TV review: Jekyll & Hyde, ITV

JEKYLL AND HYDE is a great drama, but it has some adventurous ideas on what constitutes family-friendly viewing, writes Martin Gray

Tom Bateman is the cursed Robert Jekyll in the new ITV show. Picture: ITV
Tom Bateman is the cursed Robert Jekyll in the new ITV show. Picture: ITV
Tom Bateman is the cursed Robert Jekyll in the new ITV show. Picture: ITV

I’m in two minds about Jekyll & Hyde.

On the one hand, it’s a cracking new drama from ITV - Charlie Higson’s script is an original spin on the classic story, placing Henry Jekyll’s grandson, Robert, in the London of the 1930s and hunted by MI0, the government’s monster-busting agency. The central performance - or rather, performances - from Tom Bateman are eye-catching, while Richard E Grant makes a marvellously sinister spymaster. The direction is pacy, the effects spiffy, production design delightful, music sumptuous...

... but blimey, this is what ITV considers teatime family drama? In the space of an hour we had the first Mr Hyde beating folk senseless with his cane; a little girl menaced by the new Mr Hyde even as he’s rescuing her; the hero’s adoptive parents murdered by a villainous organisation employing monkey ninjas; a man-of-many-faces spy who twists his features with his hands; and a naked half-man half-dog who can predict the future.

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This latter beastie, the Harbinger, is seriously freaky - I can see myself having nightmares, never mind the kiddies. And those ape henchmen recall The Wizard of Oz’s horrible flying monkeys - eek!

As for Hyde himself, the make-up, camerawork and Bateman’s snarls and resemblance to Jeremy Clarkson make for one horrific hero. Given that the post-watershed Downton Abbey last week carried a warning over a bit - OK, a lot - of bloody bile gushing from Robert Crawley’s aristocratic gob, I’m amazed Jekyll & Hyde went out without a similar Beware.

Or maybe it did, and I missed it. Even if there was a ‘don’t let wee bairns watch this’ notice, half-past six seems a tad inappropriate. Yes, the similarly slotted Dr Who has monsters, but they come with the reassuring presence of the Time Lord. Here, our kindly hero turns holy terror in a heartbeat, with not even an amiable Companion to reassure us this world isn’t THAT scary.

So far, anyway. New MI0 chap Sackler (Tom Rhys Harries) has bumbling potential, so may become our hulking hero’s minder... If he isn’t shot by Grant’s rather intense Bulstrode.

Headscratching timeslot apart, I’ve no qualms about recommending Jekyll & Hyde - while no Boys’ Own adventure, older viewers will relish the dark drama. There’s also wit on display, such as the soundtrack offering Irving Berlin’s ‘Let Yourself Go’ as Robert gives us the full Hyde in Natalie Gumede’s bar of ill repute.

I’m not sure Robert Louis Stevenson would approve, but Jekyll & Hyde, with his massive hairy hands, has certainly me.