In a parallel present, we have highly developed “Synths” as servants. Their presence has social implications, even before we realize that some of the Synths have achieved sentience.
The first season has nearly completed its run in the UK and USA (corrected earlier error), and is at the halfway point in Canada.
Cast and Crew
Directed by Sam Donovan (first two), Daniel Nettheim (second two)
Written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (first three episodes), Joe Barton (fourth)
Gemma Chan as Anita
Tom Goodman-Hill as Joe Hawkins
Katherine Parkinson as Laura Hawkins
Lucy Carless as Mattie Hawkins
William Hurt as Dr. George Millican
Colin Morgan as Leo
Jack Derges as Simon
Sope Dirisu as Fred
Pixie Davies as Sophie Hawkins
Emily Berrington as Niska
Rebecca Front as Vera
Sophie Gooding as Sally Synth
Ivanno Jeremiah as Synth Max
Danny Webb as Hobb
Neil Maskell as Detective Pete Drummond
Jill Halfpenny as Jill Drummond
Ruth Bradley as Detective Inspector Karen Voss
Theo Stevenson as Toby Hawkins
Will Tudor as Odi
Additional cast and crew information at here.
The development of artificial servants—Synths—has significant cultural and social effects. The Hawkins family finally purchases a Synth, Anita, who/that affects family dynamics. More significantly, they suspect she is more than she appears to be.
Meanwhile, several sentient Synths and an apparently human associate seek missing members of their group, as one sentient Synth turns from quiet to violent revolutionary.
Law enforcement hunts down the sentient Synths.
A scientist who helped develop the technology feels he has been imprisoned by the Synth who attends his health needs—even as he tries to preserve the defective Synth to whom/which he has become attached.
We’re in that familiar setting of media SF, the parallel present, where the world is exactly like ours, save for one major technological innovation and the culture/support systems that surround it. While these settings don’t quite make sense when examined carefully, they work dramatically, showing how the issues play out in a world to which we can easily relate, and they keep the show’s budget under control.
The show features strong performances throughout. Gemma Chan’s ability to play a nearly-human being can be genuinely unnerving. Her Anita is almost responsible for a low point, since the other Synths (I exclude the ones who can pass), though well-acted, do not measure up.
Her previous credits include an episode of Sherlock, one of Doctor Who, and two of The IT Crowd.
The show has been well-realized, so the Low Points take the form of fairly minor nits.
As I mentioned earlier, a world with this kind of technology would diverge from ours in a number of other ways, and we have to accept the handwave to enjoy the show. Occasionally, however, the premise calls attention to things that likely should be different. Why have Synths as drivers, for example, when the technology would exist to allow cars to drive themselves? (We’re almost there already, point in fact). Why is the computer technology unaffected by the other developments?
Originality: 1/6 Apart from being an adaptation of a Swedish series (Äkta människor aka Real Humans), the show’s basic premise and the attendant ideas have kicked around SF since its inception, and have been particularly prevalent recently. Many of the show’s concerns (for example) parallel ones explored in Battlestar Galactica and its spin-offs.
Effects: 5/6 The effects are minimal but well-executed.
Story: 6/6 The show does an excellent job of taking seemingly disparate threads, each exploring a different aspect and effect of the Synth presence, and gradually connecting them all.
I suspect many people will anticipate the reveal that concludes Episode Four.
Acting: 6/6 The show boasts a fine cast, including the likes of William Hurt, who turns in the expected strong performance. The outstanding member of an excellent lot, however, is Gemma Chan.
Emotional Response: 5/6
In total, Humans, the first half of Season One, receives 35/42