20th June

Dr Jekyll's Casebook

Real family viewing, that was, even taking the horror dimension into account. It was the only programme allowed to interfere with meals in our house. Father thought the younger generation was ruled by television, but on Dr Jekyll nights he’d be the one bolting his food and leaping from the table to clear everything away in time. I’d be sent through in advance to warm up the set and move the aerial around to find the best reception. Father said I’d a knack for it, but it was trial and error really. Sometimes I’d end up holding the aerial above my head for the duration. I didn’t mind. It gave me power.

The storyline never varied. By day Dr Jekyll went about tending his patients’ ailments and tolerating their prejudices. He would be frustrated by the old-fashioned views of his partner, Dr Lanyon, or irritated by his housekeeper, Mrs Poole, although he was actually very fond of them both; or he would have to restrain himself from falling out with Mr Utterson, W. S., or Sir Danvers Carew, the local laird, or some other pillar of the establishment. But at night, having swallowed a single dram from a mysterious bottle which he kept locked in a drawer, Jekyll tore off his tie, grew stubble, sprouted hair from his ears, and ventured forth as the antisocial Mr Hyde. He let down Dr Lanyon’s car tyres, put salt in Mrs Poole’s sugar bowl, glued shut Mr Utterson’s letter box or stole eggs from Sir Danvers’s henhouse. In the morning he’d be his old self again, with absolutely no memory of what Hyde had been up to.

The reason for the serial’s success over so many years was simple: it made everybody feel less guilty about feeling guilty. After an episode of Dr Jekyll, millions of people relaxed about the fact that they secretly detested their lives and wanted to break out. They never had to, because Mr Hyde did it for them.

The critics despised Dr Jekyll’s Casebook. They said the plots were unbelievable and the sentimentality unbearable. But we loved it. It made total sense to us, and it warmed our hearts like a peat fire.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Subscribe here for more stories & music