Humans: Uncut Season One Blu-ray Review

A Powerful British Television Series Exploring AI’s Impact on Society

Can a machine think and feel like a human? This first season of Humans from the UK is a thoughtful, sensitive exploration of machine consciousness in a near-future society not that far removed from our own. In the carefully fabricated world of Humans, humanoid-looking robot servants called synths have been created to help and assist humanity. Created for menial labor and household chores, the show asks what would happen if these helper robots started developing their own thoughts and feelings?

The British television series is a co-production with the cable channel AMC, which aired its first season in the United States. The name most recognizable to American audiences in the cast will be William Hurt, playing a retired synth engineer that refuses to dispose of his personal synth Odi (Will Tudor). The elderly engineer has grown attached to Odi and doesn’t want to replace the damaged synth with a new model.

Synths have been built to perfectly resemble humans with one exception: unnaturally green irises. They can hold conversations and perform a variety of simple tasks. It’s easy to see how some humans would grow attached to their synths, even forming emotional bonds. The technology has completely transformed human society in less than two decades. One teenager wonders why she should study when a synth will handle all work in the future. The implication being it’s only a matter of time before humans are obsolete against these tireless workers.

The main focus of Human’s first season is the Hawkins family. Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) is frustrated by his wife Laura’s (Katherine Parkinson) heavy workload as a lawyer, often taking her away from him and their three children. Joe buys a personal synth for the family over his wife’s objections. Anita (Gemma Chan) is warmly welcomed into the household by their children Mattie, Toby and Sophie. Laura is much more cautious and wary about the synth, especially as she notices some odd behavior from Anita. Anita as a robot seems to be a better mother to Laura’s children than Laura herself. Mattie is a self-styled synth hacker of sorts, interested in discovering Anita’s secrets.

If you are looking for a dull, brain-dead series that dabbles in AI-related issues, look elsewhere.

Most of the action is driven by a parallel story-line involving Leo (Colin Morgan) and a small group of synths that have seemingly broken free of their original programming. All synths are supposedly designed to be pure machines with no thoughts or feelings. This group of synths have a consciousness of their own. They can think and feel in some way. More importantly, they can violate the built-in synth programming that forbids violence against all humans.

When Humans begins, Leo and the others with him are on the run. They would be destroyed if humans got wind of their true nature. What connection does their Mia have to Anita, the synth in the Hawkins’ household? Another critical synth in Leo’s group is Niska. Forced to hide her true nature as a free-thinking synth, she hides out disguised as a prostitute.

The strength of Humans is its willingness to explore the societal and practical implications of humanoid robots living so closely with humans. One woman leaves her husband after finding more happiness with their synth. Another husband is tempted by the “adult” sex options included with the family’s household synth. An underground fight club forms where humans like to wail on synths, unleashing their pent-up anger.

This is intelligent, smart television handled by a strong cast. Exotic beauty Gemma Chan is perfectly cast as Anita, the touchpoint for Humans’ evolving portrayal of a thinking and emotional synth.

Humans is engaging television that begins somewhat slowly but rewards those patient enough to make it past the first couple of dry episodes. If you are looking for a dull, brain-dead series that dabbles in AI-related issues, look elsewhere. This is compelling television for smart viewers looking to see the consequences of AI explored in some depth.

Humans: Season One Blu-ray screen shot 1

Video

Acorn Media delivers an impressive Blu-ray presentation for Humans, certainly far better than what was seen on AMC for the show. They have included the uncut UK version, all eight episodes, spread equally over two BD-50s. Filmed on the Arri Alexa camera, Humans is pristine digital video dripping with perfect clarity. The carefully-shot digital cinematography is shown at its native 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

The episodes are encoded in AVC at respectable compression parameters, especially for television product. This is flawless compression, aided by the impressively detailed video’s cleanliness. The utterly crisp and razor-sharp definition exudes superior dimensionality. The top-notch clarity reveals excellent fine detail, down to the pores. Contrast and black levels are largely perfect, tested only in a handful of short scenes.

Humans has near reference video and Acorn Media does a fantastic job leaving the transfer from its digital intermediate alone.

Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack offers a minimal surround experience with some light ambient support. The dialogue-driven series has a few bits of action which remain almost entirely confined to the front soundstage.

Dialogue is perfectly clear and mastered with fine dynamics. Humans is a quiet series with a subtle, cautious score.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

Acorn Media includes a serious amount of featurettes and behind-the-scenes clips for Humans. The two-disc set comes with a slipcover.

The featurettes largely have the cast and crew thoughtfully discussing the show. They are split over each BD. This is a load of material to go through, though it can get repetitive in nature. They are generally more watchable than the typical fluff that passes as press kit interviews these days.

The Making of Humans (06:48 in HD) – Cast and crew discuss AI issues and other subjects like writing the series.

Series Overview (04:20 in HD) – A brief synopsis of the major themes in Humans.

Being A Synth (03:48 in HD) – Production decisions made in the design and consideration for bring synths to life on Humans.

Character Profiles (10:20 in HD) – Cast members Gemma Chan, Tom Goodman-Hill, Katherine Parkinson, Colin Morgan, Emily Berrington and Neil Maskell discuss each of their characters.

Cast and Crew on Humans (16:02 in HD) – Another round of interviews on further issues seen in the series.

Photo Gallery (01:28 in HD)

Family Matters (04:03 in HD) – A look at the Hawkins family with the cast members playing them.

Cast Interviews (02:56 in HD) – The cast discusses the synth ability they would like to have.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage (29:58 in HD) – Shot from the set as Humans was being filmed, we get raw footage of the directors giving instructions and the actors doing their jobs. The footage includes no narration.

Last Day on the Set (01:22 in HD) – The cast says goodbye at the end of filming.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.