Think about all the good science fiction out there, and then think about what the genre needs. Project Hieroglyph and author Neal Stephenson believe science fiction needs more “techno-optimism” to pave the way for non-dystopian realities. Some call for more female writers and characters in science fiction; some call for less. But one thing that has never crossed my mind in answer to the question of what sci-fi needs is more Frankenstein spinoffs. But that’s never stopped anyone before, particularly Fox, which has just ordered a new Frankenstein pilot.
The original Mary Shelley work was written in 1818, and since then there have been a slew of Frankenstein-inspired narratives: Thomas Edison’s 1910 film version; the Boris Karloff 1931 movie; the 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein; the 1939 sequel to that, Son of Frankenstein; Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942; Young Frankenstein in 1974; failed Broadway productions in 1981 and 1984, Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie in 1984; a manga adaptation in 1988; Frankenstein in 1992; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1994; this year’s bomb I, Frankenstein — and that’s just scratching the surface.
The Frankenstein story has long captured the public’s imagination. Shelley’s work is generally regarded as the first real work of science fiction — it’s the first work in which man artificially creates life. In that sense, the story has paved the way for every robot story ever since, as well as the fear Isaac Asimov calls the “Frankenstein Complex” — the fear that our creations will overtake us.
That idea becomes more and more relevant as time goes on, which is part of the reason the Frankenstein narrative will never die. The latest iteration scooped up by Fox is simply called Frankenstein, and will be written and executive produced by Rand Ravich and executive produced by Howard Gordon, who worked on The X-Files, Buffy, and Angel. That’s a confidence-inspiring resume.
The sci-fi drama puts a new spin on the Frankenstein tale: it features a corrupt FBI agent named Adam Tremble who dies and is brought back to life. The second iteration of Tremble is both younger and stronger, but still susceptible to his old desires and foibles, so the show explores his attempt at navigating between his new life and his old one. Of course, he’ll be dealing with FBI stuff along the way, as well as his relationship with the scientists who brought him back to life — a bio-engineer and her twin brother, a misanthrope who’s made his fortunes from the Internet. It seems to have shades of 24, another Howard Gordon show, as well as some police procedural stuff, perhaps a little like Continuum.
Of course, it’s impossible to tell how it will all come together, but between this show and next year’s Victor Frankenstein (starring Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, among others), we’ll soon find out just how much life this story has left in it.