The Frankenstein Chronicles 1.01 “A World Without God” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on ITV Encore, Wednesdays
Writer: Benjamin Ross, Barry Langford
Director: Benjamin Ross
Essential Plot Points:
Episode The First: In which an abomination washes ashore; and a dead pig makes good time.
• A body stitched together from several dismembered children is discovered.
• Parliament wish to pass The Anatomy Act, to license medical practitioners.
• Inspector Marlett has syphilis.
You wouldn’t want work on The Frankenstein Chronicles if you had OCD; everything is filthy. Covered in grime, mud and dirt. Which is probably about right considering it’s set in 19th century London. Sean Bean is Inspector John Marlott of the River Police. After finding an unusual body washed up on the shores of the Thames, he is seconded to Bow St by the home secretary himself to investigate.
The opening act sets the tone well enough – a man is sucked down into a mud flat and drowns. That’s followed by the discovery of a body stitched together from parts of dead children.
The Home Secretary (Robert Peel, played by Tom Ward) is keen to keep this gruesome discovery on the hush hush, lest it affect the passing of The Anatomy Act, a bill which would limit who is able to practice medicine. He fears some unlicensed charlatan is trying to create a scene.
Inspector Marlott, now paired with fellow Bow Street Runner Nightingale (Richie Campbell), sets about investigating the disappearance of children throughout London. Along the way he hears tell of stories of monsters from some of the urchins he employs to do his legwork.
We also find out that he has syphilis, for which he takes mercury, this gives him disturbing and prescient dreams, and sometimes causes him to hallucinate.
This is only the first episode so we’re eased in relatively gently here. ITV isn’t shying away from the gruesome, mind, and there are hints of darker things to come. It ticks along at a fair pace and there’s enough going on that you don’t lose interest. The look is spot on, locations feel authentic, and the costumes are excellent throughout. If ITV can stay away from penny dreadful territory they could be onto a winner.
- Authentic looking grimy old London.
- Nice costumes, especially the hats.
- Sean Bean is always good value, but acting is top class throughout.
- “I see dead people” is wearing a bit thin.
- At one point Inspector Marlott uses a dead pig to test a theory about currents; when the pig floats past him later, he looks incredibly pleased with himself.
- The home secretary presents a list of suspects, people opposed to The Anatomy Bill: “Unlicensed quacks, apothecaries, witch doctors, barbers, body snatchers.” Wait, barbers Let’s hope Sweeney Todd doesn’t make an appearance…
Review by Arthur Scott