TV Review: Humans

"You're just a stupid machine aren't you"

I wasn’t going to write Humans up but I’ve spoken so enthusiastically about it with several people since I watched the whole thing in three days and so thought I’d better recommend it even further. If there’s any justice in the world, Gemma Chan will win all sorts of awards for her performance as Anita (later Mia), the Synth or human-like android that has become the must-have accessory for domestic service in this parallel present-day universe. 

Anita is bought by the Hawkins family who soon start to twig that something isn’t right in the way she is behaving and as Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley’s drama continues over its 8 episodes, we come to see that the lines between human and machine have been considerably blurred by technological advancement and its potential to be exploited identified as a key priority for the nefarious powers-that-be.

It’s intelligent sci-fi that probes into notions of consciousness and whether it can truly be constructed, life and what it means to live it and how truths are rarely told in the way they need to be. Katherine Parkinson and Tom Goodman-Hill are convincing as the long-suffering couple whose problems are brought to a head by the new arrival in their household, bolstered by Lucy Carless, Theo Stevenson and Pixie Davies as their respectively sceptical, smitten and starstruck children.

The performances of the synths are what really set this show apart though. Chan is mesmerisingly fantastic as the person she was battles with the programming of who she has become, with so much expressed in the most subtlest of manners. And as her compatriots, Colin Morgan, Ivanno Jeremiah, Sope Dirisu and Emily Berrington all offer fascinatingly nuanced alternative journeys for this new breed of creatures.

There’s also a wealth of brilliant supporting performances and cameos – William Hurt, Rebecca Front’s terrifyingly mirthless medical synth, Matthew Tennyson’s theatrically inclined companion, Paul Kaye’s wackily mysterious stranger (although a little close to his current stereotype, see also Stella Gonet’s authority figure cleaving close to her recent Thatcher). It seems unlikely that a Channel 4 sci-fi drama would ever break through to the Baftas but believe me, Gemma Chan would be a worthy winner against any other television performance this year and the news that a second series has been commissioned should be celebrated.

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