Through recent comic books (Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.), stage adaptations (The National Theatre’s Frankenstein), films (I Frankenstein and Victor Frankenstein), vlogs (Frankenstein MD), television serials (Penny Dreadful), and thousands of other media products, stretching back to 1818 with the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the specter of Dr Frankenstein and his often abhorred monster have always embedded themselves within cultures. This is perhaps due to both the fantastic possibilities afforded by the advancement of collective human achievement, and the absolutely spectacular catastrophes that can result in overstepping the given boundaries of the age.
So what does the mystery crime drama, The Frankenstein Chronicles add to this perpetually recycled mélange of disfigured and reconstituted ghost stories? Well, it’s grim. Very grim. At times, the show feels like it was filmed in the end-days of the dinosaurs, when ash clouds blocked out the sun. You get the feeling that there are no shiny surfaces because absolutely nobody wants to see their own reflection, with old-fashioned clothes (even for the period) that might have been up-cycled from dish cloths, and faces so etched in dirt and by the hard lives they’ve led, you might begin to see potatoes growing out of their furrowed fields of worry lines.
Set in England, 1827, this variation of the Frankenstein myth currently doesn’t care for middle-class doctors with family names or scientific pursuits made in the name of some god-defying greater good. If the original Frankenstein took body parts from a charnel house and buggered off to the Alps, then the domain of The Frankenstein Chronicles is one huge repository for the living dead of London; as the hospital porter reminds us: “a dead body ain’t property by law”. It speaks volumes that the lighter strand of the narrative involves familial death, syphilis, and mercury-induced screaming nightmares…
The full 1,200 word version of this review is published at PopMatters.com, where you can read the rest of the article for free.