Get ready to see Frankenstein in a completely new light.
A&E’s period mystery crime drama mini-series The Frankenstein Chronicles is putting a new spin on Mary Shelley’s classic novel. Set in London in 1827 after a successful operation by the Thames River Police to nab a gang of opium smugglers, Inspector John Marlott (Game of Thrones alum Sean Bean) is horrified to discover what looks like a child’s corpse at first, but turns out to be a grotesque assembly of human body parts.
The series follows Marlott on the hunt for the killer behind this abomination, taking him into the dark corners of Georgian London, an underworld of prostitution, drug smuggling, body snatching, murder for profit, and other vices. As Marlott investigates, it brings him up against the medical establishment and powerful political forces wrestling with the march of scientific progress. One thing is certain–a demonic power is at work in the city, apparently attempting to reanimate the dead.
Executive producer Benjamin Ross revealed at the 2016 TCA Winter Press Tour today that he actually rooted the six-episode series in historical fact, rather than fiction.
“That was the genesis of this show really, the social history of the time and my interest in it and a sense that Frankenstein, the novel, had emerged from these facts and historical conditions as much as her own imagination,” Ross says. “And that there was a way of going back to that story with an emphasis on all of the things that were real in it that had preceded in that part of the world. The story is a fantasy but it’s interwoven with historical truth. It’s a fantasy rooted in the real world.”
While Frankenstein didn’t actually come to life in history, there was a big problem with body snatching at the time the novel came out.
“[Body snatching] was legal, effectively. It was a grey area,” Ross says. “The anatomy schools at the time were seeking to progress in a medical science and the only way they could do it was by anatomizing corpses. Previous to this era, the only way they got ahold of them was the gallows. The punishment of being a murderer was after they hanged you, your body was given over to medical science and that was considered a great curse. That was a time when people had great hopes for the afterlife. It was a punishment that went on into the afterlife.”
He continued, “The trouble was that there were too many medical schools so there was a great need for bodies. There was a trend in body snatching. It was a great embarrassment to the government at the time who wanted to promote science but who were in league with these very unpleasant people who did these very scary, unpopular things. That was one of the reasons why the Anatomy Act was brought about.”
During the press tour panel for The Frankenstein Chronicles, Ross revealed that all that true historical content will be woven in to the fantastical sci-fi aspects, creating the backbone of the series and making it stand out from all other Frankenstein-based shows and movies.
“That’s a part of the historical background of this story,” Ross says. “All of that stuff was real and it was the reality that interested me enough that I thought would give this story an emotional heft that a lot of Frankenstein treatments have lacked over the years.”
And Ross revealed that Mary Shelley’s novel that inspired the Frankenstein craze will show up on The Frankenstein Chronicles.
“We touch on that in later episodes and the genesis of the novel is dealt with,” Ross says. “It is in there. You’ll get to that in episode 5.”
Are you excited to see this new spin on Frankenstein? Let us know in the comments section below!