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Dr. Jekyll, I presume?

BBC America's Jekyll (see airtimes) is, oddly enough, written by Steven Moffat. This site has a long, tortured history with Mr. Moffat. We've praised Coupling on numerous occasions, although we didn't really like most of the fourth season. His four episodes of the revived Doctor Who are among the series' best.

But then there's the down side. When one of us suggested that the way the character Jeff was sent off in the final episode of Coupling seemed disrespectful to the character and the actor who played him, Moffat wrote us personally to complain about our characterization and point out that he holds nothing but the highest respect for that actor.

Things are weird after you have a painful interaction like that. I suspect Phil will never watch Coupling again, despite the sheer brilliance of those first three seasons. Myself, I've let it go, mostly because I can't help but love those Doctor Who episodes. Seriously. "Girl in the Fireplace?" Best. Episode. Ever. Even if it is giving my son nightmares about robots now. (Daddy's fault.)

Now here comes along another show that proves that, emotionally scarring e-mails to TeeVee notwithstanding, Steven Moffat really knows how to write. Following up the farce of Coupling and the spooky sci-fi of Doctor Who, Jekyll is on the horror and psychological thriller side of the ledger. And it's really fantastic stuff.

The subject matter may differ, but Jekyll shows Moffat using all the tricks that have served him well in both Coupling and Doctor Who. Funny, awkward meet-cute at a dinner party? Check. Conversation between a character and a previously-recorded video of another character? Check. Weird time sequences that bounce back and forth, with plots that eat their own tails? Checky-check-check. And laugh-out-loud dialogue? Yes again.

Anyway, to the details: Jekyll is a modern take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, obviously. However, in this six-hour miniseries the Jekyll is Dr. Tom Jackman, and early on he laughs off the suggestion that he could be the descendant of the namesake from Stevenson's book. But facts are facts: Jackman's got another person inside him, who shares his body and uses it to do all sorts of things that the upright father of two would never dream of doing.

If this sounds like a bog standard horror movie set-up, you're right. But it doesn't do Jekyll justice, because of the inventive ways Moffat has chosen to tell the story. Rather than go chronologically, the story whips around, first introducing us to Jekyll and Hyde, then slowly revealing the nature of their shared-body arrangement and the rules they've (seemingly) agreed to follow. We meet their concierge (for lack of a better word), played by future Bionic Woman star Michelle Ryan. We meet Jackman's wife, played by Gina Bellman of Coupling fame. And eventually (but only at the series' halfway point) we see how Jackman came to first discover he had a Mr. Hyde inside him.

It's a fantastic thrill ride, peppered with surprise character turns, including a breathtaking scene when Mrs. Jackman is confronted with Mr. Hyde for the first time and reacts in an unexpected way, one that took my breath away and made me sit up and take notice at the electric performance I was witnessing.

Those of us who have been at the receiving end of Steven Moffat's Hyde-like wrath may want to avoid Jekyll. But everyone else should seek out BBC America and give it a look. It's, quite simply, the best thing I've seen on TV all summer.


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