Monday, 15 June 2015

Humanity laid bare on Channel Four

New Channel Four Sunday Drama "Humans" brought to my mind many comparisons of another Four Show "Utopia" whereby serious ethical questions about our world are addressed to quite frightening result.

Where Utopia looked at the problems of global overpopulation, Humans addresses the equally topical question of whether our technology is surpassing us and one day might overtake us and become sentient. The inclusion of the actor who played Arby in the former show a emotionless assassin as a kind Police officer is inspired casting and I hope to see more of him.

This has been done in a myriad Hollywood Movies and comparisons to several will inevitably be made, Twitter was awash with Blade Runner, I Robot and Ex Machina references whilst it aired. This was not lost on the writers whose Asimov  imperative prevents Synths from deliberately harming a human being.

The main plot revolves around four scenarios, the main one being a dysfunctional family whereby sullen teen  girl and partly absent mother are not communicating, frazzled Dad gets a synth Unit in a attempt to bring his wife back by " Freeing her" from domestic drudgery as her job at court takes her away often. Enter Anita, the rather  cognisant domestic Robot, who is so creepily nice and yet has an emotive reaction to the moon and "accidentally" allows said mother to be burned.. Anita is not all she seems...

Then there is a merry band of synths who are much more evolved and on the run, led by human Leo (Colin Morgan of Merlin fame) . They are  separated when nefarious men steal three of the "units " to reconfigure and sell on, one of which looks uncannily like Anita and she and obviously are in love. So Leo and Max are on a mission to find their friends and find a safe place for them to exist , although the question is should the word be Live?  Leo's search takes him to a Robot brothel and this scene alone is the real nod to the ambiance of Bladerunner, the seediness, the neon all point to a homage to both the film and the source short story

Then there is the shadowy group whose research and funding has established the fact that some Syths are approaching the singularity where they might become sentient  and it is they that are searching for... 

Lastly and to my mind , the most affecting and gripping is the relationship of John Heard's character George  whose dementia appears to be the reason he will fight at any cost to keep the defunct Syth  Odie that he and his wife had got before her death. The unit is malfunctioning and it is heartbreaking to see George's  struggle to pull forth the data that maintains his link to his wife and his own memories. The relationship is as human as any father  and Son and contrasts perfectly with the almost blank and emotionless relationship between mother and daughter and even to some extent her husband back with Anita's New owners. The reactions of Odie are the most robotic, but strangely the most beautiful and emotionally charged.

The staging of this  show( like Utopia before it) is all the more frightening as it is not futuristic, there are no super vehicles, people use tablets in a manner exactly as they are used in the here and now and it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see robots being used as labour when you examine just how much is mechanised in industry and  medicine already, the only difference is the level of humanisation in regards to appearance, the Syths are scariest because they are so real and it is only the metallic backlight in the eyes that differentiates them.

The basic question underlying all of this is can a machine ever be more "Human" than a Human  and what would happen if inanimate objects were ever able to contain a soul  and can  they suddenly be classed as alive even if they are charged rather than nourished?

A thoroughly engaging British  drama and a tribute to Channel Four who seem to corner the market in these dramas based in morality and modern day dilemmas. Strongly recommended.

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