Sunday, October 21, 2007

FRANKENSTEIN

Not to be missed this Wednesday (24 October @ 9.00pm on ITV1) is this fantastic scifi tinged near future retelling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

In 1816, the Year Without Summer, a volcanic eruption filled the sky with ash. The world became dark and cold. That year Mary Shelley conceived of a story of a scientist who created a monster…

At an unspecified time in the near future, the earth’s climate has changed and as water mixes with the volcanic ash in the atmosphere, the rain runs red.

While a storm rages overhead, Dr Victoria Frankenstein sits by the hospital bed of her dying son William, where doctors tell her to prepare for the worst.

Brilliant and committed, Frankenstein is a scientist conducting highly controversial work in the field of stem cell research and medical biotechnology at The Windmill Research Building. Overseen by Professor Andrew Waldman (Neil Pearson) her latest research programme, the Universal Xenograft Project is pushing her and her assistant Ed Gore (Benedict Wong) to the very limits of their abilities. But their efforts are not going un-noticed.

So ground breaking are the possible results, their work is attracting attention from a number of quarters: the mysterious Professor Pretorius (Lindsay Duncan) meets with Waldman and Frankenstein to get an update on the stage at which the project is at. During the meeting it is clear that she has ultimate control over the research and has the power to close it down. Frankenstein is also approached by another party, someone who has a more personal interest in the Dr and her work; her ex-husband Dr Henry Clerval (James Purefoy).

Handsome, intelligent and deeply flawed, Clerval also works within the field of stem cell research. But where his ex-wife conducts her research for the public sector, his motivation is purely monetary and results are handed over to the private sector. Still harbouring a deep love for his ex-wife, he is genuinely concerned for Victoria and their terminally ill son; she feels, however, that his interest stems from a desire to sell her findings to the highest bidder and rejects his pleas to help her.

Convinced that the UX project is William’s last chance for survival and maddened by grief and desperation, Victoria secretly takes a sample of his blood and incorporates it into the programme. She tells no-one of what she has done.

In the confines of a purpose built tank in the Graft Lab, the cells grow at an extraordinarily accelerated rate. As the cells diversify, mutate and re-form, Ed is
astonished by their progression. When he notes the presence of what can only be a human tooth within the tank, he alerts Waldman. The two men confront her and the three then view X-Rays of the internal activity. They reveal a large mass of organs and tissue and as she peers into the tank an eye opens inside. Victoria realises with horror that she is no longer in control of the experiment; that the UX is breeding its own bio-organism and it’s alive!

At the same time, a late night call from the hospital delivers the news she has so feared; William has passed away and she is too late. As Clerval and Victoria bury their son, Waldman tells the exhausted scientist to take time off to grieve. With the experiment out of control she asks that he and Ed terminate the UX project in her absence.

Waldman ignores Victoria’s plea’s and brings in Pretorius. She immediately acknowledges the extraordinary significance of Frankenstein’s experiment. A scientist too, she is unable to resist the possibilities; ignoring all protocol she instructs the men to continue with the UX project in Victoria’s absence.

When Frankenstein finally returns to work, she is horrified to see that her experiment is still live. As she argues with Waldman in his office about the termination of the UX, fate intervenes. While a storm rages overhead, the lab experiences a power cut and as the machinery powers down, the tank empties it’s highly secret contents on to the floor of the lab. In amongst the mess of blood and tissue a deformed figure escapes unseen into the night.