Tag Archives: John Heffernan

BBC TV REVIEW – DRACULA (2020)

BBC TV REVIEW – DRACULA (2020)

Created and Written by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat

Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Producer: Sue Vertue

Directors: Jonny Campbell, Paul McGuigan, Damon Thomas

Cast: Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Joanna Scanlan, Lujza Richter, Jonathan Aris, Sacha Dhawan, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Clive Russell, Mark Gatiss, Catherine Schell etc.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**



Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are uber-television scriptwriters of vast experience and expertise. Solo and together they have been involved with fine TV programmes including: Sherlock, Doctor Who, Coupling, The League of Gentlemen, Press Gang, Jekyll and many other films, comedies and dramas. Their latest BBC project found them combining forces again and breathing new life into Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. Screened over three dark nights on BBC1 from January 1st, 2020 onwards, this horror adaptation mixed Stoker’s traditional vampiric tropes with fresh and bloody ingredients infused by Moffat and Gatiss’ typically iconoclastic approach to genre.

The structure of the first episode, Rules of the Beast, finds a gravely ill Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan), recounting his misadventures having travelled to Count Dracula’s (Claes Bang) castle in Transylvania. A haunted shell of a man, his stories of doomed employment, entrapment and the “children of the night” are delivered to Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells). Somewhat incisive, intelligent and irreverent for a nun, Sister Agatha becomes both our hero and main foe to Dracula’s nefarious uber-villain. Having said that, the fantastically witty script and Claes Bang’s charismatic representation of Dracula almost succeed in making him the hero. Indeed, other than being a life-sucking, murderous, blood-addicted, shape-shifting, immortal and homicidal maniac he’s actually quite charming and likeable.


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The first episode, apart from certain structural alterations and differences in characterisation, stays kind of faithful to the spirit of Stoker’s gothic vision. The second episode especially is one of the best examples of horror television I have seen in a long time. Cleverly called Blood Vessel, the action merges suspense and terror with an Agatha Christie style of plot. Here the crew and passengers of the ship Demeter find they are at the mercy of a vicious killer. It doesn’t take a genius to work out who is picking them off one-by-one. The episode also contains an ingenious reference to the BBC anthology series Inside No. 9. Thus, overall, this was my favourite episode of the series.

By the third episode though, Gatiss and Moffatt couldn’t stop themselves taking a bold leap away from the original text. The Dark Compass contains some fantastic twists and ideas, but arguably the writers strive too much for reinvention and originality. So much so, it lost some of the narrative impetus of the first two in the mini-series. Nonetheless, I would love to see more of Claes Bang’s Dracula in the future. His performance and chemistry with Dolly Well’s Sister Agatha were a bloody joy. Likewise, the script was brilliant; full of fangtastic one-liners, poetic turns of phrase and fascinating plot developments. Lastly, I was grateful they did not spare us the horror too. There were many memorably gory deaths throughout, as Dracula and his wolves wreaked devilish havoc across land, time and the television screen.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11


THE THREE DOCTORS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

THE THREE DOCTORS:  A CULTURAL REVIEW

I’ve kind of cheated a bit with the title of this little cultural review as technically there are only TWO proper doctors Dr Who and Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer. However, for me the mastermind behind The Prodigy — Liam Howlett — is a Professor of hard-beat-dance-music. Plus, there’s always a lot of medication knocking around PRODIGY gigs, I imagine, so there you go,THREE DOCTORS!   Of course, Dr Who is NOT a medical Doctor either but he has cured the end of the Earth many times before so that counts as well. Even though he isn’t real. But, who cares!

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE – CARDIFF

Doctor Who is a cultural phenomenon.  The character and show have been on BBC Television (aside from the mild 90s hiatus) for 50 years, yet, in between that there were still audio recordings and novelisations of his adventures.  Over half-a-century he has become a worldwide sensation and one of the most adored and recognised cultural icons; and he’s completely fictitious. Dr Who does NOT exist!  He is a story; a myth; a character who has risen and regenerated from the grave many times; a character who performs miracles; has disciples and is an imagined hero who is worshipped by many followers all around.  Now, Dr Who has a Church!  It’s in Cardiff. Who knows how Dr Who will be seen in 2000 years?  Stranger things have happened.

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The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay is a wonderful pilgrimage for fans of the show.  I heartily recommend it if you want to see a plethora of old Tardis’, sets, costumes, monsters etc.  The setting is a huge aircraft hangar which houses everything Whovian from past to present and I just felt a wonderful sense of nostalgia plus wonder at the imagination and work which has gone into creating the TV show and Whoniverse as a whole.  I heartily recommend the Dr Who Experience if you love the show. Even the silly, little interactive tour you get at the start where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor himself guides you through a perilous journey is a laugh.  Great fun for big and small kids of all ages!

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OPPENHEIMER – VAUDEVILLE THEATRE 

Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer:  a father of peace or maker of death?   One would argue that he’s both!  Indeed, this wonderful piece of theatre attempts to answer this complex and many other fascinating questions about the man whose work led to the United States unleashing nuclear hell on Japan during World War II.  Being about physics and science stuff this could have been a very dry and dusty play but it was produced with such verve and energy as it collapsed a key period of Oppenheimer’s life into a brisk few hours of performance. But it wasn’t; quite the opposite in fact.

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The production bounced and sang with some wonderful scenes explaining the physics, politics and personalities of the time.  The many Scientists and Military personnel are shown struggling with the logistics and ethics of the time; none more so than Oppenheimer himself. I mean he wanted to be remembered as a pioneer but he knew it would be to some cost; and so it proved. On the other hand, from another perspective, his and his teams’ actions COULD have saved lives.  John Heffernan as the genius, philanderer and bon vivant Oppenheimer is incredible. He lights up the stage like a firework bursting with sparkle then darkens it with shadow as he battles both his doubt and demons.   Of course, I know the physics were far more complex but I congratulate the writer for making the subject interesting again and hanging it all on such an intriguing and complex character and period of time.

THE PRODIGY – ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON 

Life is an interesting experience. I’m not looking forward to death. And I certainly won’t be able to look back on it. Also, some people don’t like the idea of getting old.  I don’t mind it. Because as I have got older I have started to like loads of things I didn’t used to like OR was indifferent of.  Coffee is one of those things. I love coffee. The Theatre is another thing I really enjoy now.  And the dance-electronica-hard-beat-kings-of-Essex The Prodigy are another cultural phenomenon I used to dismiss but now recognise as great music!

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I have my son to thank for my new found admiration of The Prodigy.  He started listening to them a few years ago and while I knew of their existence I have firmly — aside from a couple of Chemical Brothers albums — been a straight guitar-based-indie-listener as a rule.  But having bought Their Law: The Singles, The Day is My Enemy, Invaders Must Die and the under-rated Always Outnumbered – Never Outgunned I became very impressed by the group.  To create pulsating, punkish and heart-racing music of their kind and last from the late 80s to now I think shows a great level of ability and commitment to creation.

The gig at Ally Pally itself rocked and the crowd loved every moment of the brilliant lightshow, crunching guitars, pounding drums/beats, driving basslines and frontmen Keith Flint and Maxim screaming and goading the crowd into euphoric submission. Special praise for the architect of the operation — Liam Howlett —  who has found a very successful formula and has a tremendous back catalogue of tracks to work with. Howlett bleeds, sutures and threads the sounds together with the skill of a musical surgeon. If that doesn’t make him a kind of Doctor I don’t know what does!