Adapted and presented as a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, ITV’s Jekyll and Hydehas been updated to a 1935 setting and features actor Tom Bateman — of Da Vinci’s Demons — as the “modern” Dr Robert Jekyll: grandson of the classic Dr Henry Jekyll, and inheritor of familial traits perhaps best kept hidden. No, not webbed feet.
In the opening episode, foster child and freshly minted Dr. Jekyll appears to be hidden away in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where, whilst tending to the sick, a supernatural, or super-heroic “incident” (depending on your reading of events) occurs and starts to draw attention from around the world, specifically London.
After rescuing a trapped girl, with a feat of strength reminiscent of Superman’s Action Comics #1, Jekyll becomes beloved by a young woman, ominously called a cursed “Yaksha” by an elderly woman (Yakshas being nature spirits with the dual capacity for both benevolence or malevolence from Hindu and Buddhist traditions). Jekyll’s growing reputation raises questions about his unknown heritage, which when tied in with wider machinations, sets him off on a journey to England to discuss the settlement of his biological family’s estate.
The story dwells for an extended period of time in Ceylon for, as yet, indeterminable reasons. It could be that the ochre-saturated landscape offers a stark contrast to the Victorian aesthetic of “good ol’ foggy London town” — even in the ’30s — or more likely, it could be that the Yaksha storyline will eventually become more prominent. There are strong suggestions that is precisely the case, what with all the mystical ninja assassins led by the “quite possibly insane” Captain Dance (Enzo Cilenti), and the endless potential for metaphors about colonial exploration, the exotic, and so on, which seems more counter-scientific than the source material but adds a grander, pre-existing world narrative to events.
Written by Charlie Higson, author of six Young (James) Bond novels and more than a dozen other young adult titles, Jekyll and Hyde has a difficult balancing act to perform in the Saturday early evening slot. Unlike other recent and current “family entertainment” titles in the UK, such as Doctor Who, Atlantis, Robin Hood, Merlin, Primeval, and Sinbad, Jekyll and Hyde doesn’t come across as having source material that is especially suitable for younger audiences without some degree of cultural erasure and re-inscription…
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