JEKYLL. 2007
Directors: Douglas Mackinnon
& Matt Lipsey

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The television mini-series Jekyll had six one-hour episodes which first aired on the BBC June & July of 2007 & very soon on dvd. For an American viewer it is always a little surprising to see that a judicioius bit of the word "fuck" is permitted on the BBC, & why not.

It's a "sequel" to Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel, in that our modern-day hero, Dr. Tom Jackman, is the "descendant" of Dr. Henry Jekyll. There's a genuine element of science fiction in this updated telling, just as there had been in the novel.

Rather than the simple tale of a Good Victorian Doctor battling against his own inner Jack the Ripper, we get two fully developed characters each to some degree needful of the other, in a biological science fiction tale with conspiracy context that renders this new variant of the legend thoroughly original.

JekyllAs the tale opens in the first episode, there is already a year of "history" between Dr. Jackman & his aggressive alter ego. They have come to certain compromises between one another, & communicate with one another by leaving dictaphone messages.

Jackman believes he has his alter ego somewhat safely restrained, for the fierce creature knows that if he kills, Tom will sacrifice himself to the police. So while Hyde, not yet so named, is pretty sure he'd enjoy killing people, he has sufficient self-protection in his nature to not risk Tom's annoying morality landing them both in prison for life. Part of the tension of the first couple episodes stems from how long will it take before Hyde does exactly what he wants to do.

Jackman & his altar have also come to an agreement on hiring a sort of nanny, Katherine (Michelle Ryan), who is a psychiatric specialist in split personality. She lives with "them" & manages their shared life.

When Hyde has control of the body, he boozes, whores, & eats. When Jackman has control, he researches his condition, & tries to keep up an increasingly distant relationship with his wife Claire (Gina Bellman) & two boys (Andrew Byrne & Christopher Day), trying also to keep their existence secret from Hyde.

One great choice of episode one is we don't actually get to see Hyde for the longest while. We're "teased" with his emergences. But not until a critical scene during an encounter with a foolish young thug in an alley do we see Hyde emerge in his full glory. And the brilliance of the series' star James Nesbitt is soon very obvious in creating a downcast distraught character full of worries & gloom, vs a happy sensual predator testing the boundaries of his prowess & liberty.

By the third episode we have quite an array of characters marching before us. These include "American" secret agent Benjamin Lennox (Paterson Joseph) who runs roughshod over the British company that believes it owns Hyde. He's another "halfway comic relief" figure who very wrongly believes he can blackmail Hyde into submission.

There's the private-eye Miranda (Meera Syla) & her lover Min (Fenella Woolgar) who are only halfway comic relief (they dub the Hyde personality "Mr. Sexy Pants"), but at the same time Miranda is a serious character very good at her job & signal in the plot's development.

She & Min soon side with Tom Jackman against the threatening & seemingly all-powerful Company that has secretly controlled & experimented upon Jackman's everyday life since long before the emergence of Hyde.

The central figure of this malevolent Company is Peter Syme (Denis Lawson), who seems legitimately fond of Tom but will destroy him in favor of Hyde should the right time arise.

There's Jackman's wife Claire why by stages proves herself a significant & mighty figure, far more than housewife & mother, a hero in her own right.

And Jackman, having been a foundling, will eventually encounter his "Mother" (Michelle Ryan), a beautiful elderly woman who seems herself not quite fully human.

This character array is a delight, & several of the lesser characters likewise have oomph. Listen, for example, for the ringtone for the cellphone of a certain commando, a character not long in the tale, but memorable.

By episode four, Hyde has overpowered Tom's will & is in control of their shared body, but he's otherwise in the clutches of the Company. In his own endless self-interest, & definite if frightening affection for Jackman's wife, Hyde strives both outwardly & inwardly to understand his existence & to wrestle freedom from the company.

In his attempts to "consult" with the older & wiser Jackman locked inside him, he very strangely accesses memories of the original Henry Jekyll, & learns things no one expected, in recollections of private conversations with his ancestor's "biographer," none other than Robert Louis Stevenson (Mark Gatiss) who has promised to disguise the tale as fiction.

This great story asks hard questions about the dark side in us all, & about the nature of Hyde himself. His "Mother" states specifically that she regards her "boys" as one Good & one Evil, & she has good reason to believe Hyde does win in every every generation, invariably subsuming the weaker character.

But Miranda the lesbian detective believes Hyde is not evil; that his willfulness, selfishness, & dangerousness is a by-product of his being essentially a child with an adult body & desires. She believes that he can grow as a powerful, miraculous, fully human being.

And then again he may represent a leap forward in our species' evolution into a thoroughgoing preditor no more evil than a lion or a tiger or a wolf, but also no easier to civilize.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]