TV review: Why the future has state-decreed orgies in Brave New World

Aidan Smith enjoys the bits he skipped reading Brave New World at school
Jessica Brown Findlay rebels against the rules of Brave New WorldJessica Brown Findlay rebels against the rules of Brave New World
Jessica Brown Findlay rebels against the rules of Brave New World

Oh no, I’m thinking, here comes Boris Johnson and once again he’s waving his trusty trident of rules in a deranged fashion. Three non-nonsense decrees represented by the implement’s jaggy points and if we don’t obey them, he’ll start jabbing us where it hurts.

“No privacy, no family, no monogamy.” Well, they’re a bit different from the last lot. How are they going to save us, leading to a bright and shiny tomorrow? They already have if you believe in Brave New World (Sky One), Aldous Huxley’s 1932 vision of dystopia brought to the small screen in the middle of a global pandemic.

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Obviously, Boris isn’t in it. Who is? Demi Moore and Jessica Brown Findlay from Downton Abbey. What else does the future in “New London” contain? Country music, surprisingly, uniform dress in cream and peach and for the men, turtleneck jumpers. And little yellow capsules which look like cod liver oil, but are drugs for blissfulness.

Alison Steadman has an upper-midlife-crisis in LifeAlison Steadman has an upper-midlife-crisis in Life
Alison Steadman has an upper-midlife-crisis in Life

And randiness. I read Brave New World at school, but must have skipped bits because I don’t remember the discos which turn into orgies and, as a 15-year-old lad, feel sure they would have made a decent impression on me.

Findlay plays a scientist, Lenina Crowne, at a funky work town full of fixed smiles which, funnily enough, puts me in mind of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s HQ near Edinburgh Airport, though I’m pretty sure they don’t do any of Brave New World’s creepy babies-from-bottles stuff out there.

Crowne is summoned by a psychiatrist: “It has come to my attention,” says the turtlenecked Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd), “that you are engaged in an exclusive sexual relationship.” Not the done thing. He shows her holograms, Huxley possibly predicting here how intimate images would one day be easily hacked. “That was only a couple of times,” she insists. “Twenty-two,” he confirms.

It’s not long before Bernard receives his own reprimand: “No recent sexual connections. It’s unacceptable, Bernard - it’s solipsism, disgusting.” What a hoot. There’s a world beyond this one and it’s been turned into a theme park called Savagelands where the inhabitants age, suffer disease, speak different languages and adhere to religions which aren’t consumerism. How strange. It’s here we find Moore and plotting for an uprising. “They love nothing, they believe in nothing,” someone says of the totalitarian paradise. Brave New World is mad. I came hoping to see jet-packs, but, whatever, am now hooked. And no, I haven’t been on the yellow pills and nor do I own a turtleneck.

Keeley Hawes investigates a horrific murder in HonourKeeley Hawes investigates a horrific murder in Honour
Keeley Hawes investigates a horrific murder in Honour

It’s a pretty brave, and possibly pretty bumptious, drama that calls itself Life (BBC1). What, every aspect? But writer Mike Bartlett goes for boldness. Doctor Foster, you’ll remember, was like a pile-up in a suburban avenue involving soap opera, Greek tragedy and Mr Streetcar himself, Tennessee Williams - although I’m sure, like me, you were more concerned with the wellbeing of the interiors as the lead characters indulged in a lively bout of multi-room revenge sex.

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Nothing like that here, at least not so far, but Bartlett manages to pack in quite a few aspects. There’s a Christian academic (Adrian Lester) who’s the target of industrial-scale flirting from one of his pupils and a young mum-to-be whose partner misses the dramatic birth, but never mind because the child’s father from a one-night-stand is on hand with the towels.

Along the corridor in a converted Victorian townhouse in Manchester - all the characters live here - is divorcee Belle (Victoria Hamilton), who was in Doctor Foster, witnessed all the excesses and is now trying to get off with an electrician who she got round after sabotaging her own power supply, only to have her plan thwarted by a teenage niece having nowhere to stay.

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But the show-stealer - and the reason to keep watching amid the too-cute twists and turns - is Alison Steadman’s Gail, who after one casual put-down too many from her controlling husband decides at her 70th birthday that she’s had enough.

What a terrific part for Steadman and what a terrific performance. Gail’s life has become so squashed and subservient that when a blast from the past reminds her of her questing youth, she can only remember the name of the rock band in which she was the pot-smoking singer as “Purple-something-or-other”.

There are controlling husbands and then there are controlling husbands. Honour (ITV1) is the true story of South London Iraqi Kurd Banaz Mahmod who escaped her violent, arranged marriage in 2006 only to end up murdered by her father and uncle, claiming she’d shamed their family.

It’s a shocking tale - five times the police didn’t act on her calls for help.

Rhianne Barreto shines as Banaz’s sister, as does Alexa Davies as the cops’ computer whizz. And Keeley Hawes delivers the second unshowy, brilliant performance of the week as the investigating officer.

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