Ambition is perhaps a word that is overused when it comes to describing art, so much so that it has become unambitious. It’s an oxymoron worthy of Years And Years, the latest creation from the much respected Russell T Davies. This opening episode is a bold statement of intent and there is definitely the sense that he’s going for, not only a grand artistic statement but plenty of artistic licence to boot. One family, fifteen years and six episodes.
To begin with, we cosy up in the different living rooms of the Lyons family. Daniel (Russell Tovey) who looks set to be the moral centre of this screwed up universe is shocked by a statement from politician Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) on Question Time. Things get political from this very first scene and there goes on to be references to Donald Trump, Brexit and the word salad our politicians deal in today. Daniel even works at a refugee camp as part of his role as “boring housing officer”.
Meanwhile, Stephen and Celeste Lyons (Rory Kinnear and T’Nia Miller) are having issues with their daughter who, after a truly funny Snapchat filter aping scene, declares she wants to be “transhuman” which basically involves becoming disembodied and uploaded to a cloud. It’s a Classic Russell T Davies moment in the Doctor Who style element of the idea and in the line “I will go analogue if I have to!” that Celeste barks in anger.
Rosie Lyons (Ruth Madeley) gives birth and the scene is set. The Lyon family are the backdrop for our journey into. Suddenly we rush through a few years faster than you can take a sip of your tea. Trump has been elected for a second term and indirect parallels to actual current events, Rook has set up ‘The Four Star Party’. Many viewers will class Years and Years as snowflake left-wing propaganda and perhaps it doesn’t get its message out in the most subtle of ways but the script and performances are powerful enough to override its directness. It does perfectly capture the rate at which technology is moving and the growing disconnect in human interaction. There’s a strange sense of unreality in a very real world. As Daniel sagely points out “our brains are devolving”.
Lastly, we meet another Lyons in the pack. Edith (Jessica Hynes) who is an activist doing good deeds abroad. As the family connect over technology (of course) war sirens blare as America launches an attack on well, exactly where Edith is. From the mundane beginning to a near apocalyptic end. It’s a world where bodies are no longer physical, communication is impersonal, sex is literally robotic and Russell T Davies’ writing is at its eclectic finest.
TIME AND TIME AGAIN:
– Could Russell Tovey star in his own spin-off series called ‘Ears And Ears?’. Ahem.
– What is the relevance of Daniel’s soon to be doomed marriage and his affair with a Ukrainian refugee? The need for affection and not someone consumed by technology?
– Will things end as bleak as they seem? Will humanity win in the end?
– If everyone had a 3D Snapchat dog filter would the RSPCA be inundated with even more unwanted dogs. Doesn’t bear thinking about.
– Flippin’ eck. Who else thought some of the accents sounded more Yorkshire than Mancunian?
Years & Years Continues Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC ONE