RIP Young Dracula
Three television series tried to be about the famous vampire Count. Dracula: The Series included a very young Mia Kirshner (who would go on to appear in both The Vampire Diaries and 30 Days of Night: Dark Days) and lasted one season. It primarily targeted children. NBC’s Dracula had Jonathan Rhys Myers as the noble vampire, in a very bodice-ripper style blended with steampunk. Then there is CBBC’s Young Dracula, which has ended now after five full seasons.
It will be sorely missed. The fact it lasted five seasons offers some hint the show-runners did something right. One might be that they aimed to appeal to both adults as well as their offspring. Another is how they explored lore in all sorts of interesting ways. The last three seasons for example included a whole family of African vampires, who refreshingly showed a wide range of personality. The origins of vampiric power ended up explored in some startling and fun ways as well. Also we got a good look at what can only be called a government of vampires!
Like Harry Potter, the series went with the idea a “Chosen One” who was in fact a barely-teenaged boy. Not that he was destined to fight vampires! No, he was a vampire–the title character in fact! What was he chosen for, however? Most undead assumed/hoped he would lead them in a conquest of the world! Vlad himself had very different, nobler notions–to bring peace between the living and the undead. Neither plan worked out, Vlad’s idea traced in his ultimately tragic love affair with a Hunter named Erin Noble. Initially out of revenge in hopes of curing her brother, Erin fell for Vlad and became his partner. But when turned into a vampire herself (to save her life) Erin gave in to her own dark impulses, betraying Vlad and all his hopes.
What was his chosen for? To save the world, it turns out, from a threat inside his own father’s castle no less. It made for a less bombastic or complex story (kids were part of the target audience) but also kept the focus on character, rather than plot. Vlad learned to accept himself. The last season included news he was half-human, but instead of turning on the undead (as so many have) or becoming fully human, he chose instead to remain a vampire and yet a good person. A new love interest–hippy vampiress Talitha–didn’t hurt.
Make no mistake–the show remained silly in style. Such seemed part of its inherent charm, the often serious subjects treated with juvenile humor. Very much more Hotel Transylvania or maybe Silver Kiss than The Strain or Lestat. Even its treatment of darkness and real evil, while not sugar-coated, pulled its punch. Much of the show’s most obvious evil lay in the portrayal of Magda Dracula, Vlad’s vivacious and immoral mother (even though we later learned she was not his mum after all). She vanished from the show after season three but until then she functioned as a virtual embodiment of delicious evil. In comparison the Count himself seemed not that bad. More, she became the focus of her daughter Ingrid’s obsessions. Rejected by her father out of raw misogyny (in a startling moment the show revealed a nasty nickname for females at one point) Ingrid reveled in plans to be the most vicious vampire in history. Yet Ingrid, devious and cunning in her ambition, looking forward to murder and mayhem, never really seemed evil as long as Magda was around. For one thing she fell in love with a “breather” (derogatory terms of human) and eventually turned him. Her reaction to his death was go even darker, in between bouts of depression. But then instead of her mother, her focus increasingly turned to politics and the Vampire Council (not unlike True Blood‘s Vampire Authority). The series ended with her achieving real political power, and having found love again–with yet another breather (who this time already knew her nature and accepted it).
So we had this children’s t.v. show about Count Dracula and his family, relocating to England. Along the way stories dealt with bigotry, hope, despair, genuine cruelty, revenge on many levels, parents using their children as pawns, blackmail, young love crashing and burning, people trying to find their own identity, political intrigue, attempted (sometimes successful) murder, and war. It doesn’t sound like a children’s show does it? Yet it remained funny, remained accessible to all ages. More to the point, it took the characters and situations seriously enough to feel “real” while never forgetting to entertain!
One can hope future attempts at making vampire t.v. series will take note.