Did we like it?
A glinty-eyed, fang-bearing masterwork of drip-drip-drip storytelling, characters with more glistening facets than the Star of India and some juicy eccentrics dropped in to the plot like food parcels to spies aiding the French Resistance.
What was good about it?
• James Nesbitt as Dr Tom Jackman, a rather dull doctor who six months before resigned from his job working for an amorphous chemicals company – The Klein & Utterson Institute (even the ampersand reeks of stale bromide) – after suffering blackouts he soon realised are the result of his psychological (and a little physical) transmogrification to the sinister, psychotic ‘Mr Hyde’.
• Yet even though his alter ego is a source of horror for Jackman, the very existence of Hyde jerks him back to life from the overwhelming mediocrity of his existence. Sure, he’s happy as happy can be with his mansion that sprawls across acres of land like a fat bloke passed out in a nightclub, a dutiful wife and two adoring children, but all of this (and his former job) placed choking constraints on his life shoving his life into narrower and narrower passages like Alice In Wonderland trying to squeeze through ever smaller doors.
• And it’s Jackman’s emotional, social and professional perdition that makes Hyde so believable. Hyde is the manifestation of all Jackman’s sensual urges he’s kept repressed as he slipped mindlessly into middle-age, making him a closer literary kin to Mersault in Camus’s The Outsider than Mr Hyde in Stevenson’s novel upon which this contemporary odyssey is loosely based.
• Hyde is all of those impulses that are crushed in the mangle of adult responsibility (it’s often remarked that Hyde is a child – he’s not, he’s an adult who hasn’t had a childhood). See that thug acting the tough guy pushing people around? You want to go over to him and put his head through the nearest window you can find; but you don’t as you’re ingrained with post-adolescent pragmatism – he might have a knife; he might press charges if you assault him etc. – all these worries and more prevent any retaliation. But here’s where Hyde is unique; he almost snaps the neck of a thug who confronts him, and then jumps on his chest while lasciviously lusting after the thug’s petrified girlfriend.
• Later an attractive young woman passes Hyde in the pub. Jackman would think, “I’m married, I don’t want to risk losing the kids, she’s with a bloke and why would she be interested in a 43-year-old has-been with a receding hairline?” Hyde doesn’t. He hilariously slams her date’s head on the bar knocking him out before arranging an impromptu assignation with her in the nearest available empty room.
• The lesbian private detectives Miranda (Meera Syal) and Min (Fenella Woolgar), who float through the narrative as if you’ve just snorted a double-dose of surrealism dust up each nostril. There’s something not quite right about them, almost as if they’ve been press-ganged from a neighbouring TV drama and dumped here until they solve the mystery of Dr Jackman rather like a Radio Times version of Quantum Leap.
• While Michelle Ryan’s performance as the icy Katherine, a nurse hired by Jackman to keep Hyde on a leash, confounds all those moron-faces who laughed their zits off when she was cast as the Bionic Woman. Initially she just seems to be a breezeblock of visual relish dumped on the side of the plate in which to dip and flavour the more substantial characters, but there is a big black halo of mystery orbiting about her cascading crimson locks.
• For starters, she seems to be attracted to Hyde – far more so than Jackman – which again compounds just how dull he is, and you begin to waggle your brain and think: “What if Hyde hired her to help get rid of Jackman to let him exist all the time rather than on a timeshare basis?”
• Snippets of dialogue that could have been scribbled down by William Shakespeare’s rotting molars, and passed down the generations until they arrive in the exquisitely talented learny lobes of scriptwriter Stephen Moffat. In the confrontation between Hyde and the thug, Hyde gives him three chances to stab him after which he’ll kill him. The first two he evades with the speed of light, but before the third Hyde mocks him with: “Take your time; you’ve got the rest of your life.”
• Another yum-yum talky bit was straight afterwards as Hyde prepared to snap the thug’s neck. “Here comes God!” he yelled.
• The scary bit when Miranda lectures Jackman about his origins, but by the time she has finished Hyde has arrived.
What was bad about it?
• Big, big American secret services/pharmaceutical company have created Hyde, or at least they claim to have done so, this adds a soiled spitty sheen to a glossy polished plot. Everything doesn’t need to have an explanation rooted in science.
• One amoral persona slowly enveloping its original host seems a bit too much of a clangy, clangy echo of How To Get Ahead In Advertising.
• Saturday nights post-9pm are rather like the TV plague pit for which schedulers wreath their gobs in windy, windy scarves before dumping the unhealthy dramas in a mass grave of viewer apathy. This should be bestriding Sunday evenings gushing forth inspiration like Olivier in Henry V, gathering the massed millions around their TV sets to marvel in one of the most innovative dramas this side of Gormenghast (but one that has a plot).