At first glance, Brave New World seems like nothing more than a shallow interpretation of Aldous Huxley’s iconic science fiction novel of the same name. At least according to the current Internet consensus surrounding the show. As someone who has not read the novel, I have no literary background from which to judge the series. As such, I approached the show with an open mind and I do believe it is being unfairly judged by the vocal literary minority.
Brave New World is set in the far future and focusses on a singular city by the name of New London. It is here where viewers are introduced to how this gorgeous utopia functions. It is a world in which religion, monogamy, privacy, solipsism and emotion are considered taboo. Under the guidance of INDRA (a mysterious and unquestioned force/entity), these hindrances have been removed from society; and have subsequently allowed the denizens of New London to be freed from the shackles of disease, prejudice and secrecy. For all intents and purposes, it is a model society embodying perfection. At least, that is what the audience is led to believe.
Under the unquestioned overwatch of INDRA, all New Londoner minds are connected into one central social feed through wearable ocular technology. As such, every single person has access to the social feeds of every other individual, and also access to services, entertainment and more at a moments cursory glance. It is also a clever means of allowing every citizen to unintentionally police each other. After all, failure to adhere to New London’s strict rules might result in a trip to being ‘re-conditioned’ in order to once again become a functioning and compliant member of the overall ‘social body’. Citizens are also required to consistently have their “levels” under control through the use of an oral chemical system called SOMA, which is used to suppress all emotion with the exception of pleasure and happiness.
A final layer of keeping New London’s society functioning is the implementation of a five level deep caste system, one used to ensure every member has a place in this perfect utopia. The irony of the situation, of course, is how classism is meant to be an aspect of the ‘old world’ yet it is unquestioningly abided to because INDRA says it is the only way for the social body to remain stable; and thus perfect. As a result, each class is genetically engineered with certain permutations in mind; whereby the Alphas are the elite (positions of power), followed by Betas for science and pleasure (similar to alpha, but less need for cognitive thinking), with Gammas fulfilling low-risk repetitive tasks, followed by Deltas who are mass produced genetic twins for menial jobs, and finally Epsilons – mass produced genetic clones who are not able to read, write or think critically as they must do the “undesirable work” needed for the society to function.
In INDRA’s pursuit for perfection, the ‘real world’ has been pushed aside and ultimately forgotten for New London to thrive. In so doing, any locale outside of the city’s barriers is considered the savage lands, where humanity has been allowed to live with emotion and hardship. A place where pain exists to be felt, and disease continues to run rampant. A post apocalyptic world without technology or medicine, and where feral ‘survival of the fittest’ beliefs reign supreme. Rather sardonically, it also serves as a holiday destination for members of New London and is a “gentle reminder” to always appreciate and be aware of INDRA’s goodwill.
With the above in mind, the narrative in Brave New World is wonderfully intriguing. Although a fairly slow burn, with almost half of the season used for character development and to setup the overarching story, the show does ultimately do a wonderful job of showcasing how even the most perfect of systems are susceptible to corruption. In this sense, the narrative arcs portrayed throughout the series are similar to the layers of an onion, slowly peeling away towards a Schrodingers paradox. In this sense the notion of imperfection dictating perfection, and vice versa, is cleverly revealed, and further expanded upon in some interesting ways (to speak of them would ruin the many twists and turns in the series). Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the emotion felt in the post-apocalyptic world with the emotionless perfection of New London also serves as an interesting narrative point for many of the characters. Each of whom must balance the intricacies and nuance of a utopian society with the irreverence and balance of what it means to be truly ‘free’. Thankfully, the leisurely pace of the engrossing narrative is supported by incredible visuals and some stellar performances from its noteworthy cast.
Perhaps one of the largest criticisms of Brave New World has to do with its over use of sex and drugs to illustrate a society that revers pleasure and happiness above all else. However, I would disagree with that notion. In my mind, the use of these vices does a fantastic job of showcasing how INDRA’s system of perfection is not as blemish free as originally thought. In this sense, viewers are taken on an intensely captivating journey through the intertwining lives of an Alpha (Harry Lloyd) who questions his societal position and truth of his life, a Beta (Jessica Brown Findlay) who discovers the power of emotion and the truth of a suppressed system, an outsider (Alden Ehrenreich) who acts as the lint to spark a fire of social enlightenment; and an Epsilom (Joseph Morgan) who learns how there is more to life than eternal servitude.
Brave New World is a wonderfully fresh and intriguing new science fiction series with a strong, albeit unhurried, narrative that guides viewers through the complexities of what it means to be human when the perfection of a utopian society incentivises the loss of the most basic of emotions. It revels in the juxtaposition of ultimate control versus true freedom, and does a fantastic job of peeling back the illusory effects of pleasure and ecstasy to reveal the infallibility of perceived perfection.
|Run time||9 episodes (+- 45 min each)|
|Acquisition||Streamed via Peacock|