“From Years and Years to Bird Box: why we turn to dystopian dramas in a crisis”
In Years and Years, the six‑part BBC drama series from the writer Russell T Davies that starts this week, Daniel (Russell Tovey) cradles his newborn nephew and says: “I don’t think I could have a kid in a world like this... Because if it’s this bad now, what’s it going to be like [for him] in 30 years’ time, 10 years, five years?” It would be tempting to write Daniel off as a catastrophist except that, as the series shifts forward in time, he and his family are forced to navigate an increasingly divided country in which technology is wreaking havoc, the economy is collapsing and war in Europe is bringing record numbers of refugees to British shores. If you think we’ve got problems now, Davies seems to warn us, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Years and Years is by no means the first UK drama to imagine an alarming future: The Guardians (1971), Survivors (1975) and Threads (1984) variously imagined a fascist takeover, a plague and full‑blown nuclear catastrophe. [...]
In these troubled times, such visions of the future can provide catharsis of sorts, though Davies’s drama is a rare example of television considering the current situation and showing us where we might realistically end up. Rather than depicting asteroids, contagions or aliens hijacking the human race, it offers a grimly believable reality in which the most difficult and divisive issues of today – the migrant crisis, technology and the environment – bring about gradual societal breakdown. But is this really what we want as entertainment? Are we not traumatised enough by what we see on the
“From Years and Years to Bird Box: why we turn to dystopian dramas in a crisis”, Fiona Sturges, Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2019.