Humans (stylised as HUM?NS) is a science fiction television series that debuted on Channel 4. Written by the British team Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley, based on the Swedish science fiction drama Real Humans, the series explores the themes of artificial intelligence and robotics, focusing on the social, cultural, and psychological impact of the invention of anthropomorphic robots called "synths". The series is produced jointly by AMC in the United States, and Channel 4 and Kudos in the United Kingdom.
Eight episodes were produced for the first series which aired between 14 June and 2 August 2015. The second eight-episode series was broadcast in the UK between 30 October and 18 December 2016. A third series was commissioned in March 2017 and aired eight episodes between 17 May and 5 July 2018.
Introduced in series 1
- Manpreet Bachu as Harun Khan (series 1), a friend of Mattie, who helps her hack the synths.
- Emily Berrington as Niska, a conscious synth built by David Elster to be Leo's sister, assigned to work as a prostitute when they were separated. She is violent and resentful of humans and wishes to live her own life, but later starts to care about humans. In the second season, she uploads the consciousness program to the synth network, but only a few synths are successfully upgraded. After a whirlwind relationship with Astrid, Niska returns to the Hawkins and asks to be tried as a human for her crimes. In the third season, after Astrid is injured in a terrorist attack, Niska spends the series looking for revenge for her girlfriend. At the end of the third season, Niska meets V, originally Odi, who tells her she is unique and has great power.
- Ruth Bradley as D.I. Karen Voss (series 1-3), police partner of D.S. Pete Drummond. Those around her have not discovered that she is a conscious synth and was created by David Elster to replace his deceased wife, Beatrice. Karen wants to end her life but her programming forbids suicide. By the second season, she has become more accepting of her status and is in a relationship with Pete.
- Lucy Carless as Matilda "Mattie" Hawkins, Laura and Joe's teenage daughter, who is upset that her family is falling apart and angry at the emerging role of synths in society. Despite her own intelligence, she feels useless, claiming that synths will soon be able to do anything she can do. She is skilled in computer programming and hacking.
- Gemma Chan as Anita/Mia, a servile synth belonging to the Hawkins family. She was sold as new, but is actually Mia, a conscious synth built by David Elster to be Leo's babysitter, kidnapped and hacked with new software. By the second season, she has begun working in a café, and is romantically interested in her employer.
- Pixie Davies as Sophie Hawkins, Laura and Joe's younger daughter. She names the new family synth Anita after a friend of hers who has moved away, and develops a strong affection for the synth.
- Jack Derges as Simon (series 1), Jill Drummond's attractive synth caregiver and physiotherapist. Pete is dissatisfied with Simon, thinking that he is his replacement.
- Sope Dirisu as Fred (series 1), a conscious synth built by David Elster to be a brother to Leo. Professor Hobb likens Fred to the Mona Lisa in terms of the complexity of his design. He has gone missing between series one and two, although Max believes that he is safe.
- Rebecca Front as Vera (series 1), a medical synth from the NHS who is supposed to replace Odi as George Millican's caregiver. Millican is frustrated with her relentlessly officious and domineering manner, and generally refuses her help.
- Tom Goodman-Hill as Joseph "Joe" Hawkins, Laura's husband. He bought Anita because he felt Laura's absence caused a void, and he needed help managing their family.
- Jill Halfpenny as Jill Drummond (series 1), Pete's disabled wife. She is dissatisfied with Pete.
- Ivanno Jeremiah as Max, Leo Elster's conscious synth and confidant, built by David Elster to be a brother to Leo.
- Neil Maskell as D.S. Pete Drummond (series 1-2), an unhappy Special Technologies Task Force officer who has always been suspicious of synths. He is partnered with D.I. Karen Voss. By the second series, Pete and Jill have separated and Pete is shown to be involved with Karen despite his knowledge of her true nature.
- Colin Morgan as Leo Elster, son of David Elster, a part-synth fugitive believed by the rest of the world to have died in a car accident; he was in a fatal accident as a child and his father developed synth components to cope with the damage to his brain. He spent the first series trying to track down and reunite the conscious synths made by his father, while in the second series he is trying to help synths adjust to the spread of the consciousness program.
- Katherine Parkinson as Laura Hawkins, a lawyer and mother of three who feels uncomfortable around synths. She had concerns about Anita and sought to find out more about her. By the second season, she had become more accepting of the idea, agreeing to act as Niska's lawyer in her subsequent trial for murder while Niska underwent an assessment to determine if she was truly conscious.
- Theo Stevenson as Toby Hawkins, Laura and Joe's teenage son, who is attracted to, and has become protective of, Anita.
- Will Tudor as Odi (series 1-2), Dr George Millican's malfunctioning synth caregiver. He is prone to system glitches, though Millican is unwilling to recycle him or return him to the NHS. He stays with the Hawkins briefly in series 2.
- Tudor also portrays V (series 3), an artificial intelligence developed by Athena Morrow based on her deceased daughter Virginia. Following Day Zero, V inhabits Odi's body, having erased his consciousness at his request, and becomes the mythic purple-eyed "Synth Who Sleeps". V leads Niska to her so as to grant her connectivity to the internet and persuade her to become the synths' leader. Chloe Wicks voices the disembodied V in series 2.
- Danny Webb as Professor Edwin Hobb (Series 1-2), an artificial intelligence researcher. He is simultaneously concerned about and intrigued by the possibility of conscious synthetics. Hobb is a key player in the quiet government investigation to find the four synths deemed a threat.
- William Hurt as Dr George Millican (series 1), a retired artificial intelligence researcher and widower who suffers memory loss and physical disabilities secondary to a stroke. He forms a special bond with his outdated caregiver synth named Odi. He previously worked with Leo's father.
Introduced in series 2
- Marshall Allman as Milo Khoury (series 2), a techno-entrepreneur and owner of Qualia, a synth research corporation, who seeks to harness the sentient synthetics for himself.
- Sonya Cassidy as Hester (series 2), a synth who becomes self-aware from the consciousness program unleashed across the world. She is rescued from a synth-laboured facility by Leo and co., but soon starts to exhibit disturbing behaviour.
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Dr Athena Morrow (series 2), an AI researcher based in San Francisco who has been invited to reverse engineer the consciousness program. She presents herself as unconcerned about the conscious synthetics, but in reality she has already independently developed her own sentient A.I., who she refers to as 'V' (for Virginia, her daughter), and is attempting to provide V with a new body.
- Billy Jenkins as Seraph Sam (series 3, recurring series 2)
Introduced in series 3
- Holly Earl as Agnes (series 3), a synth in Mia and Max's group. She is suspicious of their leadership and sympathizes with the terrorists.
- Ukweli Roach as Anatole (series 3), a former courtesan synth who believes in a higher power, namely David Elster, and that synths were always meant to be given consciousness.
- Mark Bonnar as Dr Neil Sommer (series 3), a charming scientist on a government commission with whom Laura develops a strong personal connection.
- Dino Fetscher as Stanley (series 3), an "Orange-Eyed" synth given to a reluctant Laura by the Dryden commission group as her personal synth and protector.
- Ellen Thomas as Lindsey Kiwanuka.
- Jonathan Aris as Robert.
- Stephen Boxer as Dr David Elster, Leo's father and the creator of the conscious synths.
- Spencer Norways as Young Leo Elster.
- Letitia Wright as Renie (series 2), a human who lives as if she were a synth and whom Toby dates
- Bella Dayne as Astrid, a waitress who becomes romantically involved with Niska, helping Niska become more emotionally invested with humans.
- Ritu Arya as Flash (series 2-3), a house synth who, like Hester, becomes self-aware from the consciousness program. Flash is rescued by Max, and they find a new safe haven in an abandoned train.
- Sam Palladio as Ed (series 2-3), Mia's employer, with whom she forms a special bond. He is the owner of a beachside cafe.
The series was announced in April 2014 as part of a partnership between Channel 4 and Xbox Entertainment Studios. However, after Microsoft closed Xbox Entertainment Studios, AMC came aboard as partners to Channel 4. Filming commenced in the autumn of 2014, with the series premiering on 14 June 2015. The series' budget was £12 million.
The commissioning of a second, eight-episode series to air in 2016 was announced 31 July 2015. Gemma Chan had previously said, in an interview with Den of Geek, that the first series is "not completely tied up at the end" and "there are definitely still areas to be explored for a second series." Similarly, C4's Head of International Drama, Simon Maxwell, told Broadcast's Talking TV podcast that: "We've got a story that is told over a great many episodes and is very much designed to come back and return. We'll be following those characters on a really epic journey." Filming of the second series began on 11 April 2016, with a premiere date of 30 October 2016.
A third series was commissioned in March 2017 and premiered in the UK on 17 May 2018, and in the United States on 5 June 2018.
During rehearsals, Gemma Chan and her fellow robot actors were sent to a 'synth school' run by the show's choreographer, Dan O'Neill, in a bid to rid themselves of any human physical gestures and become convincing synths. "It was about stripping back any physical tics you naturally incorporate into performance", explains Chan, who adds that it was a "relief to go home and slouch" after a day on set.
Katherine Parkinson began filming six weeks after giving birth to her second child; her part in the series was filmed on 10 separate days, between 10 days' rest.
For series two, the production visited Thanet in Kent where they used Botany Bay and West Bay as the location where Anita (Gemma Chan) has taken a job.
Broadcast and release
The first episode of the series was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on 14 June 2015 and premiered in the United States and Canada on AMC on 28 June 2015. It started airing in Australia on ABC2, on 3 August 2015. It was shown on TV3 in New Zealand from 11 August 2015.
The second series premiered in the United Kingdom on 30 October 2016, in Australia the day after and premiered in the United States on 13 February 2017.
For one week in May 2015, the series was marketed using a fake shopfront for Persona Synthetics on London's Regent Street, inviting passers-by to create their own synth using interactive screens, and employing actors who pretended to be synths around central London. An accompanying Channel 4 trailer for the series in the style of an advert for Persona featured "Sally," a robotic servant described as "your new best friend." In addition targeted website banner adverts appeared on the eBay uk website leading to an eBay "buy it now" listing for a Persona Synthetics Robot.
Channel 4 DVD released the first season on DVD in the UK on 17 August 2015. Spirit Entertainment released the second season on DVD in the UK on 16 January 2017.
In Region 1, Acorn Media has released both seasons on DVD & Blu-ray. Humans - Season 1: Uncut UK Edition was released on March 29, 2016.Humans - Season 2: Uncut UK Edition was released on October 31, 2017.
The first season of Humans received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the season an 88% based on 50 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site's critical consensus reading: "Humans is a mature, high-octane thriller offering emotional intrigue and thought-provoking suspense that should prove irresistible to sci-fi fans while remaining accessible enough to lure in genre agnostics."Metacritic gave the season a rating of 73 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The second season received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a score of 100%, based on 12 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Humans continues to quietly distinguish itself in the sci-fi drama category - and prove better than most of its flashier AI competition." On Metacritic, the season has a rating of 82 out of 100, based on 8 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."
The show is Channel 4's highest rated drama since the 1992 programme The Camomile Lawn. It has been described as having "universal appeal" and as being "one of 2015's dramatic hits." The show has been described as "a bit dystopian and Black Mirror-esque." A review in the Telegraph praised the show's performances but said that the story is "conceptually ... old hat" and "wasn't breaking any new ground philosophically."
In December 2015, Humans was voted Digital Spy's "Top Show of 2015," described as managing "to stand out as something totally different in a TV landscape awash with cop shows and crime thrillers... And its fearlessness, its creativity and its quality all deserve to be recognised."
Awards and nominations
The series explores a number of science fiction themes, including artificial intelligence, consciousness, human-robot interaction, superintelligence, mind uploading and the laws of robotics, as well as social themes like racism, slavery and class relations. The "synths" threaten employment and social roles, leading to the emergence of a Luddite movement to destroy them.
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