RogerBW's Blog

Jekyll and Hyde 08 June 2016

2015 fantasy, ten episodes. The grandson of Robert Jekyll fights monsters in 1930s London; some of them are human.

Urban fantasy, therefore, but with a bit of a twist that makes it more interesting than the basic premise would suggest. There's some heavy-handed philosophising about the need to accept one's dark side (especially with a "good girl" for Jekyll and a "bad girl" for Hyde), but the principal theme that struck me was the corrosive power of secrets: yes, there may seem to be good reasons for keeping them, but in this world simply doing that – no matter the content – always leads to trouble, disaster and death.

As usual for televised fantasy it tries to be a multipolar setup: Robert, and the friends he makes after he returns from Ceylon to London, get caught up in a shadow war between MI-O (for "other"), the local Occult Secret Service, and Tenebrae, a curiously directionless organisation of bad guys that seems to have no goals other than power. And then there's the other branch of the Jekyll family, and then an unexpected sister turns up…

The plots are nonsensical, and people change sides at the drop of a hat (sometimes by "always" having been on the other side, though they never gave any sign of it). The principal antagonist at first is the monstrous Captain Dance, who in spite of his casual cruelty sometimes seems to be the only person around with a sense of humour; his absence from most of the second half of the series is unfortunate, while everyone goes around being Terribly Serious about everything. On the other hand this does bring one of the best visual jokes, at least for me, where the populist newspaper The Daily Truth is headquartered at a certain gorgeously menacing building in central London.

Set dressing and costuming are generally excellent, and someone has put an awful lot of care into the look of the thing; the cars in particular are used heavily, and are utterly gorgeous.

Later, people start psychically spying on each other, unreliably enough that it only works when the plot wants it to, and new powers and monsters come out of nowhere as readily as secret histories. There's no way one could build a coherent mythology out of the constant escalations, but worldbuilding is not what this series is about. If one were to role-play it, it would be best suited to a purely dramatic game like Prime Time Adventures or Hillfolk, where "I am secretly working for the other side" is exactly as significant a revelation as "I have psychic powers". It's a confused mess, but an enjoyable one, largely saved by an excellent young cast (I've never heard of most of them), themselves anchored by Richard E. Grant playing the head of MI-O and clearly having a ball as the face of nasty-but-you-should-see-the-alternative.

It's all good fun, but it was bounced around time-slots and didn't attract enough viewers, so these ten episodes are all there is.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 05:18pm on 10 June 2016

    I'm afraid that the ethos of 'PG Rated', 'suitable for family teatime viewing' version of Mr Hyde made this a turn-off for me. I'm not begging for graphic on-screen debauchery, but a Mr Hyde who can't even use 4 letter words or shout "Show us yer tits!" is just soooooo missing the point!

    Heroine: Oh I've had such a terrible day. First Mr Hyde tried to kiss me in quite a chaste way. Then after he left I walked past a building site and it all went downhill from there...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:42am on 20 June 2016

    Fair point, and it means Jekyll has to be even more of a goody-goody in contrast. I think I may have automatically filtered this in much the same way that I don't expect much sex in a story written in the 1920s.

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