Do we really need another sci-fi TV show about humanoid beings you may fairly ask? For doesn’t it seem like yesterday when Edward James Olmos acted in Battlestar Galactica before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Initially I was skeptical about Humans. Now I’m not.
Humans is the product of a joint British and American (AMC) sci-fi series that had a recent U.S. launch on Sunday June 28, 2015, whereas U.K. viewers had an earlier launch. Inspired by the award winning Swedish sci-fi TV drama titled Atka manniskor (Real Humans), the pilot of Humans was written by British writers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley. Besides that, the two are also the creators of the new AMC sci-fi TV series.
By making it as more relatable as possible by not having the story set in some far off future as usual sci-fi, Humans begins in the here and now. And while story location is based in the U.K., the premiere episode does not fail to capture. Though patience is required from the jump. That is, if one is simply not used to leisurely paced storytelling which is the hallmark of AMC dramas.
The story begins in London, just after Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) had breakfast with his three children, teenage daughter Mattie, teenage son Toby, and youngest daughter Sophie. It’s then that he receives a text from his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson), a lawyer, reading that her case is running over to which she’ll arrive home the next day. Now feeling glum before telling the three children the recent news, to attempt to uplift his spirit and theirs, he tells his daughter Sophie that they’re going shopping. And no it’s not to get the newest breakthrough smartphone.
In the world of the sci-fi film Blade Runner, humanoid machines are called Replicants. Also called skin-jobs, nicknamed by Capt. Bryant, commander of the Los Angeles Police unit of Blade Runner cops who terminates runaway Replicants in the year 2019. And in the world of the sci-fi TV show Battlestar Galactica, humanoid machines are called Cylons, also called skin-jobs borrowed from Blade Runner, yet different from the other metallic battle-bot Centurions. Now, in the world of Humans, humanoid machines are called synths, short for synthetic. Synths are programmed to serve mankind, just like both Replicants and Cylons were originally intended.
“What if she’s not pretty? Can we change her if she’s not pretty?” asks the little girl Sophie Hawkins enthusiastically, before the salesman unveils the plastic synth shroud. Enter Anita, which the Hawkins later agreed to name her, all five-foot nine with a gracefully slender frame, played by former model and drama school trained British actress Gemma Chan. And, of course she’s pretty. For one doesn’t buy expensive luxury tech if it’s not also easy on the eyes.
“This is the best thing you’ll do for your family,” says the salesman before releasing her to Joe Hawkins. For if by chance one is not satisfied after purchasing a synth, one may return it within 30 days, no questions asked, which is explained to Joe Hawkins. Next, after all formalities have been established, the female synth reaches to shake Joe Hawkins hand as she says pleasantly, “Hello Joe, I’m now securely bonded to you as my primary user.” Which shortly afterwards, the irises of her eyes gleam to an iridescent deep green.
Finally the next day, Laura Hawkins arrives. And from there, Anita, who represents the latest achievement of bioengineered beings, quickly changes the Hawkins family dynamic. Laura takes an immediate dislike to Anita, feeling that her role as a wife and mother is now in jeopardy. Especially when she later sees Anita is reading a bedtime story to Sophie. “I’ll take over now, Anita,” says Laura. “No! I want her to do it!” exclaims Sophie, who is enthralled with Anita. To which Laura adds, “Reading to you is Mummy’s job.” “But she doesn’t rush,” Sophie replies. Son Toby, sees Anita as one hot chick. While Joe, as husband and father, sees Anita as a remedy to save both marriage and family life. For during an argument with his wife, he says, “I didn’t buy Anita to replace you. I bought her to get you back.” Whereas rebellious Mattie, also sees Anita as a threat. Although bright, she explains to her parents about her underperforming at school, saying, “I could be anything I want, right? What about a doctor? That would take me seven years, but by then you’ll be able to turn any old synth into a brain surgeon in seconds.” Given that scene, the pilot episode of Humans couldn’t have come at a better time. Such as the recent July/August 2015 issue of The Atlantic with the cover story titled, “Technology will soon erase millions of jobs. Could that be a good thing? – The End of Work.”
Also later, the story flashes back to a scene taking place five weeks earlier in the woods. A group of synths under the care of a young man named Leo (Colin Morgan) begin to set up camp. The synth later to be known as Anita, is among them. Then Leo and a black synth called Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) decide to leave the others to go after supplies. Yet upon their return, they discover their synths are being stolen by men in a van as the two attempt to chase. And thus begins Leo’s odyssey, who begins a desperate search for his family of synths.
Synths are involved in all manners of service, from standard domestic such as Anita to the Hawkins family, as a caretaker like the synth Odi to Dr. George Millican (William Hurt), formerly a brilliant engineer from the beginnings of the synth project, to being also sex workers. For in a later scene, Leo visits a synth brothel to check on the blonde synth Niska, who hates her work. Already knowing that, he vows he would return to come for her but needs more time, and telling her that she would be safer where she is for now.
Meanwhile, another black synth named Fred (Sope Dirisu) while working as a laborer at an apple orchard, fails to make the rendezvous with Leo and Max. For Fred is captured and given to Professor Edwin Hobb, whose mentor was the creator of synths, a man named David Elster. Hobb is the first to discover something unusual about Fred, now temporarily incapacitated. For Hobb discovers that Fred is showing self-awareness, seeing that as he calls a singularity, and concludes other synths may be as well, like those of Leo’s. Hobb, as he speaks to a colleague while looking at Fred in fascination, sees also the possibility of danger. Now recognizing the possibility that his former mentor gave other synths consciousness, and that the world is becoming ever more dependent on synth labor, he then asks, “Do you think they would still want to be slaves?”
Then also there’s another danger, touched upon in a recent on-line June 25, 2015 article by Katharine Trendacosta for io9, titled, “In AMC’s New Android Show Humans, People Are the Real Monsters.” For within, the actor Tom Goodman-Hill states, “Because the question is not just whether the synths are sentient and what sort of people might they become, it’s more about the humans not realizing how inhuman they can be. And how unlikable they can be without even trying.” To which fellow actor Katherine Parkinson adds, “That’s sort of the human condition full stop. We cause the damage and then worry about it afterwards.”
Such a sentiment, is somewhat similar to a scene from Battlestar Galactica the mini-series. Near the beginning of the pilot episode, there’s a decommissioning ceremony on the starboard hangar bay, as Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) is giving a speech. For within the speech, he says, “We decided to play God, create life (Cylons). When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really. You cannot play God, then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created.”
The pilot episode of Humans premiered both solid acting and story, and from there onward, can only get better.
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