The Brave New World pilot introduces two distinct societies on a collision course, and the characters who’ll be caught in the wreckage — provided they can stop having sex for a minute first.
This recap of Brave New World season 1, episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
No privacy, no family, no monogamy — these are the rules of New London, and everyone there is, apparently, happy. The sideways elevators of the future look like toasters and everyone’s strung out on pills to keep their “levels” up. Lenina Crowne is one of them, and in the opening scene of the pilot, she’s chastised by Bernard Marx for having an exclusive sexual relationship with one Henry Foster. He has the receipts. Then again, you wouldn’t expect a Beta — sorry, a Beta Plus — to think so far ahead. Have a yellow soma. Better yet, have an orange. Welcome to Brave New World episode 1.
In its advertisement for the Savage Lands adventure park, this opener gives away most of its ideology. The attractions there are silly mockups of working-class life, with apparently no attempt whatsoever to justify the word “Savages” in its new contemporary context. In comparison, New London is the lily-white colonizing force pumped up on its own faux superiority, even if its perfect social unit requires the complete surrendering of personal agency and free will. This is why, when Bernard is summoned to the scene of an “accident”, a worker who has fallen from a great height and split his head open like the ripe grapefruit Bernard uses to test the height of the drop, his first reaction is to hand out soma pills like candy. If you numb the pain, you never know it’s there.
It is there, of course, which represents the crux of the conflict. The notion of suicide seems incomprehensible… but perhaps not for Bernard, who is something of an outcast among his Alpha Plus peers, and whose belief that the working-class Epsilons have “feelings” is seen as somewhat controversial among the moneyed and pampered. You obscure all these notions with the vague one of pleasure. You dance and pop pills and have casual sex with good-looking people and you hope to forget that someone might have flung themself from a balcony. Such is how Bernard and Lenina both find themselves at a party that quickly becomes a sprawling orgy. It’s as easy a way to take your mind off things as any other, which is of course the point.
For someone like John, a stagehand in the Savage Lands, which treats ordinary working-class livings as zoo exhibitions, you can see why the idea of a no-strings-attached lifestyle might be compelling, especially since there’s still a clear class hierarchy, even among the outcasts. He’s at the bottom of the bottom of the pile; fractally oppressed. When he’s taken away in the middle of the night, he has a hard time believing that it really is his destiny that’s being presented to him. But the question remains. Is he a free human being, or a washer of cars?
His plight is mirrored by Bernard’s, who’s getting too private, too curious, which is disgustingly solipsistic, according to those who look down on him despite his seemingly luxurious position. There’s always a bigger fish, after all. Even Lenina feels emboldened enough to call him a hypocrite, though at least both can admit that neither of them feels better. Watching projections of themselves have sex doesn’t seem to help much either. Perhaps a holiday is in order. Somewhere nice. Somewhere real. Maybe someone like John is waiting for them.