Almost Human: Season 1, episode 1. Pilot (2013)
Back in the days when the boys at Lascaux were just getting their superhero cave art going, we used to sit around the camp fires telling stories about our local law enforcement personnel — we had all sorts of trouble with those neanderthals who lived in the sink estate on the other side of the mountain pass. The best stories were always about the seasoned veteran and the rookie who didn’t know one end of a flint axe from the other, but every now and then, we would get one of those odd couple story lines going. The thing our grandparents called the Cagney & Lacey effect before women were allowed to do anything other than kill dinosaurs in self-defence. So now our culture has matured and we have near-future science fiction, we can rerun these old tropes in new settings and hope no-one notices how tired they have become.
Almost Human (2013) has us in 2048. In this brief blink of an eye, we’ve moved forward from that cute little humanoid robot developed by Toyota, to fully functional androids for policing (and, presumably, other) purposes. The newest range are tough chippies who are driven by logic — they are the Spocks of this new policing culture, but without the human side to make them anything other than unimaginative, two-dimensional characters. The older models they replaced were the emoticons of policing, always there with a smile or a snarl of frustration if any of their human support team called them synthetic or mechanical.
So the set-up is not auspicious. In this future world, crime is big business with active gangs running neighbourhoods and ubergangs running the serious shit. One of this latter breed has infiltrated the city police force and used this connection to lure one police squad into a trap. The two humans did not come out well. One was irrecoverably terminated and returned to his Maker in a box. The other was seriously damaged and had to be repaired with spare parts from the Six Million Dollar Man kit available from all good toy stores near you. After lying in a coma for months, he’s been depressed. The technical term is post-traumatic synthetic disorder having been abandoned by his androids when they thought there was no chance of saving him. He’s been trying to get someone to remember what happened to him wholesale, but the man’s a foreign dickhead and barely knows what paranoid science fiction is when replicants are involved. In society at large, only a little progress in technology has been made when our cyber-enhanced human returns to duty.
This is after two years of absence, but he’s immediately pitched into an investigation involving the same ubergang that attacked his team. Because of his absence, he’s the only one the captain can trust until the mole is discovered. Our hero wants to be a loner but it’s now mandatory to have a robotic partner. His first falls out of the car being driven by our hero so the techie wunderkind digs out an old model from storage. It was going to be sent out into space to retile old space shuttles. Now it’s back into battle on the streets with a humourless human as sidekick. Life’s tough when you’re an advanced android with emotion oozing out of every orifice. So to show it’s made of the right stuff, the robot saves the grouchy human who rewards it by insisting it now call him John and sends him letters when it’s leaving.
From this you’ll understand why the show is called Almost Human. We have a rebuilt human who’s not quite one of the Borg, and a full android who’s more human than the real thing. What a team — a bit like Rick Deckard meeting up with Rachel for the first time! The ubergang has been keeping a low profile since our surviving human was taken out of circulation, but just happens to burst back into life when he’s up to continuing the fight. Now they are attacking an armored truck, kidnapping one of this city’s finest, and then mounting a full assault on precinct 13.5 to get their head back. That’s a busy day even for an ubergang. Why will I watch another episode? Because the chemistry between Karl Urban who’s from from New Zealand via Bones in Star Trek and the robotic Dredd (bit of typecasting there) and Michael Ealy works. Even though they are being given silly things to do, they manage to make it seem reasonably credible (insofar as science fiction ever can be credible). The acid test is going to be whether the series will now actively consider what to do about the vulnerability of the new androids and build on the story arcs rather than producing essentially standalone episodes. I’m in wait-and-see mode.
For a review of another episode, see
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 2. Skin (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 3. Are You Receiving? (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 4. The Bends (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 5. Blood Brothers (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 6. Arrhythmia (2013)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 7. Simon Says (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 8. You Are Here (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 9. Unbound (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 10. Perception (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 11. Disrupt (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 12. Beholder (2014)
Almost Human: Season 1, episode 13. Straw Man (2014).