The dark side of Utopia

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IOL Wyman JH Wyman

Debashine Thangevelo

JH Wyman may not be an old-hand in the sci-fi/action genre like Steven Spielberg, but that hasn’t kept him from flexing his creative muscles after Fringe.

His latest undertaking, Almost Human, with co-executive producer JJ Abrams (Fringe, Person of Interest and Revolution), takes the whole police drama angle to a futuristic peak.

Explaining how the idea for the series germinated, he says: “I’m a little terrified by technology. I love it, but I’m terrified of it because my stock and trade is human connection. I always write stories about how life is valued by the human connections that we make.

“JJ Abrams said something great the other day. He said that technology takes us further away from the people close to us, but closer to the people further away from us. Meaning, I can talk to my friend across the sea in Paris without a problem, yet I don’t know what my 21-year-old daughter is doing right now. It’s such a weird time for communication.

“When I was researching Fringe, I discovered a lot of things about technology that kept me up at night. I would think about where we’re going with personal freedoms and the idea of how much they know about you. We are promised this beautiful Utopian version of the future with computers and technology – but there is a very dark side to that.

“I’m really interested in trying to create cautionary tales. I want to send messages that say, ‘Okay let’s be careful. Being human is really what life is all about. You can’t ever lose that, or we’re in big trouble.’”

Although he admits to being influenced by Philip K Dick, who’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was turned into the 1982 hit movie, Blade Runner, which was directed by Ridley Scott, Wyman doesn’t stray from his own imagination about the future.

“I think anybody who is into science fiction will understand that if we even approach the atmosphere Philip K Dick created, we will be lucky. I think he’s a genius. While I’m influenced by him, I had my own concept about the future.

“It seems the writers of a lot of futuristic projects are trying to say that we have already messed it up – but I’m interested in the fact that human beings are resilient and we won’t make that many mistakes. We will try to fix them and we will make the future world a better place to live in.”

Inviting critics into his imagination, he adds: “What struck me was that in all these dark, futuristic productions, it’s raining all the time. It’s like there’s no hope. Don’t people have children any longer? Don’t they want to have nice birthday parties for their 7-year-old? I know that if you only had eight bucks left and your kid wanted a toy, that’s how you would spend it.

“So why isn’t that part of the future? We’re going to have to try and find a way to deal with what’s going on. I wanted Almost Human to be like a future I actually believe is going to happen.”

Given the serious overtone, Wyman explains why they decided against humour puncturing the drama.

“The main character, John Kennex, is on a journey because he lost a lot of people. He’s trying to figure everything out and find his own place in technology. He’s our vision of what it’s like to feel unsettled with what’s going on. His purpose is to be a cop in a very dangerous era.”

As for whether it is John or Dorian who dominates his thought process, the creator offers: “That’s a really good question. I have to say John because John to me is the last bastion of somebody who is asking the questions that I ask. John feels like technology might be leaving humanity behind. He sees it on a daily basis and he’s terrified of it.

“I think he really admires what I admire in the human condition: connection. You can really understand that he’s on the side of humanity and that he wants people to realise how beautiful it is. Even with its flaws, humanity is still incredible.”

On what he hopes viewers will take away from the show, Wyman enthuses: “Ultimately, it’s about finding that perfect balance between John and Dorian – the perfect balance between man and machine.

“I think there’s an inevitability that we’re going to get there eventually.”


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