It is obvious from the start of ‘Human Is’, that Colonel Silas Herrick and Vera Herrick do not share a happy marriage. He is a cold, unfeeling and most of all untouching man who only resorts to holding his wife when he is threatening her. Still, he is a war hero, in the ongoing onslaught on Rexor IV. Earth is dying and the only way to keep the atmosphere going is to steal hydrogen from the other planet.
Vera is concerned that the indigenous species are sentient and are defending their planet the only way they know how but Silas doesn’t care. He is the ultimate colonialist, raping the land and taking what he wants.
When Silas is asked to go on a virtual suicide mission, he has no hesitation in laying down his life for the planet, but he returns along with one other survivor. At first, he appears stunned by his survival but soon Vera notices many differences. Her life until then has been devoid of any contact, companionable or sexual. Indeed, she had gone to a sex club to break up the isolation she feels. Suddenly, she finds he wants her and cares for her. Her re-education begins.
This is a very close reimagining of the original story updated for modern sensibilities but dealing with the many concerns of the original. It examines the nature of being human and who qualifies. Bryan Cranston as Silas and Essie Davis as Vera offer excellent performances and it makes a change to middle-aged protagonists in the throes of passion.
Probably rejected by those who prefer the shoot-em up SF scenarios, ‘Human Is’ has attempted a subtle exanimation of how a relationship develops between a ‘new man’ and his wife. It’s frankly a bit over the top on the sex as I think that would follow later rather than sooner as Vera takes a leap into the unknown but that is for bums on seats I guess, in this case Bryan’s bum. The sex club scenario also seemed aimed to titillate rather than help us understand Vera. She would have probably taken up knitting rather than cruising the clubs. I prefer the understated moments where we realise how little contact, physical or mental, this couple had and how the new tactile experience is changing both.
The vision of the future was rather scant on vision. Humans are living in caves and using breathing apparatus but still can send rockets to another planet. The streets that Vera walks through were full of very odd-looking people but she appears to have no fear or no weapon. I did love that capsule wardrobe though I’m not sure who was making these clothes.
Ostensibly about alien infiltration of the human form, this is much more about the experience of being human and who appreciates it. It is about loneliness and the need for a loving relationship and about acceptance. That’s a big ask from a show that is trying to appeal to a wide audience and demands a nuanced performance which allows the audience time to grasp the ideas. Perhaps the title ‘Human Is’ should have the three dots after it that precede a list of ideals/requests and aspirations.
I like to think that the ultimate moral of this story is to be careful how you behave towards your wife as you can be replaced by a better model!
‘Electric Dreams’ will be back on TV in the new year.