I read Frankenstein about six years ago when I was discovering steampunk. I was expecting to like it in a so-bad-it’s-good way akin to the B-movie neckbolt cliches. I ended up loving it for its engaging characters (including the philosophical, articulate Monster), its thoughtful exploration of enduring themes like familial responsibility and ethics in scientific research, and its legitimate, well-written horror.
So I was ecstatic when I found out about Pemberley Digital’s plans to follow Emma Approved with an adaptation of Frankenstein. And that they were partnering with PBS. And that Victor Frankenstein (the creator, not the creature) was being rewritten as Victoria!
Frankenstein, MD premiered last Tuesday with three episodes, followed by a fourth on Friday. It’s ostensibly a PBS science vlog hosted by two promising almost-MDs, Victoria Frankenstein and Ludwig “Iggy” DeLacey. Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, the writers are taking plenty of liberties with the source material. For example, the vlog does not open with its titular character stranded in the Arctic. It’s a reasonable alteration, I suppose. As is adding a stand-in for Igor the Hunchback Lab Assistant, a character who doesn’t appear in the book, but has become an inextricable part of Frankenstein mythos.
Overall, I’m impressed by how many elements I’m recognizing from the book. The silent cameraman/editor, Robert Walton, is a nod to the book’s framing device of Frankenstein relaying his story to an Arctic explorer of that name. Victoria’s mentor, Dr. Abraham Waldman, was a prominent character in the book. Victoria’s childhood friends Eli Lavenza and Rory Clerval are gender-flipped versions of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s love interest, and Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend. Victoria and Iggy’s university, Engle State University, takes its name from the book’s Ingolstadt University.
Most of all, there’s Frankenstein herself. Victoria mirrors Victor in that she’s passionate about pushing the limits of medical science. Nothing gets in the way of her research. Don’t tell her something’s impossible. “Impossible” just means no one’s figured out how to do it yet. Petty things like her subject’s clinical death are no impediment to her. She’ll just shock that bitch back to life. Drug-induced paralysis causing a panic attack? No prob. She’ll bring the subject out of it with MOAR DRUGS! Sure, the higher-ups may question her ethics (and her sanity), but genius and determination will triumph if Victoria has anything to do with it.
In short, Victoria Frankenstein is a mad scientist.
And she is the most adorable mad scientist you will ever see. Great writing, great comedic foiling from the rest of the cast, and a great performance by Anna Lore combine to make Victoria’s megalomaniacal superiority complex come across as hilarious and endearing.
The story has been light-hearted and upbeat so far. I’ll be interested to see how Frankenstein, MD handles the book’s heavier material. The book is full of murder, arson, identity crises, and like I said earlier, legitimate horror. The book closes with (SPOILER) anticipation of both creator’s and creature’s death. In the end, the reader is left contemplating which was the true monster. Pemberley Digital did an impressive job handling the more serious, uncomfortable issues in Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I’m confident that they’ll do the same for Frankenstein, and curious to see how they manage it.
Click here to watch Frankenstein, MD on the official website, or watch the playlist embedded below. If this has inspired you to read Mary Shelley’s original book, click here to get a free ePub, Kindle, or browser ebook at Project Gutenberg.