The BBC’s latest six-part drama Years and Years, written by Gavin and Stacey star, Russell T. Davies, is fantastic. The series offers a dystopian outlook on the near future, following one complex, yet normal, family over the course of fifteen years. I would recommend it to anybody interested in technology and society, but with a warning – it will leave you worried about the future of our global society.
The series cleverly links technology with populist politics, whilst following the individual stories of each character. Every home is fitted with a smart speaker, which eventually gets fitted into the walls of every house, named Señor, it is an advanced version of Alexa or Google Home. Through Señor, the family is very well connected, they regularly call one another or speak as a family in group phone calls. The family meet each other in person, often, with all the usual disagreements that come with modern family life.
It will leave you worried about the future of our global society
The family offer their verdict on the latest popular (and populist) politician, Vivienne Rook, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson. Some family members voted to leave, some to remain. Some support Rook’s new party, some back traditional political parties. Rook, who resembles a mix of Farage, Le Pen and Trump, taps into the issues which the voting public really care about, famously swearing live on Question Time. She dupes the public and becomes Prime Minister – but becomes the first sitting leader to be arrested in the UK.
Other political issues are explored too – the USA and China get into a disagreement over land, and ultimately, power. The current debate around refugees and immigration is explored, resulting in a Calais-esque refugee camp in the UK. Some characters are gay, some straight and one is even ‘trans-human’: somebody who identifies as a robot. This leads to Bethany, played by Lydia West, having technology implanted into her hand. Dodgy eye technology surgery goes wrong on another character, showing the perils of modern technology.
It is so believable and clearly rooted in current political and technical themes
The characters all come close to death at some point. Whether this be through a dangerous refugee crossing or a nuclear attack, it presents a worrying analysis of the risks facing our society over the next fifteen years (and beyond).
Whilst the programme is fantastic and engaging (I binge-watched in one day), it feels a bit too close to home. It is so believable and clearly rooted in current political and technical themes. It left me feeling concerned about the problems in our society. How do we overcome casual and institutional racism? How do we ensure we can fully control technology, and not be controlled by it? How can we live within a competitive global political system but not have nuclear war? Whilst Years and Years is brilliant, it poses more questions than it answers.