Cryonics “Castle”

By Mike Darwin

 Show: “Castle”

Season: 4

Episode: 3, “Head Case”

Air Date: 10/03/11

Series Creator: Andrew W. Marlowe

Writer: David Grae

Characters: Rick Castle, Kate Beckett

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Photos Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor

“Castle” Stars: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, Stana Katic as NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, Susan Sullivan as Martha Rodgers, Molly Quinn as Alexis Castle, Penny Johnson Jerald as NYPD Captain Victoria Gates, Tamala Jones as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish, Jon Huertas as NYPD Detective Javier Esposito, and Seamus Dever as NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan.

Guest Cast: William Atherton as Dr. Ari Weiss, Andy Umberger as Johnny Rosen, Judith Hoag as Cynthia Hamilton, Shaun Toub as Dr. Philip Boyd, Jordan Belfi as Beau Randolph, Jared Hillman as Eddie Peck.

NOTE: You can watch the full episode of “Castle” reviewed here on line at no charge:



 Figure 1: Stana Katic as NYPD Homicide Detective Kate Beckett enters the Passage cryonics facility with her gun drawn in search of the missing body of a homicide victim.

 I’m a regular viewer of “Castle,” so my take may be prejudiced. “Castle” is very light TV fare – it is a fanciful police procedural comedy/drama that centers on the adventures of a crime novelist, Rick Castle, who is on a perpetual “ride along” with an attractive female homicide detective named Kate Beckett. Beckett has served as the inspiration for one of Castle’s most successful characters, Detective Nikki Heat. Superficially, “Castle” is escapist fare that offers some respite from sadistic pornography of “Criminal Minds” or the now predictable, hard-boiled and increasingly preachy cynicism of the “Law and Order” franchises.“

Castle” is a throwback to the humorous, but morality and issue driven “detective” writing of Anthony BoucherHerbert Brean, and perhaps the most talented master of this genre, John Dickson Carr. As critic S. T. Karnick has aptly said of “Castle”and its predecessors:

“What these and their contemporaries excelled at was creating a sense of wonder, building a fantastic situation that has an inexorable logic of its own. In their way, they conveyed a sense of American life as a realm of astonishing possibilities ultimately grounded in common sense, logic and morality. It’s a form of fiction I enjoy greatly and which I think has much to recommend it.”

As TV fare it has more in common with “Ellergy Queen” or “Murder She Wrote” than CSI or “Blue Bloods.” Often I hear more of “Castle” episodes than I see of them, but it is good, non-traumatic, “wind down” entertainment before bed; nice to watch while reading book and preparing to doze off. However, a “good” episode will cause the book to be put down and will fully command my attention. This was a good episode of “Castle”, in fact I would argue that it was an extraordinary episode. I say this because “Castle” doesn’t usually explore ideas in any nuanced way, other than those surrounding romantic and family life, which are the core values the show seeks to explore, albeit 21st century style.

Castle is a highly successful author, divorced, more than a bit juvenile and a something of rake who finds his way into the beds of the occasional vixen who strays into the plotline. Detective Beckett is the serious, sober and grounded half of the duo, whose job it is to burst the bubble of most of Castle’s outrageous, and usually erroneously wild conspiracy theories of the crimes they encounter together.  The emotional subtext is that Castle is madly in love with Beckett, Beckett is arguably is in love with Castle and neither has the confidence in themselves, or their life choices to admit these feelings to each other, or to anyone else, for that matter.

Because “Castle” is, at least superficially not a serious TV drama, the idea of a cryonics-themed episode made me squirm more than a bit. The whole idea screamed “clichéd mockery.” As it turned out, this episode was some of the best cryonics-themed TV programming I’ve ever seen – at least in terms of thoughtfully exploring the multiple significant issues cryonics poses to the culture. Without as doubt this episode’s presentation of the emotional and value-driven reasons for why we cryonicists are doing what we are was the most accurate and moving of any I’ve seen  to date.

Figure 2: Nathan Fillion as the crime fiction writer Richard Castle exploring the cryonics facility. Passage Cryonics either has really bad Superinsulation, or they just finished filling every dewar in the facility.


The plot line (warning, spoiler alert) is that a murder has occurred in a New York City street, but there is no body; just so much blood on the scene that the victim would have almost completely exsanguinated. Through various twists and turns, the victim is determined to be an academic who was pursuing promising research on a life extension technology that would add ~ 10 healthy years to a person’s life by causing the body’s dividing cells to produce young, rather old replacements for themselves. The identification of the likely victim leads Beckett, Castle and crew to a “self storage warehouse” where they discover an “under the radar” cryonics facility called “Passage.”

       Dr. Weiss: “He conducted cutting-edge research developing        life-extension techniques.”

       Castle: “Not that it did him any good.”

It was at this point that I started to grin.  This set-up precisely describes Alcor and its location from mid-1970s to the mid-1980s in Fullerton, CA. What’s more, the first man ever cryopreserved, James H. Bedford, was stored for a number of years by his family in a San Fernando Valley mini-warehouse that was part of franchise called “Self Storage;” something I found more than a bit of an irony at the time. Could the “Castle” writers have done their homework that well? Surely not; but, it was good for a grin, anyway.

Figure 3: Seamus Dever as NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan (left) Kate Beckett (center) and  Jon Huertas as NYPD Detective Javier Esposito draw a bead on the two cryonics technicians who are in the process of placing the missing homicide victim into long-term cryogenic storage.

Almost immediately after entering the cryonics facility, the homicide investigative crew encounters the Passage personnel sliding the missing murder victim into a dewar. Beckett informs them that the police are going to take custody and that the Medical Examiner (ME) will need to autopsy the body. Enter the smarmy, self-righteous and utterly self-assured President of Passage Cryonics, accompanied by his even more self assured, viperous and lawsuit threatening caricature of a lawyer. Remove the patient from cryopreservation (yeah, they actually use that word; we’re making progress) and Passage will sue the NYPD and the ME’s Office into financial oblivion! the attorney informs them.

       Castle: “You got any celebrities in here? Ted Williams? Jack Frost”

Beckett and crew phone the District Attorney for a warrant to seize the body, only to be told that, “the case law is murky on the issue of whether or not a coroner can autopsy a cryonics patient.” Incredible!  now the writers really have my attention, because the Dora Kent case was not a “recorded” case that definitively established precedent; the California Appellate Court let the lower (Superior) court’s ruling stand, but declined to grant the case “precedent setting status.”[1] Maybe these guys really did do their homework after all!


The researcher/patient’s wife is questioned by Detective Beckett (and Castle) and she comes across as a sympathetic person who wants, above all else, to defend her husband’s cryopreservation and ensure that he has another chance at an indefinitely extended life. In fact, she reminisces during her interview that, when she and her husband first met, he told her that he was so in love wit her that “one lifetime would never be enough” – he wanted to spend eternity with her – and life extension and cryonics were the tools to achieve that end.

Figure 4: At left, fictional pornographer Beau Randolph as portrayed by actor Jordan Belfi and at right, real pornographer Larry Flynt who did indeed at one time have a serious interest in cryonics. [2)

However, as it turns out, the ME may not need to do an autopsy after all. One of the victim’s associates, a famous pornographer who created the “College Girls Gone Wild” franchise has been bankrolling the life extension researchers academic’s work. And tellingly, they’ve just argued repeatedly over the “dead” man’s desire to make his life extending discovery “open source” for the entire world to further advance and benefit from. By now, I’m chuckling. Is this a reference to Hustler’s Larry Flynt? I’m beginning to think that I’m starting to see my life played out on a very B-list (but nevertheless amusing) TV show. [2]

 Figure 5: At left actor William Atherton as Dr. Ari Weiss, CEO of Passage Cryonics (shades of Avi Ben Abraham, center?) and at right, Dr. Max More, CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. [3]

Alas, the pornographer owns a gun, fired the very morning of the murder, that could possibly be the murder weapon. The cops need the slug, and the slug is in the cryopreserved body of the victim.  Cut to a testy conference between the ME, the cops, the CEO of Passage Cryonics and their oily lawyer. The ME insists on an autopsy of the body and it’s clear that she now has probable cause and will likely get the necessary court order. Suddenly, the Passage CEO stands up and announces that he has the answer; all cryonics requires is the brain, so why not give the ME the body for autopsy and allow the cryonics organization to keep the head? Now, I know the writers have done their homework. [3,4] One, two, or three coincidences? Maybe. But this many? Not a chance!

Figure 6: At right, Tamala Jones as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish discloses the results of her autopsy on the headless body of the murder victim. A plot lifted right from the Dora Kent case. [4,5]


The head is removed, the body is autopsied, the slug is recovered, and, just like in real life (Larry Flynt), the wily pornographer is off the hook; they can’t pin the crime on him because he didn’t do it. He was, as he told the police, otherwise occupied murdering a noisy pigeon on his roof that morning. A compliant of animal cruelty is sworn out against him and he vanishes from the proceedings.

The once cooperative ME now demands the patient’s head, because, as it turns out,  he appears to have been serving as his own guinea pig by having the implants that cause tissue rejuvenation placed in his brain. The 0nly problem is that when the investigators go to retrieve the head (patient), surprise, he’s missing from the cryonics organization’s facilities!

       Beckett: Are you saying you lost his head?

So, who took him and why? It is soon discovered that the patient’s researcher friend has removed him from Passage in order to prevent his destruction by cranial autopsy. What was really going on was that the patient was dying of an inoperable malignant brain tumor (glioblastma multiforme) and this colleague was undertaking to try and save him with a highly experimental, and unfortunately, ineffective nanoparticle cancer treatment. Our cryonics patient was thus doomed to die of a brain tumor – a brain tumor that would, before it killed him, utterly destroy his brain, thus making any hope of recovery from cryopreservation impossible. So now, in addition to the Dora Kent case, the writers have folded in the Donaldson v. the Attorney General of the State of California case. [6]

The nano-cancer researcher colleague explains to the homicide investigators that even though the tumor was growing rapidly, the patient had decided to continue pursuing his life extension research and forgo being cryopreserved. He turns over the MRIs and other documentary evidence explaining why trace evidence of brain matter from the patient had been found in a secret lab, ending the need for further postmortem dissection.

Revelation of these facts also explained the seemingly anomalous download of a “cryopreservation cancellation document” for Passage Cryonics, recovered from the patient’s laptop. Finally, it dawns on Castle and Beckett that the shooting that ended this life cycle for the patient was the very thing that might be responsible for saving his life. They correctly reason that if he wasn’t cryopreserved while his brain was reasonably intact, then he would be lost forever.


Figure 7: 21st Century Romeos and Juliets use cryonics as a way to overcome the tragic circumstances of disease and death which threaten to separate them forever.

Bingo (!); the missing motive in the case in now apparent. If his wife was aware he was not only dying of brain cancer, but also that he planned to terminate his cryopreservation arrangements, then the only way she could hope to ensure their future together was to “kill” her husband now, while both his brain and his cryopreservation arrangements were still reasonably intact.

This was, in fact, exactly what she had done. As the show winds up there is a touching and very emotional monologue from the wife explaining that the tumor had warped her husband’s judgment and that he was no longer making decisions as he had when was well; she had no choice but to stop his heart with a gunshot, triggering his GPS-enabled bio-monitoring watch and summing the cryonics team.  The wife is placed in a holding cell and Castle, Beckett and the Passage President confer about the situation. Suddenly, the Passage CEO’s smartphone registers an alarm: a Passage client has experienced cardiac arrest, butit makesno sense since the GPS feature shows the location as right there in the jail.  It is quickly discovered that the wife has taken a cyanide tablet concealed in a ring she was wearing.[1] The wife lies lifeless on the floor of the cell and there is a moment of stunned silence, broken by the Passage CEO, who pleadingly asks if he can summon the cryonics team so that the wife can join her husband on the long journey into the future. Beckett says, “Yes,” having already expressed her sympathy with the wife for her act of “involuntary euthanasia” that put in him Passage cryonics with two bullets in his chest at the start of the story.

Whew! Every significant medico-legal issue in the public history of cryonics to date, all rolled into one ~ 45-minute long TV episode! That’s quite a feat! But a much more impressive one was that writer and the creator of “Castle” got all the important things right. No, they didn’t get much the technical side of cryonics right, and for that, we may arguably be thankful. The Passage cryonics patients, unlike the real ones, look like very startled solid-state versions of their living selves. This is the first time I’ve ever seen cryonics patients depicted with their eyes open – wide open, in fact.

But the shortcomings in the technical depictions of cryonics were more than compensated for by the fact that the show’s creative talents got the core messages of cryonics right. Medico-legal death is a process not a condition, and “irreversibility” is a function of brain structure and the sophistication (or lack thereof) of available medical science and technology. Life is a good thing, and the desire for indefinitely long and healthy lives, free from the burdens of aging, disease and death are reasonable goals being pursued by reasonable people. Indeed, they are romantic goals and they are technologies that offer everyday people the opportunity to continue expressing the best and brightest of their humanity; their love of each other, their pursuit of knowledge and growth, and their desire to transcend time.

Wow! That’s a lot, coming as it is from the principal engine of the popular culture: television. We cryonicists owe a sincere debt of gratitude and some heartfelt thanks to the writer, director and the  producers of this “Castle” episode.

Please, write them and communicate your appreciation:


1.     Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Inc. v. Mitchell (1992) 7 Cal. App. 4th 1287 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 572]: Retrieved 2011-09-05 .
2.    Green, M. Her death ends the improbable love match of porn merchants Althea and Larry Flynt.  People Magazine, 28(3);1987:,,20096764,00.html.  Retrieved 2011-09-05 .
3.    Cieply, M. Iraquis ask firm about cloning Saddam Hussein. Los Angeles Times, 09 September, 1990: Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.
4.    Babwin, D. Coroner says lethal dose of drugs killed cryonics case figure. The Press Enterprise, Riverside County, CA, 28 February, 1988, start page: A-1.
5.    Perry, R.M., our finest hours: notes on the Dora Kent case. Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.
6.    Donaldson v. Lungren (1992) 2 Cal. App. 4th 1614 [4 Cal.Rptr.2d 59]: Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.


[1] A great deal of suspension of disbelief is required in watching in CASTLE; as anyone who has ever been arrested, or who is familiar with police procedure knows, all jewelry and other possessions, right down to hairpieces (but generally excluding corrective eyeglasses and dentures) are removed from any subject taken into custody.

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14 Responses to Cryonics “Castle”

  1. Sean Palmer says:

    How would you “restore” someone from only a head?

    • admin says:

      The current (accepted) medical model of person-hood is that the brain constitutes the person; the structures that enable consciousness, memory, cognitive, abilities and so on. In this model the brain is the person. A simple and easy to understand way of “restoring” a person who is a brain without a body would be to do a a “whole body transplant.” In other words, to place the brain in another body. This is actually technically feasible right now, and the procedure has been carried out on macaque monkeys – it was first done by Dr. Robert White at Case Western Reserve University many years ago: It is currently impossible to functionally reconnect the spinal cord after such a procedure (the patient would paralyzed from the neck down). However, the procedure might still see clinical application in humans in patients who are quadriplegic due to high spinal cord injury. Such patients experience multiple infections and extensive deterioration of their bodies as a result of their paralyzed state and they typically die from these complications of quadriplegia many years before their expected (averagehuman) life span. The deterioration in “body function” they experience is both slow and predictable and, as a result, it would be possible to transplant such individuals to a new, healthy body. The actor Christopher Reeve died from complications due to long term deterioration as a result of quadriplegia. Steven Hawking is an example of a patient who will almost inevitably succumb to the same process.

      However, cryonics patients, be they whole body or “head only” (i.e., neuropatients) have far more serious problems than not having a body. Contemporary cryopreservation techniques cause damage at the molecular level, at the cellular level and at the tissue level. A good review of this kind of damage and what is being done to further minimize it is available here: and here:

      Cryonics advocates have also given considerable thought to how the damage done by cryopreservation, aging and disease might be reversed: and

      The above references should answer any basic questions you have. If you have additional questions, please feel free to return here. — Mike Darwin

      • Mike Perry says:

        It seems worth adding that the “new healthy body” that the head or brain would be transplanted to would not be some otherwise robust victim of head trauma but a newly created body, something that should be possible if technology fancy enough to restore the brain is developed. Today of course we have created entire bodies from single cells, as with Dolly the sheep. A future creation suitable for a head/brain transplant could presumably be anencephalic from the start so nobody else will have to be sacrificed. What is really done could be something rather different—we don’t know what options will be possible—but something along these lines at least seems to be a fallback possibility. —Mike Perry

        • admin says:

          Yes! Definitely worth adding and I’m embarrassed to see that I forgot to do it. Thank you very much for pointing this out. To go ever further, in all probability cloning, per se, with all its attendant legal, moral and ethical issues will not be necessary. The biological programming which results in the production of an entire new individual is even now being “edited” so that single organs, or even simpler tissues, can be grown in the lab for therapeutic purposes. It is just as possible to edit this programming to produce a healthy, fully gown body that is a biological “duplicate” of the patient’s own (young) body – but without a brain. This actually happens naturally as infrequent birth defect in both in humans and animals called anencephalia. Such “infants” are born “brain dead” which is two words for being dead, instead of one. Gestation in the womb to a size and mass far greater than that of an adult human with the ability to stand, walk (or swim) and communicate immediately after birth is a commonplace in the natural world: newborn elephants, whales, and giraffes are some examples of this. Anything we see happening in the natural, biological world that is closely analogous to a process we want to engineer, such as growing a human body from a single cell to full adulthood starting with the repaired and rejuvenated brain of the patient in situ, there is an excellent chance that we will be able to do it. — Mike Darwin

          • Mark Plus says:

            We should also pay attention to progress in organ printing. Eventually tissue engineers could print a whole human body from the neck down.

            In fact, I’d like to see if the organizers of the next cryonics conference can invite a scientist or two to speak about this field. I would much rather hear from one of them than sit through more “cryonics theater” about imaginary nanomedicine.

  2. Shannon Vyff says:

    I heard about this episode as my teen daughter told me a friend of her’s was talking about it at school and they’d had a discussion about Cryonics in class. The friend knew my teen has cryonics arrangements as it had come up on a past Aquatic Science competition team trip they’d been on together. What was amusing to me was that the girl had thought the cryonicists were crazy, the woman in particular for killing her husband. (I also bristled at that point, as if he wanted euthanasia I only support voluntary cases, unless in a hospice Do-Not-Resuscitate situation).

    When I watched the episode later with my kids, they thought cryonicists came off as being looney. They had a quite negative reaction even though I explained the good points, and how the cryonics community liked the portrayal as outlined in Darwin’s review. I liked the episode overall and thought it was cute that the main characters changed their views on cryonics a little bit by the end-and expressed admiration of the “true love” of the preserved couple and “hoped they’d make it” (a reference to their on-going on and off again relationship-a mainstay of male/female detective show leads). I just wanted to share how I assume a lot of people in mainstream society would have thought cryonics was “freaky” as the friend of my daughter’s after viewing the show. I think any portrayal is good though, and a few people might look up and read about actual cryonics organizations after viewing it.

    • unperson says:

      shannon wrote:
      “I also bristled at that point, as if he wanted euthanasia I only support voluntary cases….”

      You only support voluntary euthanasia?! Well, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.

      But anyway, I thought this Castle episode was substandard insofar as cryonics was concerned. The show should have focused on nano issues and qualia issues and uploading issues, like all the great posts on New Cryonet.

      • gwern says:

        I watched the episode last night; I thought it was pretty good and much more favorable to cryonics than most media. The only way cryonics comes off badly is that the true-believer wife is a cuckoo murderer; but, then *someone* has to be a bad guy or else there’s no plot.

        If you want a more favorable or accurate depiction, there’s nowhere else but the ghetto of hard SF novels/shorts. At the very least, it’s way better than say _Futurama_!

  3. Shannon Vyff says:

    I suppose I won’t even ask if you are for or against voluntary euthanasia ;) I lived in OR at the time Assisted Suicide was passed, and was one of the ones who voted for it :)

    I liked the episode and thought the token bad guy could have been made out to be a lot more crazy than she was :)

    My 12 yr-old son loves Futurama, he likes the cryonics references and jokes in it, even the out-there over-the-top ones. I doubt many people would look up actual cryonics after viewing Futurama. Even though I don’t think many would, I suspect a few did after watching this Castle episode.

  4. Fundie says:

    Nathan Fillion is on Twitter. It might be interesting to see some cryonicists talk to him about cryonics.

  5. Mark Plus says:

    I just watched it on my iPad. The cryonics organization received more respectful treatment from law enforcement than we’ve seen in real life, and the episode didn’t mock the cryonics idea or portray cryonicists as misfits, cranks or kooks – and it especially went out of its way to show a sympathetic, non hostile cryonicist wife. I’d give it a B as cryonics propaganda.

    But I agree that it presents an unrealistic view of American police procedures, especially the part about having a mediocre crime novelist as a participant in a homicide investigation.

  6. Mitchell Porter says:

    I was always intrigued that the 1997 film “Batman and Robin” (with Arnie as “Mr Freeze”) had a mildly positive attitude towards cryonics. Schwarzenegger’s character is a scientist who has suspended his wife, hoping to find a cure for her cancer; later, he goes mad and homicidal. Usually, the restoration of justice and order to the world that comes at the end of that story, would have included unplugging the cryo-suspended wife, ending the doomed unnatural attempt to meddle with the cycle of life and death, and a lecture about how one shouldn’t deny loss, but should rather move on and embrace the flow, etc. But in this story, when Mr Freeze comes to his senses, he’s allowed to go back to his work of trying to cure and revive his wife (albeit, he’ll be doing it from a cell in Arkham Asylum shared with Uma Thurman). Alas for the movie’s potential status as a small propaganda win for cryonics, it was widely considered trash, and did badly enough to end that particular cycle of Batman films…

    • Taurus Londono says:

      Bah. Forget that crap-fest.
      The actual comics (or the excellent animated series from the 1990′s) offer a better (deeper) portrayal of Mr. Freeze (Dr. Victor Fries)… He’s been fascinated by freezing organisms ever since childhood when he engaged in experiments on animals; his behavior is dismissed as pathological and he grows up feeling alienated. The only one who understands him is his wife, Nora (who subsequently contracts some kind of illness, if I remember correctly). He’s driven by fundamentally good intentions- a powerful love of his wife; a refusal to allow her to die. However, he’s willing to do *anything* to keep her safely cryopreserved and to find a way to bring her back into a state of health. Think Mike Darwin in a space suit.

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