The latest television adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" had long been gestating in the minds of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. As with the pair's previous collaboration "Sherlock" and Steven Moffat's own "Jekyll", this was a contemporary take on a classic literary character with some grounding in the original concept and a lot of modern twists and turns. The show was realised as a BBC and Netflix co-production, broadcast as 3 episodes on consecutive evenings from January 1st 2020. Although this is still at its core a horror story, its very familiarity, the way in which the writers add (some outrageous) unexpected twists to the classic tale, and the knowing repartee of the main characters give the show something of an edgy black humour while mostly retaining its gothic core. It was no surprise that the production again looked to the composing partnership of David Arnold and Michael Price, who had successfully created a new sound world for Moffat and Gatiss' previous creation "Sherlock".
The score necessarily plays to the dark gothic heart of the story, with some musical nods to previous adaptations of the tale such as those from James Bernard and Wojciech Kilar. The scoring is orchestral (including some orchestral effects with techniques such as "col legno") and a minimal gloss of sound design enhancements. The "Opening Titles" sets the overal tone for what is to come - gothic, vaguely ethnic and upbeat, and the composers get great mileage from the theme in later tracks with quotes (especially the 4-note descending motif) and other elements including the ostinato string accompaniment. The second track is the contrasting "Mina's Theme" which is dance-like and delicate, and this contrasting theme also recurs during the first episode. Some of the initial tracks are mysterious in nature as we get to understand the nature of Dracula and his castle, with regular hints back to the main Dracula theme. "Boxes of Undead" is a good example of the blending of orchestral score and sound design elements and closes with some distant bells. Other tracks such as "Hello Jonny" and "You are Jonathan Harker" using Mina's melody have a wistful quality seeming longing for a lost humanity, and "Helsing!" (with a typical Moffat/Gatiss twist) introduces us to the other main series character.
By now the overall tone of the score is clear. It is character-driven and relies on plenty of atmosphere (strange, dark and mysterious), with occasional scares and short bursts of action. Some tracks stand out with their own individual sound such as "Sermon" with its female voices and church organ giving a very clear religious feel for the convent nuns, and marking the calm before the intially stormy "Clearing Her Throat". Harpsichord in "The Right One" perhaps hints at Dracula's age. "Make it a Long Voyage" kicks off episode 2 which is set on board a ship sailing towards England, and this confined setting is even more claustrophobic than Dracula's castle especially when a mysterious mist engulfs the ship. It becomes something of a whodunnit for the characters onboard, though the audience knows that it is the Count picking off his victims one by one. As if to underscore this "A Pineapple" is a waltz as Dracula dances rings around crew and passengers alike. "Pulsing Jugular" takes the phrase quite literally with some heart pumping drums, before a plaintive cello plays an elegy. "Fish Meat" continues the atmosphere before bringing the episode to a climax, leaving the cello to close the track.
The final installment kicks off with "What Kept You" with another variation on the main titles to introduce another Moffat/Gatiss twist. This introduces some new characters but largely becomes a showdown between the vampire and "Helsing", and the music becomes more intense as it follows their interaction and uses plenty of references to the main theme. But there is still plenty of room for moodiness and mystery as certain plot elements come to fruition. "Nothing to Lose" includes a modified restatement in full of the theme from the opening titles. "That is Everything" ends with intense descending strings which then return in the final track "The Fear" and the story reaches its tragic but inevitable conclusion.
In summary "Dracula" is another fine and highly enjoyable score from the established composer partnership of David Arnold and Michael Price. The soundtrack album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.