Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal, Torchwood, Cucumber) has done it again.
His newest work Years and Years is an inspiring, confronting work that peers dangerously into the near future like an episode of Black Mirror. And what we see is initially terrifying. But at its heart is an extended Manchester family, the Lyons.
What begins in 2019 travels forward like a finale of Six Feet Under, initially to 2024 and along with it the technological, social and economic changes.
The Lyons include financial advisor Stephen Lyons (Rory Kinnear) and wife Celeste (T’Nia Miller), brother Daniel (Russell Tovey) a gay housing officer working with asylum seekers and husband Ralph Cousins (Dino Fetscher), sister Rosie Lyons (Ruth Madeley) who has spina bifida, sister and political activist Edith (Jessica Hynes). There is also elderly matriarch Muriel (Anne Reid) and a handful of teens.
And then there is outspoken and aspiring MP Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) who is cut from the Trump / Hanson / Johnson cloth of sprouting outrageously-populist stuff, often based in little fact, but tapping into grass-roots anger.
“Israel & Palestine? I don’t give a f***!” she bleats, as she underlines concerns over local garbage and parking concerns.
Life for the Lyons is spiralling out of control. The banking system is under pressure, climate change is unstoppable, fake news abounds, Trump is re-elected in 2020 and teenager Bethany (Lydia West) decides she is ‘trans-human’ (I won’t spoil it for you).
When they are not gathered together the family frequently communicates in a group phone / Facetime / Skype chat. Sometimes they even watch TV this way from separate locations. Amongst other tech changes are an Alexa-like assistant known as ‘Signor’ and VR skins you can wear in the real world.
But all of that counts for very little when a cataclysmic event disrupts Muriel’s birthday gathering. It’s all so feasible as to be chilling viewing. Anarchy, fear and passion follow.
Over subsequent episodes we will watch how lives are impacted at the same time as Vivienne Rook begins a meteoric rise in British politics.
Davies writes with a visionary voice and conceptualises in a way few writers can successfully pull off. There is smart dialogue, bold ideas, dark humour, diversity, and the human condition as his plaything.
Amongst the standout cast are Russell Tovey as the gay but frustrated husband, Ruth Madeley as a fearless, life-affirming woman and Emma Thompson as an utterly-convincing (and scary) right-wing populist politician.
Years and Years is unlike anything else around right now. And while it provokes and paints a bleak future forward, there is always the hope that family endures.
Years and Years begins with a double episode 8:30pm Wednesday on SBS.