Although the story of the dreaded vampire, Count Dracula, has received countless treatments via the original novel by Bram Stoker, followed by major theatrical, movie and previous TV adaptations, it has never before been a major international series. However, the first attempt to dramatize the story in weekly format ended on May 10, 2014, after just one season. However, plans to release that single season on DVD are underway. In the meantime, you can watch Dracula online.
Creating the Modern Dracula
The modern Dracula series was actually an international collaboration between the American NBC network and Carnival Films, based in London. The new series was created by Cole Haddon with the express purpose of re-imagining the tale for a new generation of viewers. The series aired simultaneously during 2013-2014 in both America and the U.K.
Taking Liberties With the Text
Although the characters and main plot points of the new series were based directly on those envisioned by Bram Stoker in his original novel, the modern series does take several liberties with the “canonical” presentation of Dracula. For example, the need to make the story into a series meant that several of the leading characters, such as Renfield, Harker and even the dreaded Count himself, were radically changed from the original novel.
Cast of Characters
The casting of the modern Dracula series took its cue from the original novel. Several minor new characters were also introduced, with more being planned to appear as the series developed in later seasons. The main characters were as follows:
The evil Transylvanian Count was played by British actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. In one of the major departures from Bram Stoker’s original novel, the character was also revealed to have previously used the name of Vlad Tepes, the evil Romanian nobleman who earned the fearsome nickname of “The Impaler.” The Count is not without his residual human qualities, particularly his yearning to be reunited with his long dead wife. This last issue was to have been one of the major plot points of the series as it developed in subsequent seasons.
Minna Murray, played by Jessica de Gouw, is an English medical student (rather unusual for a woman of her time), who is psychically burdened by her also happening to be the direct reincarnation of Ilona, the long since deceased wife of the dreaded Count himself. Although the two women are separated by several centuries of time, a series of flashbacks shows them to be of very similar character. Both Minna and Ilona are shy, seemingly vulnerable, and naive. Yet both of them possess courage and a rare resourcefulness that draws powerful figures such as the Count to them.
Abraham Van Helsing
Professor Van Helsing, played by Thomas Kretschmann, is a lecturer at the University that Minna attends. In an odd twist of fate, Kretschmann previously portrayed the evil Count himself in an earlier film adaptation of the tale. Professor Van Helsing, despite his academic status, is a bold, at times heroic, character who, in the series, is portrayed very close to the original as envisioned by Stoker.
Lady Jane Wetherby
Lady Jane Wetherby, played by the amusingly named Victoria Smurfit, is a haughty, somewhat snobbish, English aristocrat and hunting enthusiast whose main role in the new series is to fall immediately under the spell of Count Dracula, in no time at all. She quickly becomes one of his most trusty enablers as well as one of the leading villainous characters in the show.
Jonathan Harker, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, is a brash young tabloid journalist whose main goal in life is getting hold of a “big scoop” that will catapult him into the top ranks of aristocratic society. He is stubbornly opinionated and somewhat dense at times though this rough exterior hides an inquisitive nature and a true hero’s sense of right and wrong.
Lucy Westenra, played by Katy McGrath, is a member of the idle rich upper class in turn-of-the-century Britain, who struggles to hide her secret romantic longings for Minna. While this theme was borrowed by Stoker from Joseph Le Fanu’s classic novella, Carmilla, the relaxed standards of modern television allowed the 2013 series to explore it in more graphic depth.
Notable Episodes of the Series
While sadly overlooked, the series did manage to create some notable episodes, some of which made for riveting television. Some of the more noteworthy episodes include:
The Blood is the Life
This was the premiere episode of the series, in which the mysterious nobleman, Alexander Grayson, first came into contact with Minna, whom he immediately recognized as the literal reincarnation of his dead wife, Illona. Of course, the plot angle that was unknown to the audience at the time was that Grayson was really the evil Count Dracula in disguise.
A Whiff of Sulfur
The second episode in the series introduces the esoteric Order of the Dragon, a bizarre and deadly organization that even Lord Grayson fears. In this episode, Lady Jayne and Grayson become romantically intimate as he casts his nefarious spell upon her. Meanwhile, Minna asks for Grayson’s assistance and marvels as his medical knowledge leads to seemingly miraculous results.
Of Monsters and Men
Of Monsters And Men is a particularly striking episode in which the possibility of Dracula’s recovery from vampirism as well as the presumed salvation of his immortal soul, is explored in some depth. While the results gained from the “sunlight drug” are ultimately insufficient to effect a “recovery,” the episode does dwell at length on the century-old vampire’s longing to recover his lost humanity.