From ‘The 100’ to ‘3%’, Dystopian TV Series to Watch out For
Dystopia, coined from the Greek word cacotopia that roughly translates to “not-in-a-good-place”, is all the rage these days. From books to movies and television, “imaginary bad places” are really working for audiences. American web-series, The Handmaid’s Tale, which aired in 2017, has won several accolades for its dark theme. Black Mirror, another dark sci-fi dystopian thriller has been renewed for its fifth season, thanks to its popularity.
In a world where there is a discussion about the right to privacy (what with the invasion of social media et al), moral policing, the state making efforts to dictate what we eat, where we go, and how we live - it’s probably no surprise that we consume so much of modern dystopia aka anti-utopia.
Dystopian fiction is anything but new. Themes that dovetail around concepts like “the beginning of the end” have been around since George Orwell’s 1984, if not before.
1984 is among the most popular examples of dystopian fiction where individualism and independent thinking come under the scanner when the State (under the rule of a mysterious “Big Brother”) constantly monitors its citizens through the “Thought Police”.
Aside: Reality television franchise Big Brother (Bigg Boss in India), which works on an eerily similar premise, has been sued by the estate of Orwell for copyright infringement. The attorneys reportedly alleged that the corporate company Viacom had “intentionally created a show that viewers will believe is connected to or approved of by the owners of Orwell’s novel”. After a series of court rulings, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Here’s a look at all the dystopian series for anyone who enjoys the “imaginary bad places” better than the utopian “happy endings”. To no one’s surprise, most of them are set in an alternate future.
The British sci-fi anthology series is decidedly the defining dystopian series of this decade. Black Mirror digs deep into our disturbing and burgeoning attachment to technology. The series is a satirical take on social media addictions, virtual reality and how it shapes our world.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name has been made into a successful TV series and managed to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama series. The Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian future where women have no rights, and no say in their fates.
Brazilian thriller series, 3% showcases a dystopian future that emphasises the divide between the rich and the poor. 20-year-olds get an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join 3% of the rich by ‘The Process’ involving potentially fatal competitions to test one’s limits. If it reminds you of Hunger Games, you aren’t alone. Comparisons to the show have been drawn, but 3% brings its uniqueness to the concept of “meritocracy” and some well-etched characters to lead the way.
Westworld is a dytopian Disneyland full of robots offering its guests a ‘wild west’ theme. The cowboy wonderland with android robots known as “hosts” provide a nostalgic, futuristic yet artificial vibe to the guests. The show’s premise addresses the most fundamental of questions - what does it mean to be human in a world of virtual realities?
A coming of age dystopian drama, The 100 thrusts the last living hope for the future on Earth (100 of an imaginary world’s petty criminals under 18) with only one diktat: to survive. These teens crash-land on Earth and learn to live on the planet after it was supposedly destroyed due to radiation after the nuclear war. While initially written off as a teen drama, the show has been recently renewed for its fifth season.
The Man In The High Castle
Loosely based on a 1962 novel of the same name by Philip K Dick, The Man In The High Castle is a dystopian alternate history lesson post World War II with Japan and Germany on the winning side. The reversed world consisting of a Nazi America is a dark visual treat and draws several parallels with the current political scenario in America. The Amazon Original series has been renewed for its third season.
The science fiction drama shows America under occupation of the military regime who are consorting with extra-terrestrial beings. A family is separated when these extra terrestrial beings invade and occupy a part of an area in Los Angeles. Colony follows a determined father, played by Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost), who decides to get his son back.
Fringe is another American sci-fi series which premiered in 2008 and ran for five seasons. The series is based on three members of a fictional Fringe Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The trio investigates mysterious incidents related to a “parallel universe”.