The first series of the Frankenstein Chronicles was actually made back in 2015, but it was aired on an obscure ITV channel, so never really got the audience it deserved. It has now been launched on Netflix and is apparently doing so well that there is talk of a third series being commissioned. So what’s the show all about?
Sean Bean plays detective John Marlott in the London of 1827. He is tasked by the Home Secretary Robert Peel with clearing up a series of grisly murders that are apparently inspired the novel Frankenstein. Someone is trying to stitch several dead bodies together in order to reanimate a corpse via the science of ‘galvanism’? Grave robbers become suspects because of their access to the dead… and then so do various notorious surgeons.
In the course of his investigations, Marlott interviews the poet William Blake and the writer of the ubiquitous novel (Mary Shelley). All the while, he is dogged by the journalist Boz (the young Charles Dickens). Fact and fiction merge in this series, as do reality and dream, to create an immersive and disorienting psychological landscape. It is properly dark and gothic.
Each of the two series currently available on Netflix is comprised of six one-hour episodes. What that means is that the narrative is brisk throughout, without any duff or drifting episodes. And because proceedings are brisk, plot twists come as sudden and genuine revelations. The finale of series 1 is awesome.
The Frankenstein Chronicles perhaps represent what the Penny Dreadful show was trying to achieve. The Frankenstein Chronicles are far more successful and artistically accomplished, however. And Sean Bean carries the show superbly, as do the supporting cast (particularly the black policeman Nightgale, played by Richie Campbell). If you like gothic detective fare I strongly recommend this series to you. In being set before the Victorian era, it also offers something fresh and different in its visuals and setting. It’s a 9 out of 10 from me.