You may have heard of Westworld by now. It’s a new series that is receiving a lot of buzz. Westworld centres on a Wild West theme park made for the rich to come and visit – an entirely fabricated one. Guests come and fulfill their wildest fantasies. The “hosts” are these incredibly human like androids that are studiously programmed to fulfill their clients every whims in the Westworld theme park. And those whims can be incredibly dark.
In a nod to The Truman Show – Westworld is built and maintained by a lab headed up by Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins).There is also a head of Quality assurance, a behavioural engineer, and a story programmer. The "hosts| have been programmed to be as realistic as possible. They respond to guests coming to the park, they can bleed if they’re stabbed; they can even hold conversations with one another.
However, cracks start to show - however subtle. Pained expressions appear, stutters occur. Are the flaws due to upgrades? What if the robots start remembering the violent trauma done to them? Is there a deeper game at play in the park? And what is the real agenda of Management? Additionally, it turns the usual robot/monster with sentient abilities (which has been around since, well Mary Shelley and The Modern Prometheus in the 1800’s) on its head. To quote a cool piece from The Independent, the show asks “How does it feel to be a sophisticated, emotional machine built solely for the purpose of being used for others enjoyment and to indulge their bloodlust.”
The fascinating thing for me is that it's all too plausible; for a park like Westworld, frighteningly, there is no reason - outside Government legislation -that this couldn’t exist as artificial intelligence develops. As I mentioned in the first post, there are already large concerns about autonomous robotic systems entering warfare, and the myriad moral problems that go with that.
Another point to make - The cast is totally top shelf – my personal fave being the Man in Black, played by Ed Harris (expertly played by Yul Brynner in the 1973 version). He plays a seasoned returning park guest who has appeared to have figured out the inner workings of Westworld determined on finishing the game—shooting and stabbing every robot he can in his pursuit. He is "the distillation of pure villainy into one man," according to one HBO release.
Westworld is about our relationship with The Machine, and as technology and science progresses, what it means to be human. Quite frankly I find all this rather more frightening than your usual horror. On the other, it’s weirdly exhilarating. I’m gonna have nightmares watching this. But it’ll be my new watch.
Westworld airs on Mondays at 2pm and 8.30 pm, SoHo on SKY, and is available to stream on NEON. Watch the trailer here.
Teddy Flood (James Marsden) a newly arrived gunslinger in pursuit of a local beauty, and Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) - a Western girl who discovers her entire life is an elaborately constructed lie.