The Frankenstein Chronicles writer/director Benjamin Ross says his interest in the subject grew out of the era’s “legal grey area” in which anatomy schools looking for corpses to use for teaching purposes got bodies from court hangings and poor houses. Cadavers were hard to come by in those days because it was considered a “great curse” to have your corpse dissected. That resulted in a robust body-snatching market, and an embarrassed government that wanted to promote science, Ross told TV critics at a TCA panel promoting the series.
“My hobby is history, particularly London history,” Ross said. “This came to me one night, seven or eight years ago: you could tell the Frankenstein story with an emphasis on the historical and not from the point of view of the creator but the point of view of an investigator who is looking into the ramifications of what this person is doing. Instead of a flat-out piece of history, why not do it as Frankenstein? It’s a fantasy piece, but footed in the real world.”
Taking that approach gave his re-imagining of the Frankenstein story an “emotional heft that a lot of Frankenstein treatments have lacked,” he told TV critics at TCA. In October, A&E snagged ITV’s six-part 19th century-set crime/horror series that takes its name from Mary Shelley’s gothic romance novel about a young science student named Frankenstein who creates a living creature.
Sean Bean plays police inspector John Marlott, who is on the hunt for a killer who appears to be assembling humans from body parts. Marlott has syphilis, picked up in the Napoleonic Wars, causing him to have hallucinations. “He’s taking mercury pills, which are heavy stuff, but which was the only thing that kept it at bay,” Bean said. “He knows he’s not going to be around for long. Because I’m going to die – like I usually do,” Bean joked of his characters’ tendency to hand in their dinner pails early.