Don’t expect to see flying cars or lots of lasers on “Incorporated.”
Instead, Syfy’s latest futuristic series set in 2074 features very accessible technology, such as self-driving cars and wearable tech, that only appear a step or two beyond what we have today. That familiarity makes “Incorporated’s” grimmer aspects of the future seem all too plausible. It’s a world where natural food resources and clean water are dwindling and have created fierce competition.
Alex Pastor, who created the series with his brother David, told Indiewire, “I think that ecological and climate change and the degradation of the environment is going to cause that certain things that now we take for granted, things that right now we consider plentiful, are not going to be anymore. That’s what food and clean water comes to be. Once you push people into having to fight for those more basic resources and those basic staples of what you need in your life, people are going to make more extreme decisions and be willing to compromise their morality.”
Star Julia Ormond pointed out that with our real world’s growth rate, we could be on the fast track to a future that looks a lot like “Incorporated.” “We’re at seven billion now. By 2050 they project very close to 11 billion,” she said. “A 70 percent increase is needed in terms of agriculture and production. We’re also facing this 40 percent water deficit. In a really entertaining way and a thrilling way, [this show] is the world that we’re moving towards, unless we make different choices.”
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“Incorporated’s” future also includes a new world order in which many governments have gone bankrupt in the wake of such scarcity. This has left an opening for businesses to take over.
“In the world of our show, corporations have been given sovereign powers to take over where government sort of leaves off,” explained executive producer Ted Humphrey. “So certain things that might be a crime in the outside world aren’t a crime in the corporation or vice versa. Probably the worst crime within the corporation is treason, which could be defined as selling corporate intellectual property and the things that the corporation relies on to make profit to another corporation.”
The Corporate Overlord
Ormond’s character Elizabeth Krauss is the U. S. head of one such corporation called Spiga, a biotech company that specializes in agriculture to feed the world through the design of heartier seeds and crops and synthetic meats. Elizabeth wields power over senators, employees and other citizens of the Green Zone, areas of wealth and privilege.
Denizens of the Green Zone can afford to have elective plastic surgery, frequent exclusive clubs with escorts and better yet, eat real meat. In the premiere, we see one couple celebrate their anniversary by indulging in a $400-per-ounce rasher of bacon. In a world where real meat is limited, those who are in the Red Zones — lawless slums separated by a wall at the border of the Green Zones — must make do with meat substitutes or partial-meat products.
Art is another simple joy that we take for granted now but is strictly controlled on “Incorporated.” As one example, in Elizabeth’s office hangs a genuine Van Gogh painting. “I don’t think it’s Elizabeth who owns it; it’s Spiga,” said Ormond. “It’s a comment on the corporate world. There’s also reference to the fact that they get this artwork by crushing the institutions through negotiation and deal. All that beauty becomes privately owned instead of publicly available.”
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Elizabeth doesn’t spend much time thinking about those in the Red Zone and what they lack. Pastor said, “Like history shows, in order to morally accept a system like that, you have to dehumanize the other. The people who are protected inside the world of the corporation, in order to be able to sleep at night and feel better about themselves, they need to resort to the kinds of speech that sometimes you hear: ‘Oh, they’re just lazy. They just don’t want to do the work. They’re all criminals. They are a threat to us.’”
[Mild spoilers follow.] Elizabeth would be horrified to discover then that one of her trusted junior executives, Ben Larson (Sean Teale), is secretly from the Red Zone. Over the course of four years, he’s worked his way up the corporate ladder in the counter-espionage department, developing technologies to keep the competition — and people like him — out.
He also happens to be married to Elizabeth’s daughter Laura (Allison Miller). And as with many agents who have been in the field too long, his loyalties are starting to divide. Not only does he have genuine feelings for his wife, but living a life of relative safety and luxury is seductive compared to his Red Zone existence, when he was known as Aaron.
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“With Ben, I can see the allure, the desire to live this life that he would never have had, had he not had to reinvent himself, this life with the daughter of Elizabeth, which is infinitely better,” said Teale. “He is one of the Red Zoners, but he has to do things and act like these petulant, spoonfed, obnoxious, indulgent, luxurious children that he’s working around… He has to sell bits of himself.”
Ben’s double life is at risk of exposure daily, especially from Spiga’s head of security Julian Morse (Dennis Haysbert), an ex-military man whose brutal interrogations in the so-called Quiet Room are legendary. Haysbert filmed a 360-degree VR experience that puts viewers in the interrogation chair to promote the series. Check it out:
Like Julian, those in the Green Zone have chosen security over privacy. “Our feeling about the future that we’re positing is that that debate is over; privacy has been lost, particularly if you work in a corporation,” said Humphrey. “It’s one of the many ironies of the show that people in the Red Zone have more privacy probably than the people in the Green Zone because they don’t work for a corporation that monitors every aspect of their life. Literally in the Green Zone, as we depicted, you have to get a permit for you and your husband to get pregnant and have a baby. So that’s a trade-off that was made… to give away the privacy in return for being safe behind the wall.”
A wall. The loss of reproductive rights and privacy. Climate change. It’s no coincidence that “Incorporated” addresses many of the issues that are hotly debated today. The series is as much of a wake-up call and warning as it is entertainment.
Humphrey said, “We definitely want this show to be something where people say, ‘ If we don’t look out, some version of this could be tomorrow.’”
“Incorporated” premieres on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
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