“Jekyll” and the Civilizing Influence of Women


Min is played by Fenella Woolgar, who made a splash in Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things (2003), an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. Moffat had seen her in that film — "she was brilliant in that, so funny" — and "without necessarily thinking that she was ever going to play the part [of Min], I just sort of wrote it in her tone of voice," he said.

"I never really thought about it again, because it was quite a small part at that stage," Moffat continued. "And then when she same in — she was the first person to come in for the audition — and she read the part and it was brilliant, of course, I said, ‘We might as well close it down ’cause that’s it. That’s actually her.’ We couldn’t tell her that ’cause her agent would charge us more," he joked, "but she was the only person who could ever have played [the part]."

Shortly after Woolgar was cast as Min, she informed Jekyll‘s producers that she was pregnant and that her pregnancy was going to show. Initially taken aback — "It just gave you a moment, you said, ‘well, I just cast a lesbian,’" — Moffat then decided, "Well, actually, they can just be pregnant."

He was unaware, he said, of the stereotype of the pregnant lesbian on television. "I drifted into cliché then," Moffat said dryly. "I didn’t have a choice, I apologize! But I literally — her tummy was going to show, and we didn’t even know how much it was going to show … There was no question of recasting, because it had to be her. I’m sorry that it’s a cliché."

Moffat felt that the pregnancy, ultimately, helped to establish Min and Miranda as an established couple. "It really cements them as a couple, a proper couple," he explained. "You know, they’re not girlfriends. They’re really together."

He added that the two are married, though that detail was cut from the final version of the show.

Moffat previously worked on the British series Coupling and Doctor Who, both of which had LGBT story lines and characters. When asked whether British series make more of a conscious effort to include gay characters, Moffat answered: "I don’t think there’s a conscious effort. I don’t think it’s for virtuous reasons, it’s more just, well, that’s true, isn’t it? I mean, if you know more than three or four people, you almost certainly know someone who’s gay, and usually as part of the furniture, in a way.

"As with Miranda and Min, there’s an awful lot more to talk about than the fact they’re gay. There isn’t even really a moment where they say it, it’s just that — as part of the furniture."

Miranda and Min are present throughout the four-episode miniseries (the first and last episodes are two hours long), but as supporting characters, their roles are limited. What is most interesting is that from the very beginning, they are situated as the series’ calm, measured center, to which all the other characters come for both information and support.

"The thing of being civilized is, in a way, resisting your lowest, basest and, frankly, most fun impulses," Moffat said at a press conference in July. "So, yeah, that’s what Jekyll and Hyde is about. Obviously, it’s about that. It’s about being civilized. It’s about being decent. That’s an effort. That’s a thing that we have to do."

The fact that the two lesbian characters are presented as the series’ civilized, decent center — especially in comparison to the viscerally motivated Hyde, a bloodthirsty male if ever there was one — makes Jekyll quite a gay-positive series.

And when it comes to gender roles, Jekyll firmly places men on the wild end of the scale, only one step removed from becoming a monster, whereas women are almost always presented as pure of heart, a civilizing influence.

"I’m afraid it’s just true, that women are more trustworthy than men," said Moffat with a laugh. "I wish it wasn’t true, but I would trust a woman a hundred times more than a man."

Jekyll the complete series is now available on DVD. Read our mini-review of it here.

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