Dracula, episode 2 review: strictly not for purists, but this nightmarish sea voyage was a hugely entertaining ride

Anita Singh
Dracula (Claes Bang) sates his thirst on the long voyage to England - BBC
Dracula (Claes Bang) sates his thirst on the long voyage to England - BBC

Just when you thought you had the measure of Dracula (BBC One), they turned it into an Agatha Christie story: And Then There Were None (of the Original Bits of the Book Left In It).

Actually, let’s be fair. Writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat based this second episode on Count Dracula’s passage to England aboard the Demeter, which appears in Bram Stoker’s novel. In the book, Dracula silently bumps off members of the crew. Here, he had a banquet of fellow passengers: a grand duchess of past acquaintance, an Indian doctor and his mute daughter, a bridegroom who had brought along his wife and his gay lover.

If you are of the opinion that adaptations of literary classics should remain faithful to the text, this was the point at which you threw your television out of the window, having already had your fill of the camp Count and the wisecracking nun in episode one. But if you were prepared to accept an interpretation that took the essence of the story, paid loving homage to various big screen Draculas and then made everything else up, this was as inventive a drama as could be found to enliven the dark days of January.

The Count (a highly enjoyable performance from Claes Bang) was a touch more serious than in the preceding instalment, although the writers couldn’t resist giving him the line: “You can’t eat ’em all.” This time we got to understand his modus operandi: picking his victims in order to absorb their particular skill set. Thus, when required to speak German at the dinner table, he nipped outside and sunk his fangs into a Bavarian sailor. He also used this as a weak explanation for why he recoiled at the sight of the cross: over the centuries he had eaten too many God-fearing peasants.

I won’t ruin the riddle of who was in cabin number nine, or the ending, in case you’re saving it to watch on catch-up. Both were clever twists worthy of Gatiss and Moffat’s other drama, Sherlock. Perhaps the pair are dreaming of a Sherlock vs Dracula spin-off, an idea so outlandish that they’ve probably already written the script.