Notes on Steven Moffat's JEKYLL / Part Two

And here's Part Two of my research notes on Steven Moffat's 2007 drama Jekyll.

The following is a partly combined, rewritten and edited version of two drafts of the material. It does look at Jekyll in context with many of the recognisable motifs that can be found in the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who and it also touches on many other themes and ideas that the six-part drama explored that were outside of the remit of my original chapter.

This is quite a long article so I've split it into three parts. I suggest you put the kettle on again, make some tea and take your time. The first part is here. Where the first part looked at the relationship between the 'Jekyll' figure of Tom Jackman and his alter-ego Hyde, this second instalment looks at the female characters and how the series evoked the female Gothic within the parallel narratives featuring Tom's wife Claire and her duplicate Alice Cameron.

Part Three in the next few days. Enjoy.

Notes on Steven Moffat's 'Jekyll'

Part Two: ‘the only woman in a hundred years that Dr Jekyll has ever loved’ 

Jekyll is not just content to explore the strengths and weaknesses of masculinity. Stevenson’s novel is often seen as a very masculine text and ‘a story about communities of men’ [where] ‘the romance of Jekyll and Hyde is instead conveyed through men’s names, men’s bodies, and men’s psyches’. (8) Moffat sets out to subvert this by referencing specific female Gothic texts to underpin how Stevenson’s text was later adapted to include female characters.

Jackman’s wife Claire and Jekyll’s maid Alice, both played by Gina Bellman, are doubles of the Jekyll and Hyde characters, both played by James Nesbitt. Claire is also inextricably linked to Hyde’s emergence because she is a descendant of Alice, reinforcing the domestic relationships in Moffat’s story. They and other male and female characters, such as Syme, Jackman’s sons, Katherine, Miranda, Min and Mrs Jackman, are adaptive inclusions that fulfill what Brian Rose sees as the effects of adapting the novel for stage and screen.

Rose notes that 'the central motif of the story was augmented with the presence of a female character and her familial connections; they collectively allow it to serve as a site for anxieties relating to domestic issues’. (9) In this way, Jekyll emulates the kind of changes included in adaptations as varied as Mamoulian’s 1931 film, the Spencer Tracey remake of 1941, Hammer’s The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960) and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), Amicus’s more faithful I, Monster (1971) and the various stage and musical versions that have regularly emerged.

Katherine, Miranda and Min (Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar) are also examples of female Gothic noir, three characters that typically address the construction of the heroine and the link with Gothic settings and female sexuality. Miranda and Min are a couple who run a private investigation agency and they provide one of the most stable relationships in the drama. The female detective or investigator is also another recurring motif in Moffat’s work on Doctor Who, from the characters of Sally Sparrow and Kathy Nightingale in ‘Blink’ to the metamorphosis of River Song into the pulp noir figure of Melody Malone featured in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’.

Miranda Callender is hired by Jackman's wife Claire to find out why Jackman has rejected her and his domestic idyll. After discovering that Miranda has been conducting photographic surveillance of him, Jackman comes face to face with her in the characteristic noir setting of her office with its low-key lighting and blinds obscuring the window. During and after an unpleasant encounter with Hyde, Miranda becomes a central expositional figure, often revealing more information about Jackman’s connection to the real Dr Jekyll, Klein and Utterson’s actual motivation in attempting to capture Hyde and how Alice’s identity and relationship with Jekyll was concealed.

Katherine Reimer is a psychiatric nurse hired by Jackman to help him control Hyde’s influence on his private life but it is also revealed that Jackman’s mother Sophie has employed her to unlock some of the secrets about Jackman’s origins. One evening, after drugging Jackman, she searches the flat for evidence, taking on the role of feminine Gothic protagonist searching for identifying clues within the darkened passageways of the flat, a space of containment that resembles the Gothic space of a cell or dungeon.

As she uncovers secrets about Jackman and Hyde, found in a locked box containing a letter from his ‘mother’ about his past, Jackman turns into Hyde. The flat becomes a haunted space in which Hyde stalks her, prevents her from restoring the lights and surveillance cameras and hijacks a phone call to her client. As previously noted, like many of Moffat’s monsters he is able to project himself into devices and conversations and he terrorises her through his voice on the phone.

‘I’ll eat you’ he demands and Hyde operates as the supernatural monster in juxtaposition to his human victim, a woman who is gradually denuded of her confidence and strength, momentarily taking on the symbolic role of ‘the final girl’, a horror film trope that reduces her to a female victim chased, cornered and potentially wounded or devoured.

He teases her on the phone with more singsong rhymes. ‘She’s running, she’s crying / she’s turned out the lights, she’s dying’ is another variant on some of the rhymes and songs found in many episodes of Doctor Who in the Moffat era and their equivalents here that emphasise the child-like nature of Hyde. Hyde demonstrates more supernatural abilities in the corner of the eye removal of the fuses and all the keys and to suddenly confront her outside the flat when she finally unlocks the front door to escape. His triumphant roar of ‘Come to Daddy!’ not only reiterates Hyde as a malign father figure but also taps into a number of metaphors in Gothic texts that ‘foreground the direct links between psychosexual development, patriarchal family dynamics… heirs and kinship ties’. (10)

These underline Jackman/Hyde in the role of demonic father as Katherine searches for evidence of his legitimacy on behalf of his ‘mother’ within an understated context of sexual attraction between Jackman and Katherine, Hyde and Claire. The chase through the flat is visually presented in a blur of abstract, out of focus, slow motion shots and Katherine is left cowering in the flat offering to tell Hyde who sent her as long as he spares her and turns the lights and cameras back on. The emphasis is again on the psychological power of light and dark.

‘It’s you… it’s all about you’ 
Claire is a major character in Moffat’s reinterpretation of the Stevenson story, one that he sees as ‘A metaphor for repressed Victorian sexuality [but] not as relevant or as poignant as applying the metaphor to modern people, to a modern man.’ It could be argued that he makes Claire and her Victorian doppelgänger Alice the metaphorical turning point of the narrative during the fifth episode. In the episode’s return to the 1886 roots of Stevenson’s novel, Hyde’s ability to sift Jackman’s memories uncovers the truth behind Stevenson’s fiction.

Her connection with Stevenson’s book is made explicit by Miranda’s explanation for Jackman’s affliction during their incarceration at Klein and Utterson. Claire questions the series’ own relationship with horror fiction at this point. ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a story,’ she demands, unable to accept that the boundaries between her reality and what is regarded as horror fiction have become so blurred. Miranda assures her that Jekyll was real and that she is indeed ‘Mrs Jekyll and Hyde’.

Hyde, like Utterson in the novel, tracks Jekyll through the London fog and observes him visiting his maid Alice Cameron in her lodgings and learns that it is not a potion that causes Hyde to emerge but Alice’s presence. Alice triggers the emergence of Hyde, and it is accompanied by familiar motifs - the guttering and dying of the gas lamps and the reuse of slow motion and a distorted music box theme on the soundtrack. Upon this revelation, images of Claire and Alice are juxtaposed, overlaid as doubles of each other, to emphasise this idea and Hyde confronts Claire in the present and tells her she is back in 1886 with Jekyll.

‘It’s you… it’s all about you’ he confirms, in a similar way that the Doctor will suddenly turn to Amy at the conclusion of ‘Flesh and Stone’ and, saying exactly the same line, understand Amy’s central significance in Moffat's major Doctor Who story arcs, including her link to the explosion that creates the cracks in the universe and the exploration of her role as River’s mother.

Claire and Alice are two figures who influence and manage their respective versions of Hyde. The Hyde of 1886 expresses how Jekyll’s love for Alice and of Jackman’s for Claire is ‘the one thing that keeps him here and keeps you weak. Look at her. You will always be weak with her in the world.’ This reflects the monster’s need to exist outside the emotional bond with his wife and children that Jackman prizes above all else while perhaps reinforcing the stereotypical view of the feminine as weak, physically and emotionally. The original Hyde suggests that if Alice, and by extension Claire, was dead then he would be free of this debilitating influence.

He moves to suffocate Alice with a pillow and Hyde wakes up in the present day, calling for Claire. The boundaries are blurred between reality, dream and memory as Claire also wakes abruptly and begins to enquire with Miranda during their incarceration at Klein and Utterson about photographs of Jekyll’s friends and members of his household. She finds a photograph of Alice but her face has been scratched out, and just as the fiction of Stevenson’s book is used to hoodwink those looking for the formula, the damaged images suggest that determined steps were taken to conceal Alice’s identity and relationship to Jekyll and Hyde, to remove her from the scene of the crime. Alice is a clue that has been hidden in plain sight by Moffat because all is not exactly as it seems.

The fifth episode concludes with Hyde in ascendancy and Jackman driven ‘down a deep dark hole’ inside the rampaging expression of his id. Claire is convinced that her husband is ‘still in there’ and the familial ties with her and their children will see his return. However, Hyde uses a rouse to test the emotional bond between Jackman, Hyde and Claire and to allow Claire and the two children to escape from Klein and Utterson’s facility with Hyde’s help, using Jackman’s knowledge of the institute.

As the original Hyde noted in 1886, Claire is the one person who makes him weak, makes him susceptible to the emotional life that Jackman cherishes, makes him care and protect Claire and the children. To convince them of his fidelity, he appeals to the two boys and asks them to look into their hearts and recognise that their father is Hyde, that he is an aspect of Jackman they recognise. As Moffat notes, Hyde is ‘an explosion of repression… [but] he’s kind of forced to grow up and choose which side he’s on’ and this also applies to Claire in some respects because she has to understand that Hyde is that repressed core of her husband. (11)

In the final episode, Claire and Jackman’s sons are taken to a country house, referred to as Klein and Utterson Mark One and suggesting that the institution itself is an architectural duality. While her two sons are placed in the same stabilising chambers that were used by the institute to remove Jackman from Hyde, Claire is sedated and she plunges into a Gothic nightmare where dark tunnels merge with the foggy streets of London in 1886. She sees a vision of herself as Dr. Jekyll’s maid, Alice and hears Jekyll reassuring her ‘It’s all right, it’s me. Don’t be afraid. He’s gone. Do you hear me Alice?’

Here the narrative switches from Moffat’s intended exploration of masculinity, what could be referred to as the Male Gothic where female subjectivity is repressed and subverted in favour of the patriarchal symbolism of fathers and sons, to one that embraces the Female Gothic, where Claire, Jackman’s mother Sophie and Ms Utterson are expressions outside of the patriarchy of Jackman, Jekyll, Hyde and Syme. We shift from a ‘father’s story’ to a ‘mother’s story’ as Claire wakes to find one of the ‘other’ mothers in the story, in the form of Sophia Jackman, introducing herself.
‘Hyde is love. And love is a psychopath’
Sophia Jackman is one of the many ghosts in the story, a woman who died 15 years ago, yet has reappeared, seemingly alive, who has not aged and can magically escape the security of the Klein and Utterson institute. Again, Jekyll concerns itself with the deceptiveness of appearances, of things not being what they seem to be in the normal world. She is ready to reveal the secrets at the heart of Klein and Utterson, the Gothic ‘family secrets and the immediate past of its transgressive protagonists’ that David Punter and Glennis Byron see as a symptom of the Gothic space. The period trappings of the Utterson mansion, the house as ‘a site of domesticity [and] a place of incarceration, a place where heroines and others can be locked away from the fickle memory of “ordinary life”’ are the site where the secrets of Jackman’s origins are ‘buried deep below this building’ and can be recovered by Claire according to Mrs Jackman. (12)

Escaping from her bedroom, Claire finds her way to the ground floor, into the dark, dripping tunnels of the basement where these secrets are kept in a replay of her dream when she was sedated. She finds a makeshift ward, another of Moffat’s visual symbols previously seen in ‘The Empty Child’ and ‘Blink’ and that will be used again in ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Here, several Jackman/Hyde doppelgängers or ghosts are kept confined. According to Sophie Jackman, these are the monsters created by Klein and Utterson after its many failed attempts to clone Jekyll.

This manipulation of Jekyll through capitalist technological means also references Moffat’s fascination with the way the human body can be changed or preserved by science, the way bodies can be reproduced or altered by strange or scientific methods beyond the traditional mother/father parental binary. This is a continuation of themes found in ‘The Empty Child’, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ and ‘Silence in the Library’ and, later, that will find an even greater affinity with the theme of the doppelgänger in ‘The Almost People’ and ‘The Rebel Flesh.’

Jackman is interpreted not as a clone but as an illegitimate descendant of the original Hyde, as ‘the only perfect throwback, a chance in a million, a perfect genetic duplicate, generations later.’ This merging of sexuality, illegitimacy and the monstrous, all of them Gothic tropes, is conflated here with the ‘creation’ of Jackman’s partial and contradictory identity as Hyde, as a hybrid of nature and culture. Hyde is characterised as the devil, just as Jekyll described Hyde as ‘my devil’ in the original novel, and yet as Mrs Jackman explains, he is not representative of rage, greed or lust but simply the impulse to protect his own at the expense of others.

She claims, ‘Hyde is love. And love is a psychopath.’ In this way then Hyde fulfills the function of the Gothic hero-villain, a being who, in Stevenson’s novel, ‘renders Jekyll unheimlich’ and ‘“unhoused” as Hyde ultimately assumes total control of Jekyll’s house and laboratory’ and here unhouses the corporate culture of Lennox, Syme and the employees of Klein and Utterson in order to preserve Jackman’s family. (13)

The major revelation at this stage in the narrative, and the climax to one of Moffat’s signature uses of misdirection, is that Claire is the clone of Alice, a literal doppelgänger rather than a symbolic, ghostly one, grown from the cells of Alice Cameron: ‘To summon Hyde you need Alice Cameron. They needed to bring back the only woman in a hundred years that Dr Jekyll has ever loved.’ This displaces the masculine subtext of the original relationship between Jackman and Hyde and positions Claire and Alice as the agency for the return of the repressed nature of Hyde, albeit one which still maintains the stereotype of the victim.

It is female sexuality or ‘love’ that releases Hyde’s long dormant desires according to Jekyll and this mirrors the addition of female characters to the many adaptations of Stevenson’s novel and the idea that Jekyll’s repression is not just purely driven by lust but also by a compulsion to love. The focus shifts to Claire as the orphaned child, fostered out to parents that were chosen for her and, like Jackman’s abandonment at a railway station, she becomes an expression of ‘the extraordinary power and pervasiveness of the family as an organizing structure in Gothic’ and ‘where published stories about bizarre and disturbing family behaviour may serve to displace anxieties generated by a world that is changing in the most unsettling ways’. (14)  These anxieties are symbolised by the confrontations between Hyde, Syme and Utterson as they battle to control him through the incarceration of Jackman’s children and wife, to control the construction and function of the family.

Hyde’s supernatural physiology allows him to survive the final confrontation between Utterson and her armed guards as he sacrifices himself to rescue the two children after she threatens to cut the power to their life support caskets. The notion of the family at the centre of the narrative, the roles of parents, the nature of repression and sexuality, of monstrosity and evil is all part of the Gothic’s ‘reformulation, a recasting of the rules, a reimagining of the self-in-the-world’ and in Jekyll the supernatural nature of Hyde is hereditary as a result of the female rather than the male hero-villain. (15) 

This organising structure extends to the hint in the final scenes that Jackman’s two sons are also Jekyll and Hyde descendants and in a flash-forward encounter between Jackman and his mother, which reveals that Sophie Jackman is Ms Utterson, a female expression of the Jekyll and Hyde duality. She is the origin of Jackman’s curse and the final shot of Jekyll is of Jackman recoiling abjectly from Utterson, his real mother, as she transforms into a monstrous, fanged creature and demands a ‘kiss for mommy’.

© 2012 Frank Collins. You must seek the permission of the author to reproduce any of the material in this article. 

(8) Showalter, Elaine, Sexual anarchy: gender and culture at the fin de siècle (Penguin, 1991)
(9) Rose, Brian, A., Jekyll and Hyde Adapted: Dramatizations of Cultural Anxiety (Greenwood Press, 1996)
(10) Brinks, Ellen, Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism (Bucknell University Press, 2003)
(11) Steven Moffat interviewed for 'A Tale Retold' documentary on Jekyll DVD (Contender 2007)
(12) Punter, David and Byron Glennis, The Gothic, (Wiley-Blackwell 2004)
(13) Davison, Carol Margaret, ‘A Battle of Wills: Solving The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ in Allan Hepburn (ed), Troubled Legacies: Narrative and Inheritance (University of Toronto Press, 2007)
(14) Williams, Anne, Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic (University of Chicago Press, 1995)
(15) Ibid

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