Dracula acts more as a permeating force throughout the series, than actually being a physical threat. The same goes for about three quarters of the book.
Dr. Seward uses a phonograph, which was a novelty when the original book was published.
"Children of the night, what music they make" is a reference to the original Dracula (1930) starring Béla Lugosi, as the Count says "what sweet music they make" in the book.
The characters Dracula, Professor Van Helsing, Mina Harker (née Murray), Dr. Seward, and Renfield all have a role in Penny Dreadful. Jonathan Harker is only mentioned.
Major differences and liberties taken from the original book:
Dr. Seward is American in this show. The only American in the original, was a Texas man called Quincey Morris.
Renfield is Dr. Seward's secretary in the series. In the book, he's an assistant to a real estate agent that gets touched by the evil of Dracula and goes insane in the process, leaving him with a constant lust for the blood of small living creatures.
Rather than fully fledged vampires, the Dracula of the series seems to be more reliant on an army of vampiric minions, similar to Renfield. In the first season, the party of heroes is attacked by more "traditional" fang sporting vampires.
In the book, there are only five vampires: Dracula, his three brides, and Lucy Westenra. While Mina Harker is portrayed as a vampire in multiple films and series, including this show and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2004), she's never fully turned into a vampire in the novel.
Professor Van Helsing only plays a small role in this show. In the book, he leads the "pack of hounds after the fox", as the human protagonists travel far and wide in pursuit of The Count.
Penny Dreadful is to horror what Game of Thrones is to fantasy and Walking Dead is to the zombie apocalypse - its all about the characters and story lines that are only possible when set in their unique universes.
This show is amazing. Everything from the sets, to the acting and directing... Eva has turned in two Emmy nomination worthy performances already.
Even if you don't like horror - go check this show out. Such a unique twist on the classics. I can't tell you how excited I am about TV right now - people are finally starting to get it... there is a market for mature, gritty, raw, and complex characters set in worlds that were once considered nerdy and childish.
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