Humans are synethic individuals – or ‘synths’ which look after everything in your home, but are merely computerised units. They’re capable of sentient thought, which is rather the problem we saw in the Terminator movies. Or so this new Channel 4 drama series goes.
Lots of people would like an android to help out around the family, as long as it’s not as clunky as Able Mabel, which wasn’t particularly able at all, and was the most bulky machine ever made, so no wonder that it didn’t get anywhere. Similarly, what’s the point of a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner when it can’t move furniture round or climb stairs?
Anyhoo, as we soon learned to the cost of the Hawkins family, don’t buy one which is taller than you; It’ll dominate your home. It’ll assume not only that it’s better at doing the household chores (which it is), but also that it can look after your children better, too… which it probably is, because it’ll never tire of reading it a bedtime story when you’re zonked out from a hard day at work. And that poses the obvious problems where it’s more a hinderance than a help.
Humans was scary enough, early on, when Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) simply got to ‘securely bond’ with his synth, Anita (Gemma Chan), who had to take a DNA sample for his security purposes and confirmed when this had been done through the sort of noise you’d expect a Windows PC to make when you’ve plugged something in.
On the plus side, these things can even drive! Never mind Google and their poncy driverless cars. They’re not hugely expensive, either, as they cost less than a family car and the payments can be spread out over five years. Trouble is, with synths being used for general manual labour jobs, it means there’s less jobs for the real huans. In addition, Laura (Katharine Parkinson) never wanted one round the children, but Joe overruled her while she was away working on a case, or possibly having it away since she was seen in a hotel room.
After Anita blended in with the Hawkins family – providing wank fantasies for son Toby (Theo Stevenson), and providing a target for computer scientist and eldest daughter Mattie (Lucy Carless), who quizzes Anita to learn that her processor runs at 27.39 petaflops, while speculating overclocking her to 30, since she would rather fire a BB gun at her – even going as far as taking the family surname, the programme went back five weeks to a group of people who are walking through a forest. And one of them is Anita. So while I thought this was literally an invasion of the body snatchers, as some of these units are being stolen, boosted and sold on, it turned out that Leo (Colin Morgan) was the sole human leading a group of synths on the run because, as we also learned, some of them have built-in consciousness – thanks to Hobb (Danny Webb) – with one called Fred (Sope Dirisu) hiding the use of a mobile phone.
Synthetics don’t replace humans perfectly well, though. Tell one a joke and they’ll continue to laugh, long after than is normally expected. Similarly, Dr George Millican’s (William Hurt) synth, Odi (Will Tudor) is due for an upgrade, with a representative from the company wanting to replace his long-used unit for Rebecca Front as the decidedly cold Vera. Perhaps she was named after Vera from Prisoner Cell Block H, aka ‘Vinegar Tits’? It’s hard to argue the necessity when Odi malfunctions in the supermarket, accidentally striking a member of staff. It’s scary with them being faulty, but Millican doesn’t want to lose Odi as the synth has got to know him and his life over the years.
They’re even involved in the prositution racket, as seen with Niska (Emily Berrington), but quite how well they replace humans in that situation, I could not say.
At the end, Anita had accidentally burned Katharine after taking the cooking out of the oven – prioritising the safety of her youngest child, but then gave us a cliffhanger at the end as she simply kidnapped youngest daughter Sophie (Pixie Davies) and ran off with her! (well, walked off, slowly)
One question – does Sophie Hawkins’ middle name begin with B?
Humans is based on the Swedish TV series, Real Humans, which I didn’t even know about until seeing this but it sounds like it’ll be worth a watch if this is anything to go by, but I’ll wait until I’ve seen all of this one first. The macines are scary buggers, even when simply setting up Anita, but I’d still like one around the house to tidy up…
Humans continues next Sunday on Channel 4 at 9pm.
Humans is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on August 17th, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Episode 1 Score: 8/10
Director: Samuel Donovan
Producer: Chris Fry
Writers: Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent
Sound: Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Anita: Gemma Chan
Joe Hawkins: Tom Goodman-Hill
Laura Hawkins: Katherine Parkinson
Sophie Hawkins: Pixie Davies
Toby: Theo Stevenson
Mattie Hawkins: Lucy Carless
Leo: Colin Morgan
Dr George Millican: William Hurt
Odi: Will Tudor
Hobb: Danny Webb
Niska: Emily Berrington
Jill Drummond: Jill Halfpenny
Simon: Jack Derges
DS Pete Drummond: Neil Maskell
DI Karen Voss: Ruth Bradley
Harun Khan: Manpreet Bachu
Dr Ji Dae-Sun: Akie Kotabe
Himself: Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Brothel Madame: Caroline Lee Johnson
Max: Ivanno Jeremiah
Fred: Sope Dirisu
Salim Sadik: Philip Arditti
Lindsey Kiwanuka: Ellen Thomas
Vera: Rebecca Front
Robert: Jonathan Aris
Salesman: Dan Tetsell
Sally: Sophie Gooding
Senior Technician: Tor Clark
Synth: Alicia Woodhouse
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.