Tonight marks the third week of ABC2’s airing of the latest in the robotic drama sub-genre; Humans. Humans is the result of a trans-Atlantic production involving the UK’s Channel 4 and American cable channel AMC who have joined forces with production company Kudos to produce a show which revolves around futuristic robots and their human counterparts. There are eight episodes in the series and if you are anything like me you don’t want to invest so much of your time into a show only to find out that the aliens’ weakness is water or whatever happened at the end of Lost. That’s why I plan on giving a spoiler free review of the whole series to hopefully persuade or dissuade your decision to continue on with Humans.
From the beginning, Humans poses a lot of questions. Questions like; “Is the singularity inevitable?”; “Do robots with consciousness deserve the same rights as humans?” and; “How the hell does a ginger couple have three kids and not one of them has ginger hair themselves?” One of the show’s strengths is that it manages to raise these issues without providing a clear answer or agenda. If you are looking for an answer you can choose to decide for yourself or to look to your favourite character and share in their views.
There are quite a few characters, but there aren’t too many that you lose track of the story and by episode two it’s quite easy to remember who is who and what they are doing. The main family is headed up by Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill), a likeable enough bunch that as with every family have their fair share of problems. Their three children, Mattie (Lucy Carless), Toby (Theo Stevenson) and Sophie (Pixie Davies) are fairly run-of-mill as well, except for the fact that Mattie is a computer genius, one of the few skills in this android run world that has not been rendered useless. When the Hawkins buy the robot or “synth” Anita (Gemma Chan), they grab the attention of Merlin and crew. Merlin or young Benedict Cumberbatch or Leo (Colin Morgan) as he is known in this show (you choose) has a group of synth friends who are on the lookout for Anita. Eventually their two worlds collide and hilarity/intensifying drama ensues (there’s not much hilarity, it just sounds better than drama ensues). Meanwhile, villain Professor Edwin Hobb (Danny Webb) is on the lookout for Leo’s gang of synths. On the other side of town, former AI researcher, George Millican (William Hunt) is sad that his synth, Odi (William Tudor) is on his/its (this show makes you think about which pronouns are the right ones to use) way out. Finally, in a world with synths you need a new branch of policing and two human detectives trained in the world of synths; D.S. Pete Drummond (Neil Maskell) and D.I Karen Voss (Ruth Bradley) are on a case.
As far as characters go, Humans provides us with a likeable assembly with believable motifs, except for maybe Professor Edwin Hobb. The stand-out character has got to be Niska (Emily Berrington), who is one of Leo’s friends. She is what I imagine a T-800 would be one day if it woke up and said; “What are these strange feelings… I’m feeling?”. Niska, doesn’t spend much time feeling sorry for herself or waiting on any favours. What is especially interesting is that she is only three years old, yet she has all the knowledge of a robot, couple this with her traumatised life and she is forced to grow up very quickly.
The acting is nothing but consistent. Every actor is quite competent yet no one is asked to do enough to show off their acting chops. All the synths must have the same manner about them and there was not a moment in the show where I felt one of the synth actors had let the team down. If I were to pick a favourite, it would be Rebecca Front, who plays George’s newest synth, Vera. She manages to pull off a performance that could be perceived as either an average synth or a very menacing robot that is constantly scheming against her/its owner.
As for the show’s setting, what is particularly well done is the lack of futuristic items for a show set in the future. It’s never mentioned or alluded to how much further in the future the show is set but unlike most shows set in the future, they don’t go overboard with the amount of amazing technology. Apart from the robots, the only other changes in society is the detective’s right to openly vape and his rather fun futuristic phrase; “Stick it up ya bollocks!”. Even the battery life in the future isn’t that much better than it is now. The show’s budget has gone a long way to help the show to its feet and you can see that no money has been wasted. AMC’s money has clearly been a great help to Channel 4 and in return, Channel 4 has spent it well.
All in all, the story is pretty good. It’s neither amazingly mind-blowing or ball/boob achingly dull(I don’t discriminate). Human’s ultimate irony is that it can pull of quite emotional stories when some of the characters in these stories are not even capable of feeling emotions. If it’s closure you are looking for, don’t look to Humans, there are still many story threads to be unraveled and the writers have set themselves up for the second series. My final thoughts on Humans are that it’s a solid show, a show that would be a good way to waste a rainy afternoon if you’re finished all your favourite tv shows. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the robotic genre but if robots aren’t your cup of tea then maybe look somewhere else.