Television Reviews

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Eyes watching through TV screens

Please excuse the rather long issue this column, but I kinda got carried away! I'm introducing a new feature, just to give it a whirl, called the 'spotlight review'. It works thus:

Spotlight Review: Jekyll

What's it about? Jekyll is the six-part drama by acclaimed writer Stephen Moffet that started to air on BBC One five weeks ago. It follows the life of a man called Tom Jackman as he tries to get to grips with his alter ego: Mr Hyde. He soon starts to realise that a shadowy organisation needs Hyde for some evil plot to find out how to induce the change in others. They kidnap Jackman and force him to stabilise as Hyde, and through a series of twists we're told the ingredients of Jekyll's potion — but it's a nice twist that I don't want to spoil. It's basically a reinvention of Stevenson's The Strange case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Why should people watch it? Though I'm normally not a huge fan of James Nesbit, he does a wonderful job as Jackman and just manages to hit the right level of theatricality as Hyde — it's a great performance. It turns out that a set of contact lenses and a very creepy smile make a far better, and more effective, Hyde, than stupid makeup and fur. The deviations from the original story are quite interesting, especially the technology they can use to communicate with each other, which is a real stroke of genius. Moffet really is on top form with the later episodes once everything's set up and it can get quite scary, but also quite interesting — namely the weird shadow organisation and how Jackman is connected to Jekyll. Thinking of that, the contents of Jekyll's potion are just wonderful. This might be a good point to mention that the wonderful Mark Gatiss, who gives a really understated but worthwhile performance, makes an appearance as a certain author. There are also some killer lines — well, I wouldn't expect anything less.

What might put people off? Lots of people have complained about the changes from the book. I've read it and they are very substantial, but then it's a 'follow-up', not a retelling, so I guess it doesn't matter. James Nesbit's performance might not suit everyone and Jackman's wife is very annoying. It can be quite slow at points, but this is a necessary evil. I read somewhere that people considered the script a little shaky in the first few episodes, but if it was I didn't notice.

So, should anyone bother? It has its faults, but yes. Jekyll is a good piece of television that's got far more going right for it than it's got faults. It's an old story, but the reason it's lasted so long is that it works. Someone once said that 'If you read The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde you'll know everything you need to know about the Scottish psyche.'

So there you are. Well, while we're talking about new shows, I'd like to give Dexter a mention. The advertising campaign for this in Britain was awful, but I decided to give it a shot and loved it. Dexter is about a police blood expert who's actually a serial killer of serial killers. With a lead character like that, the writers certainly have their work cut out making him likeable, but they pull it off — thanks to a funny Dead Like Me-style narration. The actor who plays Dexter really is on top form and does a great job. The twisted sense of humour that seems to run through the show is just perfect and so far the storyline is promising. Dexter has found a serial killer who murders women, but in a very particular pattern. I don't want to go into more — it's quite a gruesome show at points and not for the faint of heart — but the upshot is that the killer knows who Dexter is and they're tracking each other down. I've only seen three episodes, but I think this show's a good one. Just don't let the blood put you off.

That, ladies and gentlemen, just leaves the 'fifty things you need to know about' spot....

Fifty things you need to know about... Doctor Who

Doctor Who is the brainchild of Sydney Newman (1) and producer Verity Lambert (2). Its origional run started in 1963 (3) and ran untill 1989 (4). It then underwent a brief hiatus until the 'TV movie' in 1996 (5) and its full return to TV in 2006 (6) with Christopher Eccelston as the Doctor (7). Doctor Who is one of the longest-running shows ever, with 734 episodes (with more to come) (8) at the time of writing.

The Doctor is the main character of the show (9): a traveler through time and space (10) from the planet Gallifrey (11). He looks entirely human (12) but actually has two hearts (13). His travels through space and time are achived using a machine called the TARDIS (14), which stands for 'Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space' (15). On the outside it looks like a police box (16). It used to be able to change shape in order to blend in with the enviroment, but the chameleon curcuit broke and it got stuck like that (17). A huge deal is made about the fact it's bigger on the inside than on the outside (18).

Since the Doctor's not human, he can regenerate whenever his life is threatened (19) and essentially has 13 lives (20). Ten people have played the Doctor (21) and these are:

  • William Hartnall (22)
  • Patrick Triughten (23)
  • John Pertwee (24)
  • Tom Baker (25)
  • Peter Davidson (26)
  • Colin Baker (27)
  • Sylvester McCoy (28)
  • Paul McGann (29)
  • Christopher Eccelston (30)
  • David Tennant (31)

The Doctor very rarely travels alone and generally has an assistant (32). There have been far too many to name over the years (33). The role of the assistant in Doctor Who is to serve as a human window onto strange events (34). This helps the audience better connect with the events they're seeing on-screen (35).

As important in the series as the Doctor and assistants are the monsters (36). They give the show added drama (37) and the Doctor something to fight (38). The Doctor's oldest arch-enemies are the Daleks (39) from the planet Scaro (40). They are mutants living inside battle armor (41) and are the creation of an evil genius by the name of Davros (42). They kill people using ray guns attached to this armor (43), which is called 'exterminating' (44) someone. They firmly believe that Daleks are the supreme beings and that everything else deserves to be wiped out (45). They really are the stuff of nightmares (46). That having been said, various other monsters pop up several times throughout the series run, such as the Cybermen (47) — metal robots from a planet called Mondas. (48) Doctor Who is too vast to cover in fifty facts, but you've got the basics. It really is a British institution (49) and one that won't go away for a very long time (50).

Well, thanks for reading, folks, and I'd love to hear what you make of the new features, plus any suggestions for things you'd like to see. That's me signing off this issue.

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