It’s been a while since I’ve done any TV reviews or movie reviews for that matter. I often mean to, but sort of forget. I’ll be reviewing Wolfman this Sunday (No spoilers please) and I wanted to talk about Smallville: Absolute Justice but just didn’t find the strength. If you’re curious, I liked Smallville: Absolute Justice well enough and thought Icicle, Hawkman and Dr. Fate were used quite well. I also marked out for Martian Manhunter, but there were a few points that came off as hokey…

Anyway, onto today’s review. It’s of the 2006 BBC mini-series, Jekyll. At 6 full hours it’s a bit long at times, but certainly has some interesting style choices and enough flare to generally keep you interested. If you’re a fan of British sci-fi, you’ll probably jump right into Jekyll with ease.

Jekyll comes to us from Stephen Moffat, who now will be in charge of Doctor Who and did a few Who stories during the RTD era of Doctor Who. That’s mostly why I watched, but also because I generally like the premise of Jekyll and Hyde and think it’s been underutilized through the years. Then there’s the fact that while 6 hours is a long time, it’s not a whole series so if it sucked I didn’t lose too much time over it.

Jekyll stars James Nesbitt (I’m Mrs. Nesbitt!) as Doctor Tom Jackman. Without giving too many spoilers, Jackman is obviously cursed with the Jekyll and Hyde condition. The series sort of unfolds in non-linear fashion, with us jumping right into the full blown Jekyll and Hyde issues, before finally giving us some backstory three or four episodes in.

But is it any good? Well for starters, James Nesbitt puts on a tour de force as both Jekyll and Hyde. In a lot of ways he plays three parts, Tom Jackman the manic scientist dealing with his “curse”, Tom Jackman a man who is charming prior to the affliction and Hyde, the psycho with whimsical glee. Hyde is clearly a lot of fun and Nesbitt really plays him in such a fun way.

The supporting cast is pretty good too, with Denis Lawson as Peter Syme, Tom’s best friend and worst enemy, you may know him better as Star Wars’ Wedge Antilles! Awesomeness. There’s also Michelle Ryan, who I couldn’t place for the life of me. A quick check on IMDB reveals that she was the Bionic Woman in NBC’s ill fated revamp and also Lady Christina de Souza from Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead. I knew her from both, but it didn’t click immediately.

Right, so back to “how is it?”… Not to sound too cliche, but it’s a bit like the man himself, both good and bad. The writing is brilliant at times, while Moffat shows a lot of restraint. There are times when the supreme visuals aren’t given to us, instead we’re left to imagine what Hyde has done. The problem with that is that far too often the tease is better than the payoff. Hyde is a man with tons of power and evil in him, but he rarely does anything with it. For a guy with a vicious bite, his bark is much worse.

The story is best when it focuses on Jekyll and Hyde and in fact, the story probably would have been must see had is stayed with that. Instead the mini-series is mostly about the origins of Hyde and how he has to battle a FBI type team that’s out to capture him. No one’s motives or origins are clear and you don’t get any answers until the last episode, which also creates a lot of teaser tension with little payoff. The finale of the show adds in a couple of genuinely intriguing twists, but has far too many twists to be any good. Scenes happen, shocking twists occur and then more are continued to be piled on until it’s far too muddled to be interesting or compelling anymore.

Russell T. Davies is given a lot of flack from Who fans for some of his quirks and Moffat is believed to be the cooler head, but his direction on Jekyll seems, well, a bit directionless in the end. Certainly everything has a payoff, which is solid but there’s a little too much there for this to be really good.

Then there’s the makeup… I’ve heard some say it’s really good. I guess so. The problem is, Jekyll and Hyde don’t look that much different. In fact, aside from minor differences I often couldn’t tell them apart. Yes, sometimes it’s obvious when Hyde is around, but his change isn’t that drastic. The final payoff to what Hyde is, doesn’t make any sense either, mind you, and some of the erases to the mythos subtract more than they add.

So do I recommend this or not? Yes and no. If you go into this knowing that there are some pretty unsatisfactory elements but still some great acting and a fun twist on the Jekyll and Hyde mythos, then you’re fine. If you want excellent sci-fi with solid direction and a meaningful payoff, you should look elsewhere. In the end Jekyll is like a cool episode of The Outer Limits… Except, you know, it’s 6 hours long. If you’ve got 6 hours to waste on something like that, you’ll probably enjoy this alright.

Leave a Reply