Years and Years (TV series)

Last updated

Years and Years
Years and Years.jpg
Genre
Created by Russell T Davies
Written byRussell T Davies
Directed by
Starring
Music by Murray Gold
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes6
Production
Executive producers
ProducerKaren Lewis
Production location Manchester
Production company Red Production Company
Distributor StudioCanal
Release
Original network
Audio format Stereo
Original release14 May (2019-05-14) 
18 June 2019 (2019-06-18)

Years and Years is a British drama television series which is a joint production by the BBC and HBO. It began broadcasting on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 14 May 2019 [1] [2] and on HBO on 24 June 2019. [3]

Contents

The series was created and written by Russell T Davies, [1] and stars Emma Thompson as Vivienne Rook, an outspoken celebrity business woman turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation, [4] alongside Rory Kinnear, Russell Tovey, Jessica Hynes, Ruth Madeley and Anne Reid [4] as the Lyons family.

The show received three nominations at the 10th Critics' Choice Television Awards, in the categories of Best Limited Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries (for Tovey), and Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries (for Thompson).

Plot

The six-part series follows the British Manchester-based Lyons family: Daniel is married to Ralph, Stephen and Celeste worry about their kids, Rosie is looking for a new partner, and Edith is engaged in one humanitarian cause after another. Presiding over them all is Gran, the imperious Muriel. All their lives converge on one crucial night in 2019, and the story accelerates into the future, following the lives and loves of the Lyons over the next 15 years as Britain is rocked by political upheavals, economic instability and technological advances. [5]

Cast and characters

Main

Recurring

Production

Development

In June 2018, the BBC announced that Russell T Davies would write Years and Years, which was described as "an epic drama following a family over 15 years of unstable political, economical and technological advances". [6] Davies noted that he has been aiming to write the drama series for almost two decades. [5] [7] [8]

In October 2018, it was announced that Emma Thompson had joined the cast as Vivienne Rook (who shares a name with another of Davies' characters, a journalist in the Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums") alongside Rory Kinnear, T'Nia Miller, Russell Tovey, Jessica Hynes, Lydia West, Ruth Madeley and Anne Reid. [4] Years and Years was cast by Andy Pryor. It was also announced that the series would be directed by Simon Cellan Jones.

Filming began in Manchester [4] on 22 October 2018 [9] and was completed on 17 March 2019. [10] Locations included Trafford Park for the refugee camp and Altcar Training Camp, Liverpool for the "Erstwhile" site.

Episodes

No.EpisodeDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [11]
1Episode 1 Simon Cellan Jones Russell T Davies 14 May 2019 (2019-05-14)4.26
On 14 May 2019, businesswoman Vivienne "Viv" Rook (Emma Thompson) causes controversy by saying she "doesn't give a fuck" about the Israel-Palestine conflict on an evening talk show. Meanwhile, Rosie Lyons (Ruth Madeley) gives birth to a son, Lincoln. Daniel Lyons (Russell Tovey), her brother, worries about the state of the world and what Lincoln’s future will be. The timeline skips forwards to 2024; in the meantime, Donald Trump wins a second term as president, and China constructs an artificial island and a military base named Hong Sha Dao in disputed waters. Daniel marries Ralph (Dino Fetscher), Queen Elizabeth dies, Viv tries and fails to be elected as an independent candidate in the 2022 general election, and a Russian-backed military government takes over in Ukraine. Daniel manages a local council-run refugee camp, where he makes a connection with Viktor (Maxim Baldry), who fled Ukraine after he was tortured for being gay. Teenage Bethany (Lydia West) tells her parents Stephen Lyons (Rory Kinnear) and Celeste (T'Nia Miller) that she is transhuman, to her mother's horror and disapproval. Cracks begin to form in Daniel and Ralph’s marriage, as Daniel's feelings for Viktor cause him to detach from his husband. Viv starts a political party, calling it The Four Star Party, the stars representing the asterisks that were used to censor her unapologetic use of the "F-bomb" on TV. Rosie goes on a date with Tony (Noel Sullivan), but leaves in disgust after she discovers he has sex with his house robot. At a party for grandmother Muriel Lyons' (Anne Reid) 92nd birthday, the family get a video call from long-absent Edith Lyons (Jessica Hynes), who has travelled to Vietnam, close to Hong Sha Dao. As air raid sirens sound in the UK, news comes that Trump has fired a nuclear missile at Hong Sha Dao. In the ensuing uproar, Celeste tells Bethany that she can be whatever she wants to be, reversing her earlier opposition to Bethany's transhuman ambitions, and Daniel flees Ralph and his family for Viktor, and they have sex for the first time.
2Episode 2Simon Cellan JonesRussell T Davies21 May 2019 (2019-05-21)2.30
In 2025, Edith has survived the Hong Sha Dao nuclear strike, but she was exposed to the nuclear fallout. She returns to live in the UK. Bethany, who has calculated radiation patterns from Hong Sha Dao, realises that Edith's life expectancy is ten years, but Edith chooses to keep this from the rest of the family. Celeste loses her job to artificial intelligence, and she and Stephen must sell their house in London. Bethany, who has turned 18, has cybernetic implants surgically installed in her hand, a step to becoming transhuman, and gets her first job as a data miner. Daniel is in the process of divorcing Ralph, and he and Viktor are living together as a couple. Though Ralph pretends to accept the split-up, he spitefully has Viktor deported to Ukraine by informing the Home Office of Viktor's job at a petrol station, illegal for an asylum seeker. Rosie and Edith attend an election debate in which Viv Rook unexpectedly electrifies the crowd. To Daniel's dismay, Rosie becomes a Rook supporter. Stephen and Celeste sell their house leaving them with a little more than £1.2 million after settling the mortgage. The proceeds are deposited in a single bank account on the night of the sale. Overnight, their money is wiped out in a banking crisis triggered by the collapse of an American investment bank. With nowhere else to go, Stephen, Celeste, and their daughters move into Muriel's large but decaying house in Manchester. Viv Rook is elected MP in a Manchester by-election as Rosie cheers her on.
3Episode 3Simon Cellan JonesRussell T Davies28 May 2019 (2019-05-28)1.29 [12]
In 2026, the banking crisis has led to a recession. Viv Rook proposes a national IQ test, with anybody with an IQ of less than 70 being barred from voting. In Ukraine, the police come to arrest Viktor, but he narrowly escapes. Ukraine has now criminalised homosexuality, so Viktor decides to illegally enter Spain and claim asylum. He escapes to Madrid, and Daniel visits him, planning to apply for Spanish citizenship and marry him. Edith returns to activism, infiltrating the offices of a corporation with links to the Syrian dictatorship. The information she steals is released, causing a scandal that shuts down the corporation. Bethany makes friends with Lizzie, another "transhuman" teen at her workplace. The availability of self-heating ready meals makes Rosie's job redundant. Stephen now works many low-paid jobs and begins an affair with co-worker Elaine. Celeste finds out, but does not confront him. The Lyons siblings' estranged father dies from antibiotic-resistant sepsis after being struck by a courier's bicycle. The siblings attend his water burial to support Stephen, who is the only one emotionally affected. There they meet with "Steven with a V", their father's son by his second wife. Rosie tells Edith she has always believed her father left the family because he couldn't deal with a child in a wheelchair. Bethany and Lizzie secretly travel to Liverpool for black-market cybernetic surgery, using £10,000 Stephen gave her for her 18th birthday. Bethany calls her mother in hysterics; Lizzie has been given a bogus, malfunctioning eye implant, but Bethany escapes unharmed. At first Celeste is glad Bethany is safe, but later she is furious that Bethany wasted money when the family is in financial crisis. A general election gives The Four Star Party fifteen seats in a hung parliament, allowing Viv Rook to determine the balance of power between a minority government and the opposition. Hearing the election results, Stephen uses his rental car to run over a fellow courier's bicycle in a fit of frustrated rage, while his siblings watch.
4Episode 4Simon Cellan JonesRussell T Davies4 June 2019 (2019-06-04)2.17
In 2027, voting is made universally mandatory, the coalition government collapses, and another general election is called. Countries become unstable: Greece leaves the EU, Italy's government resigns, Hungary declares bankruptcy, and the United States leaves the United Nations in response to extreme nationalism. Spain's government is overthrown by a far-left revolution and Viktor will soon be deported. Meanwhile, Stephen has a bad reaction to a paid drug experiment. He calls Elaine to pick him up, but the clinic accidentally calls Celeste too, and the three have an awkward meeting at his bedside. Arriving home, Celeste coldly confronts Stephen about the affair on a conference call with the whole family. Muriel angrily demands that he leave her house and Stephen moves in with Elaine. Rosie begins a mobile catering business with her new boyfriend, Jonjo. Edith warns him that she is suspicious of his intentions toward Rosie's young sons and will be watchful. With Viktor soon to be repatriated to Ukraine, Daniel decides he has no choice but to illegally get him into the UK. Their trip is unsuccessful: they are unable to sneak across the border and their money and passports are stolen while attempting to buy forged documents. Finally they try sailing in an overcrowded boat from France. Half a mile off the British coast, the boat sinks. Daniel Lyons, along with most of the other passengers, drowns. Viktor survives and returns to Daniel's apartment in Manchester alone. The family rushes to the house, but Viktor won't answer the door. Viv Rook becomes the Prime Minister.
5Episode 5Lisa MulcahyRussell T Davies11 June 2019 (2019-06-11)2.24
In 2028, Viv Rook promises freedom to her supporters but begins arresting her opponents. Catastrophic flooding and two dirty bombs result in huge numbers of displaced residents in the UK, prompting a new law that requires people with extra space in their homes to take in the victims. Edith works with relocation authorities and becomes suspicious that the poor are becoming "erstwhile", a new euphemism for being "disappeared" which she hears about from Viktor, who is in custody in the UK. Stephen visits Viktor to tell him that, unlike the rest of the family, he still blames him for Daniel's death. Checkpoints are erected around Rosie's neighbourhood in Manchester in response to criminal activity in the area, and she loses her license to operate her catering van. Bethany is fitted with a brain implant which enables her to interact directly with the Internet, but also to spy on her family. Stephen is depressed that he could not pay for the surgery, which leaves Bethany a virtual indentured worker to the government, which paid for it. Muriel is diagnosed with macular degeneration and uses the last of her savings to pay £10,000 for fast-track NHS surgery, which reverses the condition. Celeste gets along better with Muriel but bristles at being treated like an unpaid servant. Rosie and Jonjo become engaged and Edith moves in with her new girlfriend. Stephen degrades himself to get a new high-paying job as a yes-man to Woody, an old acquaintance who calls him his "monkey". Bethany uses her vast new cyber powers to help Edith break into a facility that keeps records of the Erstwhiles and witnesses her aunt's near collapse from radiation sickness. At a business auction held at Chequers, Stephen unexpectedly encounters Viv Rook, who reveals herself to be a slick fascistic monster (while she also makes a comment that hints at her being controlled by someone behind the curtains). Woody's company wins the contract to maintain two of the new "Erstwhile" concentration camps, intended as Darwinian death camps. Stephen uses the company's computer system to send Viktor to the camp, which Bethany sees. At a memorial service to Daniel, Bethany alone knows that her father has betrayed Viktor and sent him to his likely death.
6Episode 6Lisa MulcahyRussell T Davies18 June 2019 (2019-06-18)2.61
As 2029 begins in the midst of a monkey flu pandemic, Bethany grudgingly tells Edith that her father sent Viktor to the death camp, fearful that she will be implicated in illegal activity and lose her implants. As attacks on journalists increase, the BBC shuts down. Muriel blames the family and humanity at large for the various problems in the world, saying that the cumulative effect of many small acts of indifference has created the toxic environment they now live in. Stephen breaks up with Elaine, buys an illegal gun, and puts it in his desk at work. Viktor wants to contact the family with a smuggled cell phone, but towers at the camp block all signals. By manipulating Stephen, Celeste gets a job at Woody's company to try to get information about the Erstwhile camps. Soon after, Rosie and her neighbours are outraged when her son and his friends are locked out of their apartment complex from an early lock-down due to an incident elsewhere. Meanwhile, Edith and her activist friends take steps to free Viktor and blow up the signal-blocking towers, causing the camp inmates to rush the gates, while armed guards threaten them. At the same time, Stephen confronts Celeste while she is helping Edith using the company's computers, revealing that he had intended to broadcast incriminating evidence against Viv Rook's death camps and then kill himself. Woody charges into the office and Stephen shoots him in the leg. With the signals unblocked, Bethany and her friends at work broadcast footage from the camp to the whole country. Rosie breaks through the curfew fence around her estate with her catering van, to the cheers of her neighbours, and this act of civil disobedience is also broadcast nationally. With the camp liberated, Edith collapses to the ground. Later, Viv Rook is charged with murder relating to the Erstwhile sites, though it's unclear who financed and backed her, and the BBC is reopened. Stephen goes to jail for three years for shooting Woody, but emerges with a new lease of life. Though Stephen and Celeste don't get back together, their family is again happy. Rosie and Jonjo get married and have a son together, named after Daniel. The timeline skips to 2034, where it is revealed that the events of the series were the retellings of Edith's memories, as she is in the process of uploading her mind to a new water molecule-based database, with Bethany watching from Muriel's home as a hologram. As Edith's body dies, she tells the technicians that she doesn't believe her consciousness can really be encoded because the human spirit is more than just information. The series ends with the whole Lyons clan gathered with Muriel, unsure if Edith's consciousness was uploaded to the cloud.

Broadcast

The series was broadcast on BBC One in the UK, BBC First in The Netherlands and Belgium, [13] HBO in the US, Mexico, Latin America, Poland and Spain, SBS in Australia, Soho in New Zealand, Canal+ in France [4] and ZDF in Germany.

In 2020 the series aired on M-Net in South Africa.

It is available at Watcha in South Korea [14]

Reception

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 89% based on 65 critics' reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Years and Years scathingly critiques the present with a nihilistic projection of the future, leavening the devastating satire with a buoyant sense of humour and characters who are easy to become invested in." [15] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [16]

US ratings

No.TitleAir date [17] Rating
(A18–49)
US viewers
1 Episode 1 24 June 20190.05193,000 [18]
2 Episode 2 1 July 20190.06229,000 [19]
3 Episode 3 8 July 20190.03171,000 [20]
4 Episode 4 15 July 20190.03181,000 [21]
5 Episode 5 22 July 20190.04189,000 [22]
6 Episode 6 29 July 20190.04265,000 [23]

Censorship

The series has been banned in China. Shortly after the premiere of the first episode, the show received an excellent rating of 9.5/10 on Douban, the largest movie review aggregator website in China, before being banned across the Chinese search engines and social media. Relevant entries and posts, or even references to the name of the show, were filtered or promptly deleted from websites like Baidu and Weibo. Files with names containing "Years and Years" were taken down from the cloud storage service Baidu Wangpan. It is commonly believed that the censorship was due to the depiction of the Chinese president Xi Jinping and the military confrontation between China and America in the South China Sea, which are deemed sensitive topics in China. [24]

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