From the start of this ‘Penny Dreadful’ series one, it’s obvious that something dark is going on. Late night, a mother in Victorian London has left her daughter to go to the toilet, only to be sucked out of the window. Things have moved on a pace and Sir Malcolm Murray (actor Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa Ives (actress Ivy Green) have to get a few more people onto their team to even the odds and fight the nasties that are out there. This includes an American rodeo gunslinger Ethan Chandler (actor Josh Hartlett) and Victor Frankenstein (actor Harry Treadaway) that is known more for his autopsy skills than creating life. All of these are led by Sir Malcolm Murray himself is seeking his lost daughter Mimi (actress Olivia Llewellyn) lost to vampires by using her friend Vanessa, who has her skills and problems. In fact, all these characters have their own lives and problems away from belonging to this ragged group.
I haven’t even touched on how prostitute Brona Croft (actress Billie Piper) connects Chandler to Dorian Grey (actor Reeve Carney). Frankenstein has also been creating life and spoilt by the arrival of his first creation (actor Rory Kinnear). There is so much about this series that could be called spoiler, especially as the likes of Dorian Grey and Frankenstein’s creation don’t do things as expected. Indeed, a couple places really upset the status quo so don’t expect anyone to be quite safe.
Likewise, don’t expect this series to be told in a linear fashion. Episode 4 is actually the history of Vanessa and her relationship with the Murrays, especially his daughter, Mimi, who went on to marry a certain Jonathan Harker. Calling the kettle black in here and double standards that went on behind Victorian closed doors shows the morals worse than modern times. The practices that were applied to insane patients is unfortunately true. It never dawned on medical, can I use the word, practitioners that mental health problems aren’t always helped with a scalpel or drill or even a hosepipe of ice cold water to pure them of demons.
Blending Victorian characters and creatures from novel and reality isn’t new and especially not in that time period. Making a series like this makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done sooner. When you look at the various companies that have invested money in this series, the expensive to do it right, with much of Dublin being used to pass as London with a bit of blue screen and CGI probably explains that.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this series but I stopped reading the book, ‘The Art And Making Of Penny Dreadful’ by Sharon Gosling, reviewed below, to watch the series impressed by what I was reading should speak for itself. If you’re into Victorian steampunk, you’re going to feel right at home.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Paramount Home Entertainment UK 138372. 3 DVDs 8 * 52 minute episodes with extras. Price: about £11.00 (UK) if you know where to look.)
cast: Timothy Dalton, Ivy Green, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney, Billie Piper and Rory Kinnear