Humans: Series One - TV Review

'A series doesn't become the most popular on a terrestrial channel for over twenty years without being really rather good'.

The confirmation that Humans would be back for a second series before the final episode of series one had aired was met with enthusiasm by fans, but in hindsight was perhaps less in doubt than one might assume. Humans has become the most successful original Channel 4 drama in more than two decades, with praise heaped upon it from both audiences and critics alike, meaning a second run of episodes was most likely in the offing fairly early on. The fact that the well-received Swedish series Äkta människor ("Real Humans") upon which Humans is based has already run for two seasons also suggests Channel 4 probably went into production with at least some intention of making multiple series.

That said, even popular and critical success is no guarantee of the survival of a show such as this - just look at Utupia, another Channel 4 production cut short after two series despite strong reviews and an ardent fan base. Humans' survival, therefore, cannot be seen as ever being a foregone conclusion. Whilst the clever viral advertising utilised before its broadcast probably helped, a series doesn't become the most popular on a terrestrial channel for twenty years without being really rather good.

Series creators Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley, who also wrote six of the eight episodes, achieve a pleasingly tight synthesis of writing, setting and performance very early on, making the parallel present day that Humans takes place in feel both believable and well-conceived. Reminiscent of the worlds presented in Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror with a far less disturbing edge, Humans' technologically-advanced society is arguably not all that original, but that doesn't stop it being one of the most well-realised examples of this kind of setting seen for some time. The fact that much of the first two episodes is used to set the scene and lay the groundwork for both the characters and the world they inhabit, sowing a plot seed here and there to germinate when the time is right, works wonders for the series as a whole.

When the narrative ball truly gets rolling, Vincent and Brackley maintain the same meticulous level of control, ensuring key twists and revelations happen at just the right moment to make Humans a gripping and smartly structured watch throughout. Threads that ultimately reveal themselves as subplots feel just as important as the main story, keeping you guessing whilst fleshing out the drama brilliantly. The ethical and moral questions that are also raised throughout complement the story, rather than shouting over the top of it.

With a considerable chunk of the cast playing advanced robots known as "synths", it's impressive how comprehensively well the concept is played out by the actors. Gemma Chan as Mia gives perhaps the standout turn of the synths - and arguably of the entire series - although Emily Berrington's sinister Niska and Ivanno Jeremiah's endlessly likeable Max also deserve special mention. The human contingent also deliver a wealth of strong performances, with Katherine Parkinson, Neil Maskell and William Hurt all excellent amongst an impressive cast.

Whilst not perfect - a few early plot threads end up as unexplained red herrings, and a couple of characters fade away a bit too abruptly - Humans is exactly the kind of intelligent and well-made sci-fi drama Britain needs to make more of. Whilst the final episode leaves things open for the stories of several of the characters from series one to continue, series two offers ample opportunities for the world of Humans to be explored in even greater depth, hopefully expanding upon the excellent work already achieved.

Humans: Series One is available on All 4 at the time of writing.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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