Last night, NBC debuted 'Dracula,' the latest incarnation of the globally-famous vampire created by Bram Stoker in the 1890s. This version of the character is reawakened from his tomb in 1890s London, as well, but you would never know it considering all of the glaring anachronisms present on screen. It's one thing to suspend the viewer's disbelief that we're watching an undead creature on screen, but the fact that the characters in 'Dracula' all own technology and clothing from a far more recent time is an annoyance that viewers will have to seemingly put up with. Still, I was kind enough to ignore the flagrant anachronisms present when I reviewed 'Reign' for the CW, so I will extend the same courtesy to NBC's monster fare.
'Dracula' opens with a mysterious man reawakening the title character from his tomb, buried for years beneath the earth. Dracula (played by the handsome Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is woken up to... become an American petroleum magnate named Alexander Greyson. This is a confusing move right from the start, not only because it's curious why an immortal vampire would care about petty economics, but also because it causes Meyers to have to fake an awful American accent throughout the majority of the program. Dracula is not the only character who has taken on a new identity in this version; all of Stoker's famous characters appear in the NBC pilot, however they exist in very different forms. Dracula's reincarnated lover Mina Murray appears (played by Jessica De Gouw, fresh off of her recurring role on 'Arrow'), however in this show Mina is studying to become a surgeon (despite the fact that at the time, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the only woman in the BMA, but let's try to forget these things...). Johnathan Harker is Mina's lover, but he is an investigative journalist. Even the fan-favorite character Abraham Van Helsing appears, but rather than a swashbuckling vampire hunter, Van Helsing is a lecturer in medicine at the University and--you guessed it--Mina's professor.
So, essentially, NBC has taken all of the characters from the thrilling, suspenseful horror novel 'Dracula'... and made them all very dull, ordinary people. THRILL when you see Dracula (as Alexander Greyson) hob nob with oil magnates at a party! CHILL when you watch Dracula get interviewed for a puff piece in the newspaper! SPILL when you see him discuss economic strategy with his butler, Renfield! It's an extremely odd decision to turn Dracula into something so dull, however there is an explanation offered: this Dracula is intent on taking down The Order of the Dragon, an old Christian organization that secretly controls London's wealth. This amounts to precisely what it sounds like: Dracula has his own Blacklist and is intent on taking down all of the members on it... via economic means. So, Dracula has a Blacklist, but is very polite about it.
This is a difficult pill to swallow for any fan of Dracula. In one scene, Dracula decries the Order of the Dragon because "murder, torture, rape and wholesale slaughter" were their stock in trade. Um... sort of like his stock and trade? In every previous incarnation, Dracula was a Voivode, a brutal warlord who would slaughter all in his path... but apparently NBC's Dracula doesn't like murder or torture. His motto? "Free, safe, wireless power!" Seriously. And it plays very strangely.
I can't begrudge any series for trying to reinvent a classic or go in a new direction. Trying something new is to be applauded. The problem with 'Dracula' on NBC is that it is painfully, horribly dull. It was a chore to get through the first episode which is an inauspicious start to any series.
The best aspect of 'Dracula' is that the production values are high and the scenes play out beautifully. It's a shame that no one put the same time and effort into writing things like a plot into the pilot.
FINAL GRADE: D+. 'Dracula' needs to be put back in the ground.