The latest television series we’ve been watching has been this groundbreaking science-fiction series from the UK. Like Sherlock, it isn’t a series in the normal sense. There are only two seasons so far and each season has only three episodes each, with the first season originally airing all the way back in 2011. Plus there is a extra long Christmas special that just aired on the Christmas of 2014. So there isn’t much of it and it took them a long time to produce the content.
But what content there is just fantastic. What it amounts to are essentially sociological science fiction stories that explore how current or near-future technology changes society and the people in them. Each story is fully self-contained, with its set of characters, though if you look closely the stories do sometimes reference each other. In a way, I guess you could say that it’s a modern take on the Twilight Zone / The Outer Limits anthology format but it’s much more grounded by being based on modern trends.
A recurrent theme in the series is the central role of social media in people’s lives and its addictive nature. In the first episode, The National Anthem, a terrorist uses YouTube to broadcast a threat and forces the government to publicly reply in the same manner. A great touch I appreciated here is how the traditional media tries to downplay things and remain tasteful but just can’t keep up with online media. Another episode explores how much of a person’s personality can be captured in his interactions with social media.
But the stories also shoot arrows at other aspects of modern life like reality shows, our need to document and record all of our experiences, and in a strange manner, the morality of torture. Production quality is very high and many of the episodes feature performers that you might recognize from elsewhere. I won’t pretend that the technology always makes sense. I’m especially annoyed at the use of human physical muscles to generate electricity idea, which was awful in The Matrix, and is still awful now. But its strength lies in the originality of the ideas and how dark it dares to go, at least in the television format, and this it delivers in spades.
Not every episode is great but even the weakest ones are pretty darn good television. It’s a real shame that this series isn’t as widely known and watched as it deserves to be, so go spread the word now!