Sunday, January 08, 2012

Young Dracula – season 3

Directors: Joss Agnew & Matthew Evans

First aired: 2011

Contains spoilers

I looked at season 1 and 2 of Young Dracula together and, for those unaware of the series, it was a BBC children’s series that surpassed normal standards by creating a well-acted, genuinely funny and ominously dark (in places) show that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Then it stopped, after two seasons, with a cliffhanger but no concrete plans for a further series.

Renfield and Ingrid
This, of course, was perilous. After-all there was a child/teen cast all growing older. However in 2011 the BBC decided to bring the show back. It shifted locations but sported the same key cast (for the Dracula family). The cliffhanger was neatly bypassed with just a comment that daughter Ingrid (Clare Thomas) had left her brother Vlad (Gerran Howell) for dead and her father, Count Dracula (Keith Lee Castle, Urban Gothic: Vampirology and Vampire Diary), trapped in a UV cage, ready to be ashed…

Vlad in his vampire outfit
A few years have passed, Vlad and his father have moved to a school that the Count has bought, a hiding spot from the Slayer’s Guild. Vlad has come into his powers – though they are not fully developed – and so must now avoid direct sunlight but he still steadfastly refuses to drink real blood (and so drinks a soya replacement!). The only other members of the household still with them, at first, are the hell hound Zoltan (voiced by Andy Bradshaw) and manservant Renfield (Simon Ludders), who has been mind-wiped and doesn’t remember that his master is a vampire.

Sydney White as Erin
Vlad is still the chosen one and vampire society awaits his coming into his powers to lead them to glory. Until he is 18, however, the Count is his regent and in charge. The slayers also know about Vlad and are hunting him and, as the series starts, he starts having visions of his sister being hunted (and the newspapers relay the fact that their castle in Stokely – from season 1 & 2 – has been burnt to the ground). He rescues his sister, who is ill with blood poisoning contracted from a victim. With her is Erin (Sydney White) a half-fang…

Clare Thomas as Ingrid
So, what is a half-fang? Answer, a person bitten but not yet come into their vampire powers. We quickly discover, however, that Erin is not a half-fang but a breather (full human). Her brother (Tom Gibbons) and her were slayers, Ingrid bit her brother (and caught her blood poisoning from him), and Erin has used stasis spray to hide her humanity from the vampires (taking away her human scent and hiding her heart beat). Her aim is to kill the Draculas to cure Ryan but soon discovers that such a cure is a myth; she and Vlad quickly fall for each other as well.

turning into smoke
The show follows the machinations of Ingrid, the Count and Bertrand (Cesare Taurasi) a tutor that comes to Vlad with a mystical book that only the chosen one can and must open, and how all of them try and manipulate Vlad (and each other), as well as the developing relationship between Erin and Vlad, his development of powers and the interest of the slayers. For the most part it worked exceptionally well, just like the first two series, with the characters all coming into their own – Clare Thomas and Keith Lee Castle often competing to steal the show but Gerran Howell definitely holding his own.

hunting on the ceiling
Lore wise we have garlic burning vampires, whilst staking and sunlight kill the vampires. Vlad has no reflection, turns into a bat (in order to save his sister, though he never wanted to use that power) and vampires have the ability to turn into smoke. The slayers have stasis spray and bands that control heart-rate if trying to pass for unconcerned humans. They also have UV bombs. Vampires have a variety of magic powers and also eye-mojo – but cannot hypnotise someone they love. Wall and ceiling crawling are in the vampire arsenal and woe betide any maiden who sings a Romanian folksong in earshot of a hungry Count!

Keith Lee Castle as the Count
There were two episodes that were nothing more than filler. They both contained a fluff story, barely worth airing, wrapped around clips from the first two series and this one. One might argue that a recap was useful from the first two seasons but the first occurred in episode 4 and contained clips from episodes 1-3 as well and was as much filler as back story, the other was late in the series and completely unnecessary other than to fill an episode. The character Wolfie (Lorenzo Rodriguez), Vlad and Ingrid’s young half-brother, and himself half vampire/half werewolf, left at the school by their mother after her brief sojourn in the series, seemed a little pointless as a character, I’m afraid.

However they are the only real negatives. Otherwise the show was back, it perhaps lacked a little bit of the gore that the second series introduced (we don’t really see a bite, though they do happen).The comedy was there but much curtailed as the show's aim became that little bit older (along with the cast). The incongruities that the older cast might have offered were met head on when the Count insists that Ingrid enrol in the school and she points out that she is twenty.

the Count reading Twilight
When the humour did raise its head it often relied on Renfield (and his disgusting habits or desire for cross-dressing – indeed him doing a Britney Spears impression will haunt me and was less comedy and more nightmarish). However the sight of the Count reading Twilight and laughing his socks off was a memorable moment. Generally the show actually felt that little bit darker in places but never forgot that it was, ultimately, a kid’s show and, all in all, it was great fun.

So, BBBC, will there now be a three season boxset released? 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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