On Wednesday July 15, NBC Universal launches its new streaming service, Peacock. In addition to offering lots of fan-favorite NBC Universal programs from the past, the service will also be the home to several brand new scripted original programs. The new hour-long dystopian sci-fi drama, Brave New World, is a based on Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel of the same name, and is the most ambitious of Peacock’s new offerings.
The series is set hundreds of years in the future, when a more evolved form of society has been established in the Utopian world of New London. There are only three rules in New London: No privacy, No family, and No monogamy. Residents of New London have no family because they are created via embryos in the hatchery. Each embryo is pre-assigned to a specific class. Alphas are the most intelligent and most desirable of the lot, and under them are the Betas, then the Gammas, and so on, down to the Epsilons, who are the true workers in New London. Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay, Downton Abbey) is one of the Betas who works in the hatchery, assigning classes to new embryos.
All New London residents receive an ocular implant that connects them to the central social body, a neural network known as INDRA. These implants allow the residents to instantly identify the class of any other resident, to ensure proper social interactions. There is no sense of privacy in New London because the implants also allow any resident to see through the eyes of anyone else. As for the third rule, monogamous relationships are seen as savage and selfish in New London. Sex with multiple partners is both encouraged and required. The Pleasure Garden is a regular hangout, where New Londoners can explore their deepest pleasures and seek out new relationships. Helping to plan the venue’s entertainment is Wilhelmina “Helm” Watson (Hannah John-Kamen, Killjoys), a woman with the unusual ability to make people feel certain emotions.
While pleasure is a priority for those in New London, pain is something to be avoided. New London has become a society of pill-poppers, addicted to a mood-enhancing drug called soma, which keeps their emotions and feelings in check. The residents of New London always have a personal soma dispenser on hand should they feel any kind of pain or discomfort arising. It is the responsibility of Alpha Pluses such as Counselor Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd, Counterpart) to make sure that the New London residents maintain their levels.
Just a quick 11-minute rocket trip away in North America is The Savage Lands, an adventure theme park where New Londoners can experience the old, primitive savage lifestyle—things like greed, superstition, and pain. The park is divided into four houses, each providing a glimpse into a different aspect of savage life—the House of Want, The House of Futility, The House of Consequence, and the House of Monogamy. The native residents of the area have become unwitting participants in this form of entertainment for the New Londoners. They dress up and put on shows for their amusement—re-enacting things like a greedy Black Friday shopping frenzy, or a shotgun wedding as a demonstration of the antiquated concepts of marriage and religion.
John (Alden Ehrenreich, Solo: A Star Wars Story), lives in a rundown home with his mother, Linda (Demi Moore), who is constantly drunk, or inappropriately dressed. John is a car washer and a stage-hand for the actors in House of Monogamy. Tensions are rising—the native folks have had enough of the vacationers, and are plotting a way to take back their land. They want John to join them in their fight, but he’s apprehensive. However, it isn’t long before John comes face to face with Bernard and Lenina, who are on a vacation to the Savage Lands, and must make a decision that will change his life forever. The result will start a chain reaction that ripples back to New London, shining a new light on the Utopian society, revealing that not everything is as perfect as it appears to be, and launching a new revolution.
Brave New World is certainly the most complex of the new Peacock Originals. It is a bit of a roller-coaster of a ride. The first couple episodes slowly introduce the viewer to these two strange worlds, and then the series becomes more of an action-packed, tense thriller that will have your heart pounding, before it settles into more of a cerebral sci-fi drama. The series has quite of bit of humor, even as things get pretty dark. The humor is often mixed with social commentary as the New Londoner’s try to understand the savages’ primitive customs and lifestyle. The series also poses the question as to which civilization is truly the savage one. I had mixed feelings about this series—parts of it were phenomenal, while others didn’t work quite as well for me. The cast and production values are amazing—there are so many recognizable actors who pop up, and it is a very beautiful looking show. I thought the series started off great, setting up a very interesting Westworld/Jurassic Park like scenario that I would have loved to see played out and explored further, but instead it heads off into a very different, more cerebral direction, though still including the occasional action sequence. And speaking of action, Brave New World is certainly made for adult audiences—the Pleasure Garden is visited quite often, and I think only one episode did not include some sort of orgy-related scene.
At launch, all 9 hour-long episodes of the first season will be available to watch for Peacock Premium subscribers, while those with the basic free tier should be able to at least check out the first episode.