Looking Back At Almost Human (2013): A Blink in the Evolution of Sci-Fi TV - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At Almost Human (2013): A Blink in the Evolution of Sci-Fi TV

The fusion of man and machine, the tussle between humanity and artificial intelligence—these are the dreams and nightmares of visionaries. November 17, 2013, marked the arrival of a cop drama that deftly explored these arenas: "Almost Human". On the surface, it was the tale of a cop and his synthetic partner. Beneath? It pulsated with questions of existence, ethics, and the essence of being human.

J.J. Abrams, the name behind science fiction successes like "Star Trek" and "Lost", joined forces with J.H. Wyman of "Fringe" fame to produce this cyberpunk narrative. The premise was tantalising: In 2048, a spike in crime rates mandates that each human police officer is paired with a lifelike android partner. The series navigates this tech-charged landscape through Detective John Kennex and his unique android partner, Dorian.

Karl Urban, the face of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot and Éomer in "The Lord of the Rings", brought the wounded Detective Kennex to life—a cop harbouring a grudge against the robotic partners after a mission went awry. Beside him stood Dorian, an android with a difference. Michael Ealy ("Barbershop", "The Good Wife") delivered a performance that oscillated between the clinical coldness of machinery and the heart-warming warmth of humanity. Dorian was part of a discontinued line of androids, too "human" in their emotional responses.

In their adventures, the pair delved deep into a world transformed by technology: bio-engineering, advanced prosthetics, AI-driven narcotics, and much more. The overarching theme, however, remained constant: In an era where technology can emulate humanity, what does it truly mean to be human?

From a production standpoint, the series was a treasure trove. Apart from Abrams and Wyman's involvement, it was shot primarily in Vancouver, a city that effortlessly melds modernity with nature—a fitting backdrop for the show's themes. Visual effects, critical for any futuristic drama, were rendered with finesse by the team led by Jay Worth, a name familiar to "Fringe" aficionados.

"Almost Human" wasn't just about the cases—it invested deeply in character arcs. Kennex’s journey from a bitter technophobe to someone reconciling with the march of progress was compelling. Similarly, Dorian’s attempts to understand humanity, while often humorous, were equally poignant. A fan-favourite episode, "Are You Receiving?", encapsulated this dynamic beautifully. The tense hostage situation was brilliantly offset with Dorian's discovery of humour and Kennex's begrudging amusement. Another standout was "Simon Says", a tale that brilliantly mirrored our society’s obsession with internet fame and the lengths people go to achieve it.

For trivia hounds, a gem: "Almost Human" wasn't always aired in its chronological order, a decision that sometimes made character development feel disjointed. Why? The reasoning remains shrouded in TV network mystery. The DRN model that Dorian belongs to stands for "Dynamic Robotic Neural", a nod to the emotional capabilities of these androids.

Now, for all its promise and potential, the show's viewing figures were a roller coaster. It opened to a robust 9.1 million viewers. While figures remained decent throughout, the fluctuating nature perhaps contributed to its unexpected cancellation after the first season, leaving fans bereft of closure and a future filled with Kennex and Dorian's escapades.

Placed alongside its contemporaries, "Almost Human" drew parallels with shows like "Blade Runner" in its visual aesthetic and thematic concerns. There was a touch of "I, Robot" in Dorian's character, echoing the aspirations and struggles of AI beings to find their place among their creators. At times, one could even sense the spirit of "RoboCop", especially in Kennex's journey, navigating a world where man and machine are increasingly interlinked.

In reflection, "Almost Human" was a glint of brilliance in the vast cosmos of sci-fi television. Its narrative felt pertinent in an age where we stand on the cusp of AI breakthroughs. The intricate dance of Kennex and Dorian—representing two sides of the evolutionary spectrum—resonated on multiple levels. It celebrated the essence of humanity while also warning of the potential chasms technology could create.

As we journey forward, the series remains a beacon, a testament to the narratives we can weave when exploring the delicate balance between man and machine. It compels us to question, to ponder our place in the looming future. For in the grand tapestry of sci-fi dramas, some shows, like "Almost Human", might be brief but they shimmer with an intensity that’s hard to forget.

Perhaps, in another reality, Dorian and Kennex still patrol the neon-lit streets, battling crime, cracking jokes, and, most importantly, discovering what it means to be almost human.

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