A New Species of Jekyll, in ITV’s Jekyll and Hyde

As part of our Halloween Month, Janet Cooper reviews the first episode of new ITV period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde.  Janet is an MA English Studies Student and has a particular interest in Gothic Literature, particularly Victorian and Irish literature.

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

Sunday meant the arrival of the new Gothic series, Jekyll and Hyde.  I was not entirely sure what to expect and how the series would differ from the original novella, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The original novella was written in 1886, but this series begins 50 years later which takes us into the 1930’s.  The plot twists and demonic terrors kept me on the edge of my seat and I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Robert Jekyll, travels to London when he is contacted about his possible entitlement to a family fortune.  Jekyll is an interesting yet unnerving character, as in minutes of the episode starting he displays super-human strength and a mysterious dark side.  He lives with his adopted family in Ceylon and is dependent on pills prescribed by his father.

His father supplies him with eight weeks of medication and this suggests that the drug is especially made for Jekyll, and will not be available on his journey.  This fits in well with the scientific element of the novella as Henry Jekyll is a Doctor of Science rather than a medical Doctor.  It is apparent that Robert Jekyll is suppressing an uncontrollable, yet supernatural urge inside of him and this builds up instant tension.  He appears to suffer from a brain imbalance caused through stress and anxiety, and no sooner does he take his pills, the chemical imbalance is restored and the darker side becomes suppressed once more.  The most obvious difference here is the fact that Robert Jekyll is taking the tablets to suppress the entity of Hyde, in comparison to Henry Jekyll in the novella who takes a potion to bring out the entity of Hyde (initially).

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

The appearance of Utterson, a lawyer, whose father is also a lawyer in the original version, gave me a comfortable sense of familiarity.  He believes that Robert Jekyll is the son of Louis Hyde, who is thought to be the illegitimate son of Henry Jekyll and therefore his long-lost grandson.  Louis Hyde was renowned for his strength, but he was also thought to be a murderer, like Edward Hyde.  I suspect that the mystery of Robert Jekyll’s birth will unfold in later episodes as we follow his past and present journey of self-discovery.

Strength is an important factor that links these men, as there is little evidence to suggest they are related.  The names Robert Jekyll and Louis Hyde are a delightful dedication to the original author of The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), the talented Robert Louis Stevenson.

The excitement continued throughout the first episode as several undercover agencies are introduced, and are either chasing or employing degenerate and ab-human demonic creatures and some appear animalistic with longer necks, or on all fours.  Some can even shape shift.  Not only does the episode focus on Robert Jekyll as the protagonist, it also incorporated a strong back story of a demonic culture thriving in London.  During the 1930’s in London, a lot of changes occurred as refugees fled to London due to the movement in Germany.  This caused a lot of social and cultural unrest, and tensions were building in the years leading up to World War II as Germany became problematic and a threat to society.

In the meantime, a psychotic man takes a small army of demonic, ninja-like figures to visit the house of Jekyll’s adoptive family in hunt of him. The man himself is ruthless and will stop at nothing.  This small group is possibly a representation of Nazism spreading to London as they set on their hunt for Robert Jekyll.  His purpose is currently a mystery which makes the story much more interesting and another mystery that will unfold.

There is no doubt that the interference of these agencies contribute to Jekyll’s turn to the dark side.  Jekyll’s hotel room is burgled and his pills stolen by MI0 – a government agency that deals with monsters and apparently protects humanity. This type of undercover work fits in well as spies and detective work of all kinds were taking place in London, to prevent the enemy from gaining the upper hand and attacking.  The news arrives of Jekyll’s adoptive family being murdered in Ceylon, and without any pills to treat his condition, Jekyll loses control and is dominated by his very own demon.  Loss is a key trigger and he is left in London, alone, not knowing who, or what he is.  Without his drugs to turn to, he resorts to alcohol.

On his initial arrival in London, Robert Jekyll becomes attracted to, and strikes up a relationship with a girl named, Lily.  He saves her life on their first meeting and when he visits her at home to return her purse, he becomes angry with her elderly mother for being demanding and interrupting their time together.  Jekyll seems to be instantly drawn to Lily and goes out of his way to meet her again.  There is a fine line here between lust and obsession, and I am interested to see how their relationship develops and how he copes with Lily’s mother, and her continual demands and control over Lily.  Is love enough to save Robert Jekyll from a troublesome fate, or is Lily just an obsession, and will the nature of Hyde be too much for Jekyll to suppress on his own?  Only time will tell…

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

It’s hard not to pity this monster, as his initial good deed of saving a child in Ceylon has brought him suffering and turmoil.

What do you think of the first episode? Do you find yourself loving or hating Robert Jekyll?  Is society to blame for his behaviour or is he just simply evil?  Is evil in your genes?

So much happening in just one episode means that episode 2 has a lot to live up to next week.   With a new species of Jekyll, I am left wondering what the new species of Hyde has in store for us.

If you didn’t catch the first episode, you can catch up on ITV player and don’t forget to tune in next week on Sunday, ITV, at 6:30pm. 

*The images used in this article are the property of ITV, and permission was kindly given for them to feature in this article.

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About spectralvisions

Spectral Visions is an annual Gothic conference hosted by the University of Sunderland. It explores the dark, the decadent and the terrifying aspects of Gothic literature and language. This blog is a student-run initiative, where Visionaries showcase their creative talents and learning in short stories, poems and essays on the Gothic. You can follow us on Twitter at @spectralvisi0ns or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/uosgothic
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