An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…
These reviews reveal plot twists.
Setting: The modern day in a town called Stokely, seemingly in Wales.
Faithful to the novel? No, not really. It’s a CBBC sitcom based on Young Dracula and Young Monsters, a 2006 children’s book by Michael Lawrence. In episode one, Count Dracula (Keith Lee Castle) moves to Britain with his two children, Vlad (Gerran Howell) and Ingrid (Clare Thomas); his servant, Renfield (Simon Ludders); and a sentient stuffed dog called Zoltan (voiced by Andy Bradshaw). They’ve been chased out of Transylvania by a mob of peasants. Dracula and Renfield are characters from Stoker’s book, of course, while the family’s car is called the Demeter in reference to the ship from the novel. Vlad is the series’s lead character – he’s 12 and, despite being Dracula’s heir, doesn’t want a vampire life. Instead, he joins the local school and tries to be a normal kid. Older sister Ingrid, meanwhile, prides herself on being evil – she *doesn’t* want to join the local school but has to. Both siblings are still young vampires, so can go out in sunlight and don’t need to feed. Vlad soon meets and befriends a fellow pupil called Robin (Craig Roberts), who has a fascination with vampires – in fact, an early episode suggests Vlad and Robin might have been swapped as babies – and wants to be one himself. Robin also has a pair of dim parents, a pair of dim brothers and a wise younger sister called Chloe (Lucy Borja-Edwards). Episode two introduces teacher Eric Van Helsing (Terence Maynard), who is secretly a self-styled but hopeless vampire slayer. He spends the series suspecting Dracula and his family of evil; his suspicions are finally confirmed in the final episode. Johnathan Van Helsing (Terry Haywood) is his son and goes the school but is constantly frustrated by his father’s obsession. (In another nod to the book, the little-seen headmistress of the school is called Miss Harker.) Vlad and Ingrid’s mum – the arch, camp Magda Westenra – shows up for the first time in episode three.
Best performance: Terence Maynard, who went on to play Tony Stewart in Coronation Street, is quite funny as the hapless, deluded, earnest Van Helsing.
Best episode: The final part, Countdown, has the Count host a vampire ball in order to find a new wife. But Van Helsing sneaks in and tries to kill him. Scarier than the other episodes, it also sees the plot finally move on after a lot of water-treading.
Review: Series one of this likeable show contains 14 half-hour episodes. It’s in the vogue of The Sarah Jane Adventures (which began the following year), though is not as emotionally rich. But it’s also not as cosy and has a more earthy sense of humour. It can be limiting: the self-contained episodes are mostly set in the Draculas’ castle or at the school, while there are few guest characters. But the regulars are quite fun. A good running gag has Dracula blatantly favouring his son over his daughter. Sadly the actor playing Vlad is not that great, but overall the series is diverting enough.
Seven blood tests out of 10