Penny Dreadful, in which we learn that you really should ask questions at a job interview

First aired: 10th February 2007


Timothy Dalton – Sir Malcolm Murray

Eva Green – Vanessa Ives

Josh Hartnett – Ethan Chandler

Harry Treadaway – Victor Frankenstein

Simon Russell Beale – Ferdinand Lyle

Olivia Llewellyn – Mina Harker

Danny Sapani – Sembene

Synopsis: A woman wakes up in bed and gets up carefully avoiding waking her daughter and walks through the house, with only a lamp for light to go to the toilet. Something pulls her outside. The child wakes and walks through the house and opens a door and screams at what she sees.

In an empty room, a green clad woman frantically prays in latin, desperate for answers or some kind of ending. She appears to go into a seizure as a voice speaks to her. The next day, an American sharpshooter charms a crowd in general and in later a young lady from that crowd is charmed in a more intimate manner, before he adjourns to a local tavern and starts drinking.  At the bar, the sharpshooter Ethan Chandler is approached by the green clad lady from before, now perfectly coiffed. She asks him to help in a sensitive matter that evening. That night, at the arranged time and place, Ethan meets the woman and her employer, a older man with little time for social niceties. He bids them to follow him through an opium den. They are set upon by seemingly rabid people, speaking in a foreign language. The two men fight back, whilst the lady investigates further, finding a pile of dismembered corpses.Above, the two men find their assailants more than unusually difficult to kill, but not impossible. Ethan finds the lady and all three face more of these creatures, one is stronger than the rest. The older man kills it as well as a woman with white hair and sharpened canine teeth. The trio take the stronger creature’s body to a medical researcher, who is fascinated by the corpse he is brought.  During the investigation it becomes apparent that this creature has the same sharpened canines, but also a second layer of skin which has hieroglyphics tattooed onto it’s subdermal skin layer. Ethan isn’t quite so fascinated, but wants answers.

After being given the address, he finds himself at the home of Sir Malcolm Murray, the older gentleman from the previous night. As he makes his way there, the police find the crime scene from earlier, which horrifies all who see it. At Sir Malcolm’s home, Ethan meets with the lady, who identifies herself as Vanessa Ives. She explains they are trying to save Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina Murray from an evil creature that is somewhat other than human.  She offers him a more ongoing position, but whilst intrigued, he leaves. Sir Malcolm and Vanessa visit Mr Lyle at the museum, to seek his expertise on the hieroglyphics. The camp and affable Mr Lyle is amazed and intrigued and offers to help, just not during office hours and invites them to his home. As a start, he identifies it as text from the Egyption Book of the Dead.

The researcher from before is visited by Sir Malcolm’s valet Sembene and given a suit before being invited to the prestigious Explorer’s Club to meet with Sir Malcolm and after some mutual posturing, agrees to join this crusade. Ethan wanders around London, wracked with fear and guilt, what tortures him is unclear, he walks back to Sir Malcolm’s house, but is unable to approach the door. That night, Sir Malcolm gets ready for bed and is approached by his missing daughter Mina, all unnatural and hungry and after a display of pyrotechnics she vanishes. Sir Malcolm questions whether they are hunting the creature that took her, or is the creature that took her hunting them.

The researcher returns to his home and it’s hidden lab. He walks over to the cadaver there, strapped to electrical equipment. There is a surge due to a storm and the crude lights go out. When they are back on, the cadaver is walking around. The researcher tries to calm this reanimated man, first he introduces himself Victor Frankenstein.

Notes:  This was an attempt to collect all of the ‘classic’ monsters of 19th century literature and connect it as one singular narrative. We have elements of Dracula, Frankenstein and a few other things mixed together to make something quite unique. I’ve seen a few things with Eva Green in, much of them making a big deal of her beauty and appeal (which for the most part has eluded me) but this one plays to her strength’s which are her oddness and enigmatic delivery. She excels her as Miss Ives, who is torturing herself for crimes she feels she has committed. Her interactions with Josh Hartnett’s Mr Chandler have an interesting non-romantic chemistry that makes scenes work that with one of the two missing would feel out of place, or less sincere and with the addition of veteran scenery chewer Timothy Dalton, form a trinity that carries much of the show’s script and setting forward. The rest is down to tone, which is added to by the lighting, set design and music, creating a Victorian London that probably only exists in fiction and nightmares, but feels as real as the best of either. A story about monsters that really skimps on the monsters shouldn’t have the sense of menace this one does, but in the two or three minutes you see the creatures, they have a hell of an impact. The secondary characters, including Mr Lyle, Sembene and Victor Frankenstein are all fully realised, even though Sembene doesn’t have more than one line, the actor bringing content to the role in bearing and facial expressions that speak almost as clearly. Victor isn’t the dashing and driven scholar of the movies, but instead an obsessed almost fanatical scientist. He has no interest in the people of the world, just his quest, his desire to conquer death and create life. You don’t really like the characters, but you’re not supposed to, these are protagonists, not heroes and it’s the story you want to root for.

It’s not perfect, there are pacing issues and Dalton has left teeth-marks on the scenery, but it’s an unfamiliar world that pulls you in with the promise that you won’t like what you see, but you’ll most likely be glad that you saw it. It’s violent, in that it show’s it’s effects, it’s dark enough to make you question what’s in the shadows and ramps up the tension more and more until you are hooked.


Does it work? Yes, retelling old stories can be a crutch, unless you can do something more with them.

Does much need fixing? This felt more like chapter one, than a pilot so the only thing missing is chapter two,

Does it stand up? Very much so, it was just as good now as it once was.

Do I want to watch the next one? No, because I would keep at it until the series was re-watched again.

Did I enjoy it? Yes I did.

Overall: 4/5 Deliciously dark and full of promise.

Published by Munky

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “Penny Dreadful, in which we learn that you really should ask questions at a job interview

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