Calum Henderson reviews The Feed - the dystopian parallel universe future coming to you, probably never.
Let's say you're walking to the dairy and you see a funny dog. Obviously, you want all your friends to see the funny dog too. What you currently have to do is fish your phone out of your pocket, wait for face ID to recognise you, tap in your password when it doesn't, open up the camera app and – oh for god's sake, the funny dog has already gone.
There must be an easier way! What you want is some kind of high-tech brain implant that lets you instantaneously share all your memories, thoughts and emotions with anybody at any time, like you're a real-life Sim in The Sims. What you want is The Feed, the titular technology in TVNZ OnDemand's new British thriller, The Feed.
If The Feed sounds familiar, it may be because it's essentially a beefed-up version of the kit imagined in the Black Mirror episode "The Entire History of You", which allowed people to rewind and replay their memories. If that wasn't enough to put you off the idea of brain implant technology for life, this dystopian series – based on the novel of the same name by Nick Clark Windo – surely will.
In The Feed's near-future parallel universe, everybody has become completely reliant on their brain implant in the same way we're all basically reliant on our smartphones now. Like smartphones and social media, there are some who resist it – mostly hipsters like Tom (Guy Burnet), who instead uses The Feed's powers to secretly listen to awful ska music during the speeches at his brother's engagement party.
Tom's anti-Feed stance is controversial because it's the family business – his dad (David "Professor Lupin" Thewlis) is the one who invented it, and his mum (Michelle "Catelyn Stark" Fairley) is the company's CEO.
The first indications that brain implant tech may not be the way to go come during the engagement party, when a line chef suddenly goes berserk and threatens the brother with a knife. Things go from bad to worse over the course of the first episode – and that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Things get very dystopian very fast and Tom, who works as a "Feed psychologist", has to help his family wrangle the chaos their bad invention has wrought.
Like a Black Mirror episode that's been given the ambitious series-length scope of Westworld, a lot of the first episode is spent exploring the many applications and uses of The Feed. Obviously, it needs to be acknowledged that any new tech like this will immediately be used for porn: Tom's sister-in-law gets a QR code implant on her shoulder that lets her husband activate a kind of VR feature that "turns me into whoever you want – but if you turn me into Marilyn Monroe, I will leave you," she jokes.
This scene also highlights the show's biggest weakness: the strangely unconvincing dialogue that undermines all the hard work of getting us to buy into its premise. Hackable brain implant technology? Sure. But do they really expect us to believe anybody is still fantasising about Marilyn Monroe in the dystopian near-future?
The Feed (TVNZ OnDemand)