Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Monster Writes Back: Jekyll and Hyde on TV

Jekyll and Hyde on ITV (UK)

ITV's new Jekyll and Hyde has broadcast its first episode and been greeted with a significant level of controversy: 

"ITV’s has refused to bow to pressure to move its teatime drama Jekyll and Hyde to a later slot after the watershed, despite more than 500 complaints about violent scenes in the broadcast on Sunday evening. The drama, shown at 6:30pm, featured scenes of a man being bludgeoned to death within the first minute, and went on to include further grisly deaths and potentially disturbing imagery.
ITV said it had received 280 complaints, while 263 people contacted broadcasting regulator Ofcom to express their concern about the show." (Guardian, 26 October 2015).

Set in 1930s London, the story is a 'sequel' to R.L Stevenson's classic, written by Charlie Higson. It follows the story of the dashing and romantic, violent and monstrous grandson of the original doctor, Robert Jekyll. Curiously, the drama begins in Ceylon, where the grandson has been brought up by an Indian family. The opening scene there shows a kind doctor who offers a lesson on the superiority of modern medicine over primitive magic. Yet he attracts fame and notoriety when he uses his superhuman strength to save a girl who has been crushed beneath a truck that has crashed into the surgery. 

Soon letters are arriving from London recalling to life the closet underworld of a secret family history. As the grandson breaks violently with his adopted family (a convention of gothic romance), and old woman screams that he is cursed. As the grandson arrives at Gravesend and London, the adopted family in Ceylon eagerly await a postcard from him. Will the monster write back?

Gothic humour is evident as the violence turns to slapstick, a demonic dance of destruction.

Furthermore, the new intelligence agent, Mr Wax (?) is heard to remark, "I can't help believing this is some elaborate joke, some ritual to tease the new boy." Richard E. Grant, who  plays the master of monstrous secret intelligence responds:

'I wasn't entirely straight with you --- some of the monsters work for us." 

Darker hints suggest more awful developments as the portentousness of the monstrous coming is figured in the idea of monstrous announcement: the harbinger.


Written by Charlie Higson
“Man is not truly one, but truly two”

Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons, The Tunnel), Richard E Grant (Downton Abbey, Dr Who) and Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street, Death In Paradise) join forces to star in Jekyll and Hyde, a brand new, ten-part action adventure drama, to be dramatised by ITV Studios.  

From an idea conceived by acclaimed novelist Charlie Higson, the action and fantasy series has been inspired by The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Higson has written and will executive produce the drama which exudes mystery, fantasy, horror and sci-fi. 

Tom Bateman has just played the lead in the critically acclaimed Shakespeare in Love in London’s West End and takes the lead role as Robert Jekyll, Richard E Grant plays Sir Roger Bulstrode who heads the secret government department M10 known as ‘The Invisible Men’ and Natalie Gumede takes the part of Bella who forms part of a love triangle with Robert. 

ITV Studios Director of Drama Francis Hopkinson (Lucan, Wallander, DCI Banks) will also executive produce with Foz Allan (Wolfblood, The Dumping Ground, Robin Hood) as Series Producer. 

Set in 1930’s London at a time of Hollywood glamour, aerodynamic cars and monster movies, the drama will pay homage to the Stevenson novel, and focus on the young, attractive, troubled hero, Robert Jekyll, the grandson of the original doctor.  

At the heart of the drama is Robert Jekyll’s quest to discover his real identity, his true family history and the nature of his ‘curse’. Jekyll transforms into Hyde in moments of extreme anger, stress and when his or the lives of others are threatened.

Higson’s Jekyll is a young, sensitive and na├»ve man of intellect and morality, a well meaning if slightly repressed character who slips between his two personas unwillingly.  Hyde is a totally different person; a superhero with super powers, great strength, speed and invulnerability. He is confident, risk-taking and lives life on the edge.  His self-destructive nature gets him into trouble, and yet he is an incredibly powerful force.  He is a man of action who gets things done despite the consequences!  Throughout the series we will witness Jekyll wrestling with the dark, brooding personality of Hyde as he struggles to come to terms with his superhero alter ego. 

In the opening episode Jekyll is a newly qualified doctor living with his foster parents in Ceylon.  He knows nothing of his family history or his inherited condition, which his foster father, Dr Vishal Najaran, is controlling with medication.  The drama follows his path to discovery, which coincides with the transformative powers of his condition growing stronger and more disruptive.  His journey will take him into a dark and unforgiving place, as his alter ego seems capable of anything. At the same time there are shadowy forces trying to find Jekyll and the source of his powers.

Further cast includes Stephanie Hyam (Murdered By My Boyfriend), Donald Sumpter (Game Of Thrones, Being Human), Amit Shah (The Smoke, Hustle), Phil McKee (Ripper Street, Dracula), 
Christian McKay (Rush, Theory of Everything), Ruby Bentall (Lark Rise to Candleford, The Paradise), Enzo Cilenti (Game of Thrones), Lolita Chakrabarti (The Smoke, Death in Paradise), Michael Karim (Inspector Lewis) and Ace Bhatti (Silk, Eastenders).

Jekyll and Hyde will be directed by Colin Teague (Being Human, The Town, Sinbad) with production in Sri Lanka commencing later this month and filming in London from February until July 2015.
Jekyll and Hyde was commissioned by ITV’s Director of Drama Steve November and Head of Drama Series, Jane Hudson.

CGI will play a huge part in the main character’s transformation from Jekyll into Hyde and the subsequent superhero sequences when the darker side of our hero emerges and demonstrates extraordinary strength and agility. Certain characters will also be created by CGI techniques, as there are no limits to what will be imagined by the production team.
Jekyll and Hyde will feature several recurring characters, some human, and some freaks of nature.  Monsters will thrive throughout the series and there’ll be spooky creatures, ghouls, zombies, werewolves and vampires.  

Footnote to Editors:  

Charlie Higson is known for The Fast Show, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Young James Bond books and his current horror series for teenagers, The Enemy.