Monday, January 07, 2019

Honourable Mention: Ripper Street: A White World Made Red

I’d not, before this season 4 episode, watched any Ripper Street – a detective series set in Whitechapel at the end of the 19th Century. However my wife is a fan and had mentioned this episode to me and it came up in a chapter of Dracula an International perspective. In that volume it is described thusly: “The theme {connecting Dracula with the Ripper} was made even clearer through television’s Ripper Street episode, A White World Made Red set in 1897, the year of Dracula’s publication. In the story a vampire stalks the East End…” (P119).

Janice Byrne as Agniezka
Unfortunately, this isn’t correct. Whilst we get exsanguination, Stoker’s novel and the play of one of the fictional vampire tropes it is never suggested that a vampire stalks the East End. Rather we have a crime to be solved by series regulars Det Insp Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Set Sgt Drake (Jerome Flynn), along with American soldier/surgeon Jackson (Adam Rothenberg). We start with a woman, Agniezka (Janice Byrne), stood on an East End street. She is approached by a girl (Emelia Devlin) who leads her to a building. In a room a man is hung upsode down and she screams…

finding the dead
The room is an abattoir’s cold storage room and the police are called as the man is hung and exsanguinated. Blood is in a bucket below him. However, they realise that there was more to the scene than this and find Agniezka. As Jackson investigates he realises that the man was not killed by the exsanguination – he was actually executed by hanging (in prison) and his stolen corpse exsanguinated. Agniezka died from organ failure and had not been exsanguinated.

Emelia Devlin as the girl
Eventually we discover that the man had been in prison, where his blood had been taken and it was discovered (with very rough experimentation – bearing in mind that this is before blood typing) that it matched with the young girl’s blood. It was another Polish seamstress Magdalena (Julia Rosnowska) who was supposed to go to the rendezvous. Not realising that her specific blood was key she sent a friend in her place, actually to help the friend out. The girl has inherited porphyria and her disgraced Doctor father (Dylan Smith) is trying experimental transfusions to help her.

reading Dracula
The thing is, there is no connection in the episode made with the exsanguination, porphyria and vampirism. Any genre connection is made through Reid’s daughter, Mathilda (Anna Burnett), reading Dracula. We do get the line about 'blood is the life' as a further oblique connection. Where the episode made no sense was that there seemed no reason to transfuse (and thus kill) Agniezka, unless it was to see whether the blood of the dead could be transfused into the living… Indeed one wonders why the doctor felt he needed Magdalena when he had the fresh corpse (or why he needed the corpse when he had access to the living woman)?

bucket of blood
Nevertheless, whilst there is no historic connection between porphyria and vampirism, it is a sometimes-used trope in vampire films. The connection to Dracula is also interesting (and the rapid death of Agniezka might have been exaggerated but almost speaks to Lucy’s transfusions and the idea in some reworkings of the Dracula story that it was they, not Dracula, that killed her). In short this is of genre interest but at no point is it suggested that a vampire is haunting the East End.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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