Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics state: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
Creating them, he laid a foundation for all robot stories to come. Indeed, he essentially gave writers a template for great drama: at some point, let the robot(s) obey the third law to the detriment of the first two, and start hurting humans.
Netflix’s Better Than Us goes so far as to open Ep 1 with the laws on-screen. Nothing wrong with that; we know where we are and what to expect. The tale’s in the telling. What’s fresh about the telling here is the milieu: modern (or near-future) Moscow. Better Than Us is a Russian series, with fresh, intriguing Russian faces and a sensibility that doesn’t necessarily reflect the politically correct nuances of more western fare. Our dangerous robot here, at least in the first couple of episodes, is a fembot fatale, a cheerful throwback to, say, Species.
The production design and VFX cleverly offer a Moscow, and Muscovites, with wrist-implanted phones but scuffed up shoes. This is the kind of futurism I particularly like, the kind that acknowledges that some things don’t change. Also, not having been to Moscow, and certainly not recently, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s invented within the cityscape. It all adds up to a fresh vibe, even as (Russian-born) Asimov’s three rules again set the dramatic ones. The lead (human) characters – a morgue worker, a cop, a pregnant widow, an oily executive and a little girl – are all distinct, rounded and very well performed, and the story expands satisfyingly. This is a compelling and highly watchable sci-fi drama.