In Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1992 film adaptation, Renfield was the barrister who met Dracula first before the company sent Harker on the same mission. When compared to the original source, just how he knew of the vampire was more of a metaphysical tête-à-tête. This latest version takes its cue from the movie and introduces him much later in the narrative to be of any significance. The overall story loses gravitas since he’s not revealed until much later.
The modern setting is plausible with the final part, “The Dark Compass.” I’m flexible enough to accept a massive leap of faith on what Moffat and Gatiss can do to give new life to a familiar tale. Not everyone appreciated Moffat’s work in Doctor Who and I was never got into Sherlock despite having a terrific actor who plays the lead.
The third chapter offered a few elements which feels ripped from Universal Pictures failed Dark Universe franchise, namely with an organization named after the sacrifice of Jonathan Harker. This group exists for a reason, and instead of having Dr Jekyll around, an ancestor of Van Helsing is in charge.
I’m more disappointed in the fact the superstitions regarding how to keep a vampire at bay are long gone. Just how a vampire can survive in an ocean (of constantly moving water) is crazy! Wouldn’t all that dirt wash even since those coffins were never airtight? The aversion to sunlight signifies how the cursed can never be with God again, and all the spiritual context is washed away by the third episode. By the third episode, they are treated as less of a supernatural threat and more of being like an infection.
Shades of Forever Knight is even noticeable because all vampires can find redemption. If the sympathy Dracula has for Dr. Zoe Van Helsing is not bad enough, the significance of Lucy Westenra makes little sense to all the suitors who wanted her as a girlfriend, and Mina Harker is completely forgotten.
I’m sure Bram Stoker is fuming in the great beyond. His invention, his tale doesn’t quite work in a modern day setting. His ideas were guided by the fact he took inspiration from a royal king who saved a nation from Ottoman rule. He took a few notes from Slavic folklore to make him a haunting figure, and Lugosi pioneered the gaze. Seriously, this reinvention is more like a reworking of the pop culture vampire formula (including the wry humour from What We Do in Shadows) where thankfully Twilight is not in the mix. I’d have to stake myself had it gone that far.