H.G. Well’s novel The Island of Dr. Moreau is not an easy story to tell, but CBS is going to give a try with Sleepy Hollow creator Phillip Iscove leading the project. The story is a fantastic read, but deals with the troubling and gruesome subject of vivisection (dissection or experimentation on live animals), genetic engineering, and moral responsibility. The original novel was written in 1896, during a period when animal experimentation was a hot topic in Europe and some scientists believed biological modification was the way to prevent the decay of the human species.
The story has been adapted for screen several times starting as early as 1913 and famously, in a 1996 flop starring Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, and Marlon Brando. (It’s a truly awful film but almost worth it to see Remus Lupin squaring off against Iceman and Brando-Elvis.) The novel has never been tried as a TV series and Iscove may have hit upon the right format, which allows time for the thematic and character development the rich material deserves.
It sounds like Moreau, as the series will be called, may move the action closer to the current era, with the lead role of the Dr. played by a woman. Deadline broke the news with this synopsis: “Fiercely intelligent and fearless, Dr. Katherine Moreau expands the boundaries of medicine through bold and revolutionary scientific experimentation and treatments in her privately funded island hospital.” Though no word on who might be under consideration for the lead role, Iscove will be partnering with Marshall and Robert Zotnowski of Kennedy/Marshall as executive producers.
Iscove has had an interesting career trajectory. Starting as an assistant at powerhouse talent agency UTA – a coveted entry-level position for anyone aspiring to work behind the scenes in Hollywood – he successfully pitched the idea for an update to the Sleepy Hollow legend to Kurtzman Orci, the producing team behind hits including Star Trek, Transformers, Fringe, and Alias. He served as a writer/producer on the series for two seasons before moving to CBS to develop Moreau. Iscove will be joined by Mark Goffman, the former showrunner for Hollow, who also left after last season and who has an exclusive deal with CBS.
Hollow is entering its third season this fall with executive producer Clifton Campbell (White Collar, The Glades) taking over as showrunner. When EW reported on the changeover back in March they noted that Clifton may hold the key to reviving ratings after a drop during season 2, when the show’s serialized storyline bogged down under its own complexity. Clifton’s background is on episodic shows, and using a story-of-the-week format can be a useful way to win back viewers who lost the thread of the show.
Sleepy Hollow returns to Fox on October 1.