3 scariest and most interesting predictions from Years and Years
The future fascinates so many of us. Works of fiction have, for centuries, attempted to make predictions about or depict versions of the future. Many of the most famous films set in the future have been hilariously wrong. Take 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece, for instance, which foresaw humans colonising space by 2001. And I’m yet to get my Back to the Future styled overboard, which the writers thought would exist by 2015.
The BBC’s recent drama Years and Years had a very simple, and extremely effective, set up. It was about a normal British family living through 15 years of political turmoil between the years of 2019 and 2034, including everything from near-nuclear war, a run on the banks, a revolution in Spain, and a Donald Trump-styled populist, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson, becoming Britain’s prime minister.
Given the long history of fiction missing the future by a wide mark, it’s a very brave thing to do, knowing that down the line your work will be judged by how close it was. While Years and Years doesn’t strictly predict the future, it is intended to speculate about where we might be heading based on current trends. But, despite that, just like any piece of fiction set in the future, Years and Years does set out what it thinks the future has in store.
What sets Russell T. Davies’ six part drama apart, however, and what makes it spectacularly terrifying, is the way Years and Years uses things that already exist, fears that are already widely held, and predictions already widely circulated to construct a world which just gets worse and worse, whilst feeling distinctly real, relatable, familiar, and frightening. It is the realism that makes Years and Years so effective. Here are just 3 of the show’s scariest, and most interesting, predictions. Warning: there are spoilers ahead!
It is certainly unconventional, and very uncompromising, to conclude the first episode of your programme with the world on the precipice of nuclear war, but Davies does just that. At the end of episode one, President Trump, on his way out of office, fires a nuclear missile at the artificial Chinese island of Hong Sha Dao - based on the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China sea - prompting fears of a global war. This is chilling, not just because it comes as a result of events that are taking place in the world we know, but also because of Trump’s previous threats of nuclear armageddon. This means that the causes are relatable and the action is well within the US president’s character.
Transhumanism is a central thread throughout the series, with one of the main characters, Bethany, determined to evolve beyond her human body and become data. This is not a brand new idea. Transhumanism is already a concept which exists, describing the desire the improve the body with technology, until we reach the point that we are able to survive beyond it. Although Years and Years depicts this technology existing by 2034 - mainly for plot convenience - in reality it’s thought that we will be able to create an exact replica of the brain by 2050.
Of course, it would be impossible to write a piece of fiction set in the near future without depicting the environmental catastrophe that is bearing down on human society. It is thought that we only have 12 years to save the planet, so a drama stretching 15 years into the future has to mention it. And Years and Years is peppered with environmental issues - the north pole melting; the extinction of insects and bananas; long periods of rain and mass flooding - showing the effect of climate change on the world the characters are living in.