The Dr has something of the night about her. In fact, we met at a goth dinner party where I was in a black velvet suit and she was vamped out with mad hair and make-up in what I suppose is now an Amy Winehouse stylee. The Dr could – and did – hide tiaras and horns in her high Barnet back then. These days she’s really quite staid.
(Yes, it occurs to me that this is my fault like some kind of Petruchio.)
Recently, two things have been flicking her gothic switches and making us giggle with glee. First, we’ve read Paul Magrs’ Never the Bride – at least I’ve been doing the reading and even some of the voices.
Poor old Brenda runs a guesthouse in Whitby while being on the run from her past. She and her best mate and next-door neighbour Effie like nothing more than tea and a gossip, and there’s plenty of scandal to go around. A magic boutique that makes waitresses younger, or a séance live on TV… What terrible something are the nice Green family escaping? And how long can Brenda resist revealing her own awful secret?
It’s a lively, funny and often moving story full of rich description. Magrs nicely ploughs his way through all kinds of classic goth sources which it would be a shame to spoil here. Effectively, it’s five separate adventures for our aged but plucky duo – and it looks like the sequel Something Borrowed (which we’ve just bought) continues in that style.
This giddy mix of frothy fun and hijinks is really tricky to pull off (as I’ve been discovering recently in my own Magrs-inspired writing that’s still yet to be announced). But Brenda’s a delight, as is the spotting of clever references and the witty, twisty plot. My only complaint is that it needs more “she said” tagging if you want to read it aloud. So I added my own.
Annoyingly, we missed the radio version. But I’d love to see this on telly and spent more time than is probably sensible casting it in my head. Julie Christie as Brenda is my best so far.
We’ve also been utterly in thrall to Young Dracula, a CBBC series that won awards Sarah Jane was up to. The wheeze is that Dracula’s kids go to the same state school as the son of Van Helsing, but the thing’s an outrageous steal of Buffy (the Dracula episode and season seven especially).
Importantly, neither Young Dracula nor Magrs’ book are clever because of the references they make to other films and telly. (It’s an old joke but “semiotic thickness” is when you’re not as clever as your references.) Rather, they both freely thieve high-concept elements and warp them into something new.
Keith-Lee Castle never knowingly underacts as the Count, and has got himself in the litany of camp goth gentlemen the Dr recites when she’s fighting her own vampires. The rest of the large cast are also fantastic, though its Simon Ludders as the is-that-joke-really-suitable-for-kids Renfield I like best.
Like Magrs, it mixes strong plotting with strong characters and bad jokes and slapstick. And for knockabout silly children’s TV it is far more clever and funny and surprising than it has any reason to be. It’s one of the best British TV shows in ages. (And how fantastic that in just two seasons they’ve clocked up a whopping 27 episodes!)
It is an accursed outrage that Young Dracula’s not already being commissioned for a third series or out on DVD. I feel like raising an army of undead celebrities to bring these things about.