Lizard Chew Review of Double Darkness:
"Love sure is a funny thing."
I never try to convince any but my most open-minded, light-hearted friends of the charms of "Dracula: the Series." For almost any sensible person, merely the title is enough to put him off, and there is no way to describe the premise that doesn't make it sound juvenile or just ridiculous. I admit, if someone had tried to sell me on watching this show, even as the angst-ridden teenager I was in 1990 I would have scorned it. "Dracula" has nearly everything working against it; it's amazing that it turns out, time and again, to confound expectations and offer some clever or witty or stylish twist on familiar, straightforward plots and characters. Unfortunately, in "Double Darkness" the show lives down to almost every negative expectation the most cynical person could have about it. There are a few good points, but the plot is a careless jumble and the characterization often downright weird. It's hard to believe that this episode comes from the same series as the funny, even touching "Black Sheep," which immediately follows it. Maybe the worst aspect of this mess is that it is so unnecessary: there's nothing wrong with the basic idea of Nosferatu, and a few scenes suggest that "Double Darkness" could have been a compelling tale of Lucard's attempt to save his empire. Instead, it's a confusing and misleading hash.
I'm not going to torment myself or the readers by making a catalog of the implausibilities involved in Nosferatu's impersonations, but they provide the chief contribution to this episode's awfulness. It's not just a question of his capability to carry them out, it's a question of his motivations. Why in the world, for example, would Nosferatu choose to imitate Gustav, who couldn't have been more than a boy when Lucard imprisoned him, so exactly, down to acquiring himself the same car, just so he could bite some random woman who wouldn't care if he was Gustav or the Pope? It seems painfully obvious that the writer was only after the shock effect of having Gustav (or, in another scene, Max) do something violently out of character. This isn't a bad idea in itself--"My Dinner with Lucard" plays with this idea to some effect--but, for goodness' sake, I've seen better-thought-out reasons for personality transformations on the original Star Trek! Another positively offensive aspect of the plot is the extreme stupidity it requires of Lucard. Admittedly, it's been fifty years (a little less, actually, if Nosferatu was still around for D-Day), but surely Lucard remembers which ruins he imprisoned Nosferatu in! I'm surprised he allowed the excavations to go forward at all--what use are billions of dollars if you can't buy a historic site?--but even if he did, how could he be so foolish as not to suspect Dr. Cross's sudden invitation? Particularly, I might add, in an episode in which he makes such a fuss about being smarter than Nosferatu? It's hard enough to maintain Lucard's credibility as a villain as it is, given that he can't ever win--he doesn't need this sort of plot foisted on him. Finally, there is Max's crush on Dr. Cross. That in itself could have been acceptable, but in what bizarre twisted alternate universe would a boy's guardian let him go out on a date with a woman at least twice his age? I don't even want to go on with this line of thinking. Suffice it to say that this episode is downright insulting to the viewer's intelligence.
It's most irritating, therefore, that "Double Darkness" contains several priceless Lucard scenes that prevent you from dismissing it out of hand. We don't often get to see him lose control; here he is angry, almost scared, and vulnerable, or else tense and grim. It's so typical of this show to offer up, unasked, the clever little detail that when Lucard is trying to regain his temper, he turns the lights down (and even has a little gadget on his desk to let him do so remotely). The moment when he stands in the gloom at his window, peering out through the blinds, maintaining a terrible artificial calm, seems to belong to another episode altogether; it suggests the story of an epic struggle for the survival of Lucard Industries. Too bad that's not the story the writer wanted to tell. Lucard's rant, "Who, who would do this in such stupid detail?" is memorable. His scene with Nosferatu is a little less impressive, simply because it strains credibility to have him bragging about how invulnerable he is after having taken such major hits, but he has some marvelous lines ("Pettiness was always your forte..."), and that swipe with the stake is one of his beautiful fluid gestures. (I'm convinced he didn't stake Nosferatu in the office because he didn't want to damage the painting right behind him.) The final scene with Max is charming. "Two on one, Maximilian!" He understands the boy surprisingly well, considering how little contact they've actually had so far. Although his decision to let him go at the end was a bit contrived--the only obvious immediate explanation for his action is that he's simply too delighted at having finished off Nosferatu to bother with Max; otherwise this should have been a rehearsal of the end of "Decline of the Romanian Vampire"--Max's wonderful reaction ("Whatever you say!") distracts from this flaw. This is Max's one great moment in the show; I'm a big Max fan, but "Double Darkness" is his weakest episode. The tag--both parts--is excruciating.
If you've never managed to see this episode, there is no reason to be concerned about it, unless you are a Lucard junkie. "Double Darkness" tries to be mysterious, but the greatest mystery it conjures up for me is how Stu Woolley could have written both this stinker and the brilliant "I Love Lucard."
Favorite quote: "Pettiness was always your forte, my friend; your one true calling."
Worst plot hole: I couldn't presume to choose among so many distinguished alternatives
Best Lucard image: Peering out the blinds of his office
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