THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES
The great gothic stitch-up
UK Broadcast ITV Encore, finished
US Broadcast A&E, TBC
Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.06
Although The Frankenstein Chronicles appears to have been conceived as a one-off series, you can’t help but wonder what a series two might be like. Very different is the obvious answer. The final episode – which clearly contains the conceit from which the entire story was backwards engineered – is the very definition of a game-changer but one which sets up a premise you can’t help wondering about.
Fanciful? Hell, what about this gothic chiller isn’t? Set in what’s near as dammit an alternate history early 19th century, it plays so fast and loose with established facts that this is like the muddy, meta-flipside to Penny Dreadful; as opposed to being a mash-up of some of the century’s greatest fictional monsters, The Frankenstein Chronicles has the great creators of the time – Mary Shelley, Dickens, Blake – involved in a grisly mystery involving stitched-together corpses, the Anatomy Act (which sought to regulate surgeons and the use of cadavers) and Robert Peel’s formation of a police force.
Oh, and Sean Bean as John Marlott, a syphilitic river cop whom Peel brings in to oversee the case. Well, it makes a change from alcoholic or OCD policemen.
The tone is all grim and gritty, like Ken Loach doing Bleak House. The plot, though, is unashamedly lurid. This is a six-part police procedural with pulpy horror trimmings. It’s a heady concoction that doesn’t skimp on shocking imagery and queasy concepts.
Occasionally the tone strays a little too far into penny dreadful territory. A monstrous childcatcher comes across like Fagin meets a Bond villain’s henchman and it jars. There’s also the slightly nagging feeling when it’s all over that the plot has been too much a slave to the “big revelation”, populated by cogs in a machine.
As a piece of quirky, grisly TV horror, though, it’s pleasingly gothtastic. Dave Golder
“If you say I die in everything, I’ll kill you.”