Georgian London is brought thrillingly to life as Sean Bean hunts a ghastly foe
★★★★ ITV Encore, day and date to be announced
VISITORS, don’t worry – CrimeTimePreview hasn’t capriciously decided to cover gothic horror dramas on a whim. This atmospheric and fascinating telling of the Frankenstein tale is actually a monster-mash of the crime and horror genres.
And why not? Everyone from Andy Warhol to Mel Brooks has dabbled with Mary Shelley’s creature, and here director/writer Benjamin Ross and writer Barry Langford have crafted an intriguing journey into the darker recesses of Georgian England.
With Sean Bean heading a cast that includes Anna Maxwell Martin as Shelley and Steven Berkoff as William Blake, it’s a six-parter that rises above your average shock fest or cop procedural. With its well-worked background themes of bodysnatching and abandoned children, the writers have stitched together a story with heart as well as a brain.
Sean Bean is terrific as the investigator Marlott
The year is 1827 and the setting is switched from Switzerland to London. Bean’s Inspector John Marlott is working undercover on the Thames trying to catch opium smugglers when his men discover an ‘abomination’ in the muddy foreshore – a body made from the pieces of eight children.
Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel (Tom Ward) is none too delighted when Marlott brings the ‘object’ to the attention of the authorities. The politician fears it is the fiendish work of opponents of the Anatomy Act, which aims to regulate the practice of surgery and remove the barbers and bodysnatchers that give it a bad name. He wants Marlott to expose the perpetrator of this heinous crime, telling him that ‘details of your investigation must remain confidential’.
Sean Bean, who has just finished a stint in the US series Legends, is suitably craggy and deferential as the investigator who is low on the social ladder and has a hellish job on his hands. As he tries to piece together any leads he can about the poor children that may have been used to create the body in the river, he hears tales of kids abducted by a monster around Smithfield meat market.
Dank, shadowy, with great CGI
He is also a deeply compromised protagonist, telling the parents of one missing girl, ‘I know what it is to grieve.’ He has syphilis and has lost his own family.
The production looks splendidly dank and shadowy, and the digital work does wonders in recreating landmarks such as Greenwich as seen from a misty, muddy Thames.
Where series such as The Tudors offered a kitsch pantomime version of history, the creators of The Frankenstein Chronicles are clearly fascinated by the Georgian period and use it intelligently in this narrative. And it’s suitably creepy, too.