DVD
Jekyll
Series 1

Starring: James Nesbitt, Gina Bellman, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan and Meera Syal
Contender Home Entertainment
RRP: 29.99
CTD10528
Certificate: 15
Available 30 July 2007


Tom Jackman is a modern day Dr Jekyll with an old dilemma - his body also houses the devilish Mr Hyde. But they have a cunning arrangement - a body share - and an impossible life is somehow lived. What Hyde doesn't know is that Jackman is married - there's a wife and two children he'll do anything to protect from his dark side. With all the resources of modern technology, and the best surveillance hardware, he's determined to keep his evil side in line. He's done a deal with his own devil. What neither of them knows is that an ancient organisation, with limitless wealth and power, is monitoring their every move, and that a plan, over a century in the making, is coming to fruition. It seems the return of Dr Jekyll is no accident...

Doctor Tom Jackman's life has been turned upside down. Recently, he's been playing host to an uninvited guest - a dangerous alter-ego. Desperate to protect his wife Claire and children from his dark side, Tom's has been forced to leave his old life behind and strike a deal with his own devil.

Tom and his alter-ego have hired a psychiatric nurse, Katherine Reimer, to oversee their deal. When Tom sleeps, Hyde takes over his body. Neither of them are privy to the other's thoughts, or what they get up to once they are in charge of the body. The two have worked out a symbiotic relationship where they can communicate with one another via a dictaphone. This deal means that Hyde won't kill anyone, otherwise Tom has threatened to turn himself in; and Tom can't work on a cure for his condition or Hyde will kill them both.

Jekyll is a six-part series that was originally broadcast on the BBC in June/July 2007. As I write this review episodes 1-4 have been broadcast already, with the DVD release set to be released shortly after the series completes its transmission. This release is being marketed as Jekyll: Series 1 - which surprised me a little, as this series is pretty self-contained. While the BBC could well revisit the show for another series, I can't really see the point as there's not really anywhere else they can go from here.

When originally broadcast some of the scenes were edited - mainly for bad language - and it's good to see that all the scenes have been survived, unedited, for the DVD release. Although, having said that, there are some scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Sadly, poor old Gina Bellman has some awful lines that are impossible to deliver believably. There is a scene in episode one where she talks of Tom acting like he's lying at the bottom of a pond and that someone should drain that pond... cut from the BBC transmission, it's been reinstated for the DVD release.

There are more cringeworthy lines in episodes five and six. But, as I'm writing this review before they have been broadcast, I've no idea whether these were cut or not.

I was also unsure what to make of Benjamin - the American villain. Paterson Joseph does an incredibly good job with the accent, and his acting is superb. But I couldn't help but feel that his character was a little too much like a pantomime villain.

Other guest stars all turn in great performances, especially Denis Lawson (who Star Wars fans will remember as Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy); Michelle Ryan (soon to be seen in the lead role of The Bionic Woman) and Gina Bellman (Coupling). Also look out for a brief cameo by Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen). But the whole production rests on the shoulders of whether James Nesbitt can pull off the duel roles of Tom and Hyde. Thankfully he can, but I must admit to being a little worried that he was a little flat in the very first scene - don't worry it soon becomes apparent that is how he's supposed to be.

There's plenty of humour, subtle and otherwise. I loved Hyde's taste in music: Lion King and other Disney Favourites; and there's a great scene where the organisation is tracking Tom via his mobile phone. Someone points out that he's moving, at which point Benjamin explodes, yelling: "Of course he's moving. He's on a train." To which Peter Syme simply says: "You really don't have the hang of England yet, do you?"

Extras include audio commentaries on episodes one and six; Anatomy of a Scene (15 minute look at the Lion's Den scene); The Tale Retold (35 minute featurette that goes behind the scenes on the series).

The audio commentaries are interesting. Here the writer points out that in episode one there is a pretty bad mistake (which to be honest I doubt most people will catch) which ruins the entire story for those who are really paying attention.

I was also a little surprised to see that Contender Home Entertainment are marketing this with an RRP of £30. While this collection is worth the money - you do get six hours of quality drama after all - I couldn't help thinking that a £20 price tag was more in keeping with the market.

The end result is a strong, quality drama that will go down in history as one of the best adaptations of the classic tale.

Nick Smithson

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