scenes of colonial Ceylon (Sri Lanka). This is where we first see Jekyll, working as a doctor in a rural hospital. The contrasting settings accentuate the atmosphere in both locations, adding not only a historical dimension but another plotline which helps to maintain audience interest. This is such a bold move away from the original setting of the book, adding flavour to this tale with a long history of adaptation.
The series showcases Bateman’s incredible acting. His convincing portrayal of the sweet and caring young doctor is juxtaposed with the obnoxious, snarling Mr Hyde. The transformation is so complete that it is genuinely difficult to believe that it is not two different actors playing the characters. It is aided by convincing CGI that transforms his face during his metamorphose, but the two characters are sustained throughout the show.
However, whilst Higson’s reworking of the well-known tale is undoubtedly creative and imaginative, it seems to be a jumble of different genres. For example, the combination of the classic novel and the fantasy world make it seem destined for family viewing, but it has already received complaints that it contains too much violence for its current viewing time of 18:30. This confusion implies that Jekyll and Hyde does not have the same pull that other tea-time dramas have.
Regardless, Higson’s imaginative extension of the classic tale deserves credit for its originality and inventiveness.
Image: Craig Sunter