CSI and Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran Naren Shankar has joined J.H. Wyman as an executive producer on FOX's upcoming cops-and-androids series Almost Human, which premieres November 4. We spoke with Mr. Shankar at Comic-Con about the connections to his previous work, and more specifically, the connections between Almost Human's Dorian and ST:TNG's Data, who was also a being created by man.
"On Star Trek, it was a little different, I feel," Shankar says of the comparison. "For me, Data in Star Trek was really the story of Pinocchio. That was the wooden boy who wanted to become a real boy. And so, the storylines were all about 'I want to understand dreaming this episode' or 'I want to have a child this episode.' With Data, it was explicit that he wasn't human, but wanted to understand humanity. In Almost Human it kind of got turned on its head a little bit, which is what I frankly found very attractive about this show," he explains.
"You have a synthetic who is actually quite human, and in many respects, more human than the human, and the human has synthetic parts, so he feels a little bit disengaged and disconnected. And the notion of a robot actually teaching him how to become human was more interesting, because it wasn't an issue of sentience with Dorian, where it was always 'is he a living creature? Is he just a machine?' with Data. We're not really dealing with that, and I think as you see the relationship evolve, especially when you start exposing elements of Dorian's backstory, which is going to happen immediately, I think you're really going to see that this takes a very different trajectory," he says.
Shankar finds the intersection of technology and biology to be a theme at the heart of Almost Human that he finds "quite fascinating." "It's something that futurists talk about a lot. It's very inter-present in literature. We all see it around us. We sense it happening, and what we want to project into the future 30 years down the road, is it's really starting to happen. And where does that take us, as a species? Because the notion of technology creating tremendous problems and creating awful things... if you're really going to be honest about it, you also have to say well 'technology also represents the only chance we have of being able to fix anything. It's our one weapon as a species to make good the things that we've made bad.' And part of what we want to do in the show is show both sides of that. It creates bad things, but it also gives you some hope. We're not talking about a purely dystopian future; we also want to show that there is actual chance for some optimism, and maybe, if we can figure out how to work technology and biology together, we'll end up in a really perfect place," he speculates.
With these past credits, it almost seems as though Almost Human is a marriage of all of the previous work of both Naren Shankar and Joel Wyman. "Joel and I talked about it," he admits, adding another television classic series to the mix. "We have a lot of the poetry; the visual poetry of Fringe with the mystery solving procedural elements of CSI, but with the great cops and the people dealing with a crime infested world of NYPD Blue. It's probably all of those things. What was really interesting about meeting Joel when he brought me in was aesthetically, we have very similar tastes. CSI, when I was on the show, if you visually looked at the show, it had a lot visually in common with Fringe. There's also the classic long lens; the color palettes were even very similar. It just turns out that we had similar aesthetic sensibilities. We keep wanting to see the same things, so it's been a really nice marriage, and it's been a great thing to be a part of," he says.
Almost Human premieres November 4 on FOX. Read some of our other content related to the show!