Frankenstein, ITV1

by | Oct 24, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

You could channel through a lightning rod all the electrical power of Jupiter’s giant red maelstrom, and that still wouldn’t be enough to instil this lifeless husk of a drama with any vivacity.

What was god about it?

• A brilliant, wasted, cast starring the routinely superb Helen McCrory as Victoria, who loses a son to multiple organ failure while trying to create a ‘living’ organ bank through her job as a geneticist. She injects her ailing son William’s DNA into the tank containing the organs, which miraculously – through the magic of science, time constraints of ITV1 one-off dramas and treating an audience as if their biology education stopped in infant school – coagulated into an albino freak monster.

• James Purefoy and Neil Pearson were also great in lesser roles. Purefoy as the absent father to William, who at first seemed to be concerned for the welfare of his ex-wife but who later metamorphosed – through the magic of ITV1 confusingly and conveniently blending the number of central roles into as few characters as possible – was also a senior figure in a ‘shadowy’ government agency (is there any other kind) who wanted to use the monster for military advancement or some such nebulous nefarious purposes.

• Pearson played Andrew, Victoria’s colleague, who was gruesomely dispatched in the flash forward prologue, and provided the only moment of chilling menace when he looked on in horror from his office as the monster killed a security guard.

• Lindsay Duncan’s cameo role as the icy personification of human corporate greed.

• The monster resembled Graham Norton when he’s trying really, really hard to laugh and but ends up sounding like a dripping tap with hiccoughs.

What was bad about it?

• The problem with adapting and updating a classic is that by its very nature of being a ‘classic’ it doesn’t need updating. Those core themes that run through Mary Shelley’s novel of tempering with nature and at what point do humans become humans are as relevant and mystifying today as they were 200 years ago; making it about genetics really didn’t add anything to the philosophy of the original.

• Mitigation may be permitted in that this was a drama on ITV1, whose viewers you don’t really expect to have read a book since they left school, and who would be unable to extrapolate 19th century views in to a 21st century drama (largely thanks to having their brains turned to curdled mince by X-Factor and its ilk).

• The drama was diluted further by Victoria’s motivation centring on her desperate quest to save her son’s life through her research. Nothing wrong with the motivation in itself, but it made Victoria a primal cipher, driven by a maternal instinct to save her child making her plight immediately comprehensible by anyone. But we want better drama than this; a protagonist must have more psychological depth than this to captivate us (it must be said again, though, that Helen McCrory squeezed every last drop of sympathy from this two-dimensional role).

• The pointless reference to the novel by setting it in the aftermath of an eruption by a supervolcano that has left the world cowering under a cloud of murky ash. This added nothing to the script other than to increase the viewers’ sense of incredulity at the suddenly clear blue skies about half-an-hour in.

• Victoria injecting a stolen phial of her son’s blood into her organ vat and a little while later it manages to emerge a fully formed humanoid body horror; which was almost as absurd as the Dalai Lama gobbing in Simon Cowell’s hair causing him to metamorphose from a preening, plastic parasite into a human being with dignity and a sense of shame.

• Close ups of various liquids – blood, organs, water – doesn’t add one millimetre of profundity.

• ITV1’s lessons in how to ruin a promising drama, episode seven: inappropriate ad breaks. It’s bad enough that some chunks of Frankenstein were only about 10 minutes long, but to sully the flow of it further with jolly Christmas adverts of happy families unwittingly watching their lives slithering down the drains through their ‘loyalty-card’ purchases of sterile, sapping products they don’t need and that abominable Phil Collins/monkey chocolate advert, shattered any nascent sense of theatrical tension.

• ITV1’s lessons in how to ruin a promising drama, episode eight: Falling between the two stools of wanting to feature grisly demises but also stay within the realms of taste ITV1 demands. When killing little girls, either do violence like some cheap John Carpenter’s Thing rip-off or use the more arty Fritz Lang style of implied violence; don’t end up cutting away so we have to squint to see what’s actually going on.

• Andrew wailing “We’ve unleashed something we can’t control!” as the monster went on the rampage. But the monster was fairly easy to control, and seemed to be almost tamed in the last scene.

• The shooting dead of Henry as Victoria and the monster played on the beach. He simply said that he wouldn’t let the shadowy government agency take the monster away, and he was shot dead. Why? They gave him the chance to surrender so they certainly weren’t contracted to kill him, and there was about 15 of them so overpowering him non-lethally would have been a doddle.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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