Skip to main content

SyFy, please give us the insane Brave New World series the world desperately needs

SyFy, please give us the insane Brave New World series the world desperately needs

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Classic dystopian novel Brave New World is coming to the SyFy channel, The Hollywood Reporter writes. A Brave New World series will be produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television, and it's being written by Les Bohem, known for his work on Dante's Peak, Daylight, and the SyFy (then Sci-Fi Channel) miniseries Taken.

In a statement, SyFy president Dave Howe calls Brave New World "one of the most influential genre classics of all time," saying that "its provocative vision of a future gone awry remains as powerful and as timeless as ever." Beyond this confirmation, the show looks to just be getting started. But based on how science fiction adaptations often end up, it's already pretty clear that Brave New World is going to end up either incredibly bland or truly, incredibly weird.

If you did not get an American public school education or somehow skipped that week of English class, here is how The Hollywood Reporter describes Brave New World:

[Brave New World] is set in a world without poverty, war or disease. Humans are given mind-altering drugs, free sex and rampant consumerism are the order of the day, and people no longer reproduce but are genetically engineered in "hatcheries." Those who won’t conform are forced onto "reservations," until one of the "savages" challenges the system, threatening the entire social order.

And here's part of the Amazon description, as quoted by The Wrap:

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley’s utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow.

The Wrap rightly notes that this "sounds like The Hunger Games and Divergent or any other recent young adult sci-fi novel." This is sort of correct — pretty much all dystopias owe something to either Brave New World or 1984 — but it's also the worst synopsis ever, because the best part of Brave New World is that it is both horrifically depressing and full of self-consciously absurdist riffs on early 20th-century technology and society. Here are some equally true factoids about Brave New World:

  • One of the world's most popular sports is elevator squash. Another is centrifugul bumblepuppy.
    Zippers have destroyed society. They are also an appropriate gift for lovers.
  • Henry Ford is now God. All crosses have been replaced with the letter "T."
  • Nursery rhymes have been rewritten for a world in which "mother" and "father" are obscenities, all babies are decanted from bottles, and church has been replaced with orgies.
  • Reservations are not for nonconformists. They are futuristic Indian reservations that double as tourist traps.
  • Spoiler: the social order does just fine for itself.

It's dubious that the book's intense religious themes and 1930s-era aesthetics will make it into a series, but they'd make an amazing piece of historical futurism, especially after SyFy dipped its toes into '60s aesthetics with Ascension and jumped headfirst into religion with Battlestar Galactica. It would even give us a chance to put a constantly-cited work in some kind of historical context, instead of the general social condemnation it's usually used as.

Unfortunately, we probably will get another general social condemnation, set in a world with a lot of white plastic and chrome and capped off with a heroic rebellion against society. But even a re-imagined Brave New World could do more than blandly summarize the book's central theme. It could be a playground for all the modern anxieties that most dystopias only indirectly allude to. Will our decadent progeny worship Elon Musk? Will asking for a date in person, instead of swiping on Tinder, be unspeakably rude? What will be the new symbol of social control and shallow materialism? Is it the Apple Watch?

On second thought, I should probably check out the multiple films and radio adaptations Brave New World has gotten over the past 40 years. Or maybe just go watch Black Mirror.