If, five years ago, someone speculated that there would be a pandemic that would see over 400,000 lives lost within just four months and half of the world under lockdown, it might have sounded too far-fetched to be real. It’s a scenario out of a dystopian nightmare… much like six-part British miniseries Years And Years.

This drama plays with aspects of science fiction as it looks into the future. It stands as a warning to humanity about the lasting effects of climate change, the perils of choosing arrogant political leaders instead of competent ones, and the impact of technological advancements in society. The storyline is explored through the lens of the Lyons family as their lives take dramatic turns during the 15 years over which viewers follow them.

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Launching into the series, power-hungry entrepreneur Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) makes a desperate bid for a seat in the Prime Minister’s office despite the fact that she’s ignorant, tone-deaf and pretty much doesn’t care about the well-being of others. The Lyons family are swept up in their belief that she will bring about positive changes to their society but Vivienne, is gearing up to run their country to the ground.

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Meet the Lyons

At the heart of the series is the Lyons family, who have different views on life and share their diverse perspectives about Vivienne and the political state of their country. Leading the pack are four siblings:

Open-minded gay brother Daniel (Russell Tovey), whose marriage to Ralph (Dino Fetscher) is threatened when he falls in love with a refugee, Viktor (Maxim Baldry).

Baker brother Stephen (Rory Kinnear) and his accountant wife Celeste (T’Nia Miller) have their hands full raising their daughters, Ruby and Bethany (Jade Alleyne and Lydia West).

Sister Rosie (Ruth Madeley) is a single mother who’s struggling to make ends meet.

And sister Edith (Jessica Hynes) puts her life in jeopardy to protest against social disparities and rising climate change.

Last but not least is their grandmother, Muriel (Anne Reid). She’s the heart of the bunch and everyone makes time once a week to meet at her house for their weekly family-catchup dinner date.


Will to power

Vivienne is a self-made entrepreneur who becomes an overnight sensation following her problematic and controversial comments about the Israel-Palestinian war during a public debate show on TV. Within weeks, she announces that she’ll be running for minister of parliament and many families like the Lyons support her, even though they’re uncertain of her policies or motives.

“It’s so chilling, the inexorability in how Vivienne’s vision becomes a reality -- and that in the beginning many members of the Lyons family think she’s great. They think that somehow there’s decency there, when actually it’s a will to power and someone who clearly has no moral fibre whatsoever. It’s terrifying,” reveals Emma.

Vivienne grabs people’s attention because she’s “bold” (read overprivileged) enough to express out loud certain simplistic, knee-jerk reactions to nuanced political and social situations. While most of the audience is shocked and baffled, they can also, on a level, at least recognise her “politically incorrect” sentiments as something they might have thought themselves.

“I try to make her as funny, self-deprecating, and as charming as possible because we need to understand why people vote for her. But she turns into an absolute monster,” explains Emma. “If you give that kind of rhetoric air time, it proliferates because people find it a lot easier to hate and discriminate than they do to include and to feel compassion and empathy about people who aren’t directly related to them. It’s easy to scare people into feeling loathing, and we’ve seen it happen again and again,” she adds.


Back to the future

For creator Russell T Davies, writing the show wasn’t about predicting the future, but rather imagining what the future might look like from its starting point in the present, with many countries experiencing an economic recession and technology being at the centre of human interaction. “[Writing the series] has been boiling away in my mind for a long time,” says Russel. “Over the past few years, the world itself seems to have been boiling faster and hotter and wilder than ever. The age, today, just seems fevered – we’re either more political, or more scornful of politics, than ever. And I think, in the past, politics meant the economy to most people, but now we’re seeing that it’s our identity at stake,” he adds.

Years And Years S1 airs Mondays on M-Net (DStv 101) at 22:00


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