With few exceptions, the overwhelmingly secular filmmakers in Hollywood don’t present Christianity in a favorable, or even a balanced, light. Characters who are overtly Christian are almost always caricatures if not the bad guys: fanatical fundamentalists, over-the-top hypocrites, sexually perverse, outright evil, or a combination thereof. The British leftist propaganda network, the BBC, is typically just as bigoted in this respect as Hollywood, which makes its series The Frankenstein Chronicles all the more stunning as a pro-life, cautionary tale of a world without God.
The Frankenstein Chronicles is a two-season BBC series (six episodes in each) from 2015-17, available on Netflix. It stars Sean Bean, who is well-known from dozens of films and TV shows such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the James Bond film Goldeneye (Bean reportedly was once considered for the role of Bond). Set in 1820’s London, the series follows Bean, looking even more grizzled than usual here, as war veteran and river detective John Marlott. He is tasked with investigating a monstrous crime: the body of a young girl has been recovered from the Thames, and Marlott learns that her corpse actually consists of the parts of eight different children, stitched together into a single body. Someone is kidnapping and murdering street urchins, then performing unholy experiments on them. But for what purpose?
The show reflects a real-life, early 19th-century surge of interest in anatomy thanks to an increase in the importance of surgery. At this time, only the corpses of executed murderers could legally be used for dissection. But the rise of medical science and a reduction in executions meant that an underground trade in grave robbing began to flourish. The trade was conducted by so-called “resurrectionists,” who robbed graves to sell corpses for medical study. An Anatomy Act was proposed which would ensure that anyone practicing anatomy had to obtain a license from the Home Secretary. It gave physicians, surgeons, and students legal access to corpses unclaimed after death – in particular, those who had died in hospitals, prisons, and workhouses – which would end the work of the despised resurrectionists but meant that the bodies of society’s downtrodden would be denied dignity and become fodder for medical experiments.
Marlott is a working-class stiff whose soul has been ravaged by the drowning death of his young daughter and his wife’s subsequent suicide – and if you’re familiar with Sean Bean’s work, you know that there is literally no actor alive whose face more convincingly conveys a world-weariness and torturous guilt. Troubled by dreams and hallucinations in which he sees, but cannot reunite with, his deceased family, and disturbed by the prospect that children are being victimized by “a monster with a human face,” Marlott begins to obsess over the case, which leads him deeper and deeper into a tangled political web, and dangerously close to the darkest evil.