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Wel­come back to West­world pard­ner, sad­dle up for an ex­is­ten­tial an­droid cri­sis from HBO

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red alert -

Jump the queue…

Book your tick­ets and your coffins now. The late Michael Crich­ton’s dino theme park is al­ready mak­ing a ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied come­back: now its an­droid- staffed pre­de­ces­sor – West­world – is about have its cir­cuits tweaked for HBO. Guests of the orig­i­nal park’s West­ern area found them­selves re­lent­lessly pur­sued for real by a short­cir­cuited bad- ass baldy gun­slinger – think The Ter­mi­na­tor meets High Noon. The ex­pe­ri­ence was still bet­ter than But­lins.

Para­noid an­droids

The new show is go­ing to in­stead be fo­cused on the droids who pop­u­late West­world, pro­grammed to help the guests live out what­ever fan­tasy they – and their va­ca­tion­ing con­sciences ( what­ever hap­pens in West­world stays in West­world) – want to ex­pe­ri­ence. The quirk is that they don’t know they’re an­droids, be­ing re­set af­ter each visit has played out: yup, we’re in Doll­house ter­ri­tory here, with a huge ex­is­ten­tial dol­lop of Blade Run­ner.

The Nolan Brother

The phi­los­o­phy of AI? Sci­en­tific soulsearch­ing? Epic ac­tion? Sounds tai­lor­made for Jonathan Nolan – Christo­pher’s brother and co- writer of In­ter­stel­lar and The Dark Knight – who’s writ­ing and ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ing the show. His fel­low West­world pro­ducer is one JJ Abrams, and the show is op­er­at­ing un­der the usual Bad Robot shut­the­hellup lev­els of se­cu­rity: many Bothans died to bring you the fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion…

Ranch dress­ing

Un­der­go­ing an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis is cow­girl-next- door Dolores Aber­nathy and love­struck pis­tol-packer Teddy Flood – played by Evan Rachel Wood and James Mars­den. The pair are for­ever des­tined to have a guest come be­tween them, as love- ri­val Teddy must be de­feated be­fore the vic­tor can see Dolores in the sad­dle. This pat­tern is stuck on re­peat un­til Dolores un­cov­ers the truth.

The man i n the sky

The man be­hind Dolores, Teddy and the rest of West­world’s me­negerie of char­ac­ters is Dr Robert Ford, played in a spec­tac­u­lar cast­ing coup by An­thony Hop­kins. Although, let’s be se­ri­ous, we’re en­vi­sion­ing an episode nine Ned Stark- style exit for the ex­pen­sive el­derly leg­end.

Dr Ford isn’t run­ning West­world on his tod. His back­room staff – com­plete with their own agen­das and ri­val­ries – are also sup­ply­ing their share of drama: the team in­clude Jef­frey Wright, as head of pro­gram­ming Bernard Lowe, and Mi­randa Otto as Vir­ginia Pittman, the am­bi­tious head of Qual­ity As­sur­ance, whose job ti­tle will be an oxy­moron by the end of the se­ries.

Bad ro­bots

Semi- flesh­ing out West­world for vis­i­tors are a whole cast of char­ac­ter- types for guests to in­ter­act with. Th­ese in­clude lo­cale madame Maeve Miller ( Thandie New­ton), her most popular at­trac­tion Clemen­tine Pen­nyfeather ( An­gela Sarafyan) and ban­dits like Har­lan Bell ( Ro­drigo San­toro). Don’t ex­pect to see too much of the other al­ter­na­tive worlds from the orig­i­nal movie – An­cient Rome, Me­dieval Europe, the Fu­ture – so HBO’s blood- splat­tered Rome set will have to stay in moth­balls.

Bald, black, bad, back…

Of course, the big ques­tion is whether the proto- T800 Man in Black is back, and we’re not talk­ing about Johnny Cash. And yes, the vil­lain­ous gun­slinger will be once again be talk­ing trash and prompt­ing gun­fights in sa­loons across West­world, with suit­ably slap-headed Ed Har­ris tak­ing on the role made iconic by Yul Bryn­ner. Get the boy a bib…

When to ex­pect i t?

West­world will air from au­tumn 2015.

Build­ing the “per­fect” an­droids. Ooh yeah, it cer­tainly ain’t “East­world”. West­world: where noth­ing can pos­si­bly go wronggg…

Will Ed Har­ris be as stoney si­lent as Yul Bryn­ner was?

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