The future is now, literally. Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian sci-fi novel is now a TV show, and it unsurprisingly feels more relevant than ever. Peacock's Brave New World, which dropped July 15 on NBC's new streaming service, introduces audiences to a reality in which human beings are genetically engineered and scientifically assigned their place and purpose in society. But, as we've been shown time and time again, perfection is easily penetrable.
While the series is based on Huxley's book, there have been some necessary updates and modifications to allow for the story to yield a multiple season series. So whether or not you remember reading Brave New World in high school, you might need a refreshed to clock which elements stayed the same and which ones the new Peacock series has changed.
When Does Brave New World Take Place?
Brave New World takes place in 2540 AD (or 632 AF “After Ford,” as in, after Henry Ford introduced the Model T automobile), in New London (called World State in the book), where Alphas and Betas are designed to represent the elite. So, about those Alphas and Betas...
What Are Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, & Episolons?
This integral element to Brave New World is largely untouched, for now. Alphas and Betas are attractive, hold leadership positions, are discouraged from experiencing empathy, and are strictly polyamorous (not that New London has a label for that or anything).
Next in line are Gammas, who make up the middle class and are directed to take on work that usually doesn't require a higher education.
The last two classes are Deltas and Epsilons, who are essentially produced en masse and assigned menial and hard labor. Epsilons are considered the very lowest class, as they’re never taught how to read or write. They're even genetically programmed not to think for themselves.
What Does Soma, The Drug In Brave New World, Do?
The drug that New London’s citizens take is called Soma, something that's quite similar to Xanax, which is likely why the series doesn't spend that much time explaining it to viewers. (Yep, Huxley was right on the money with that one).
It instantly soothes and alleviates any negative side effects of emotions, making the user feel instantly worry-free and content. Although the administrators of New London strive for a utopia where nothing bad happens, if something does make people feel traumatized, they either self-administer a Soma or are given a Soma to numb any kind of mental discomfort. People also take Soma recreationally when they go out partying and participate in orgies. So, so many orgies.
The main purpose of the drug, however, is to keep citizens calm and complacent.
As you'll see in the series, at one point an Alpha is called to handle an “accident” involving one of the Epsilons — one that threatens to destroy the perfectly constructed, pain-free world of New London. Watch as everyone is instructed to just take their Somas and move on from the harrowing reality in front of them. The incident, however, rattles said Alpha, so his boss does even more damage control by sending him on “vacation” to the Savage Lands.
What Are The Savage Lands?
The Savage Lands is a literal world away from New London, a poverty-stricken place that houses people who rebelled against the creators of the new world and still practice “antiquated” customs like monogamy, family life, and consumerism. It looks a lot like Middle America, because it is.
In the book, this place was referred to as the Savage Reservation and was clumsily modeled after the customs of Indigenous peoples. On the page, Huxley introduces us to this world via a white man — the only white man — born in that realm. Naturally, the Peacock series turned this world into The Savage Lands amusement park to avoid the offensive elements of the original story.
So instead, the Savage Lands is a place eerily similar to Westworld in that the Alpha and Beta elite treat it as an adventure park and museum, only the residents are very much real people. Guests get to experience shows put on by the "Savages," like “the annual day of black,” in which the citizens of The Savage Lands reenact Black Friday in a shopping center, hyperbolically stampeding a staged warehouse full of products on sale and violently pushing and shoving one another. Alphas and Betas who visit the park are also invited to attend a performative wedding, where they can gawk at the woman saving her virginity for her husband, and muse that the bridesmaids look upset because "they're next."
During one such performance at The House of Monogamy, one "Savage" who will quickly become important, John (Alden Ehrenreich), reluctantly takes matters into his own hands and helps orchestrate a coup that will effectively blur the line between the Savage Lands and New London. But The Savage Lands aren't as separate from New London as they first appear, anyway. John's character serves as a bridge between the two worlds, because his mother Linda (Demi Moore) has a surprising connection to New London.
What Other Changes Does Brave New World Make From The Book?
Considering Huxley’s world predicted birth control, genetic tinkering, mood stabilizers, and casual sex, it wasn’t exactly possible to fully replicate the novel word-for-word. In many ways, we're already there, so the series had to embrace that fact and adapt.
Also, the original book, which was published in 1932, included quite a few problematic elements, including the reservation storyline. So while the new series isn't exactly a pure recreation of the book, it's imperative that the showrunner of Peacock’s Brave New World, Fear the Walking Dead’s David Wiener, took a slightly different approach to the show.
Brave New World follows the book’s story thematically, but you'll be able to note many of the changes in the characters themselves, who are now written more thoughtfully. Beta Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay) isn’t completely sex-obsessed in the show as she is in the book (but again, there are still plenty of orgies) and has more agency and emotional intelligence. Alpha Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) isn’t as pretentious; instead, he's more insecure and introverted. And John isn’t pious or prude; he’s more of a sensitive romantic.
On top of that, most of the characters in the novel are white and male, and in the show, a few have been gender swapped and are now played by Black women. Those characters include Emotional Engineer Helmholtz Watson, who becomes Wilhelmina, played by Ant Man & The Wasp star Hannah John-Kamen. The other is World Controller Mustapha Mond, who now spells her name Mustafa Mond and is played by Nina Sonsaya, who you probably remember from Love, Actually.
And while we're not here to give out spoilers, you can go ahead and assume the show does not follow the book’s ending, in which John dies by suicide. In an ideal world, Brave New World would come back for season 2 — with its lead actor still in play.