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Why you need to check out BBC Three's underrated sci-fi drama Cleverman


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Looking for something to watch in between lectures? Already devoured everything Netflix has to offer? If you don’t feel like re-watching Narcos for the second time, there’s a new show on BBC Three that is definitely worth a watch.

Cleverman is a supernatural, dystopian drama that raises questions about identity, migration and internment and racial politics, while providing plenty of intrigue and action to keep your attention.

Set in a near-future Australia, the show imagines a world where a species of sub-human known as ‘Hairies’ are imprisoned and scapegoated by the general public; only permitted to live with humans  - the majority of who are Aboriginal Australian - in a section of Sydney known as ‘the Zone’.

Taking inspiration from the Aboriginal Australian stories of the Cleverman, the narrative follows Koen West, who is unexpectedly passed on the mantle of Cleverman over his older half-brother Waruu, the unofficial human leader of the Zone.

Morally complex and sometimes downright nasty, very few of the characters can be placed in a box labelled ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Protagonist Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) could almost be seen as an anti-hero at the beginning, using the capture of Hairies for his own financial gain and completely uninterested in fulfilling his role as the Cleverman. Through his own discoveries into the deep conspiracies and the thawing of his relationship with Waruu (Rob Collins), he comes to understand what it means to be the Cleverman.

Media mogul Jarrod Slade (Iain Glen), who is connected to both the West family and the government, has his own mysterious agenda, manipulating both sides for his own ends. The anti-Hairy politician Geoff Matthews is more overtly sinister, both with his own public measures of containment and his own creepy private obsessions.

Inspiration for Cleverman has been taken from the Aboriginal Dreamtime, something that is not well known outside of Australia, and the reinvention of these myths in a modern context provides the series with a background that you’ve probably never seen before.

The show also explores the way society treats minorities: forcing them to live in poor conditions, continued attacks by the right-wing media and incarceration. In the context of the migrant crisis currently taking place around the world, Cleverman holds up an interesting mirror to society and the issues we currently face.

Cleverman is a TV show with a wide range of appeal, from government conspiracy thriller, to sci-fi, to a good old fashioned family drama – albeit very different from anything you’d recognise.

If you like your TV interesting, now is definitely the time to get into Cleverman.

Cleverman is available to watch on the BBC Three website, with new episodes appearing weekly.

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