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From monkey flu to Toy Story: Resurrection – every prediction made in Years and Years

Viv Rook (Emma Thompson) takes control of Britain
Viv Rook (Emma Thompson) takes control of Britain Credit: Guy Farrow/BBC

Following one Mancunian family over the course of the next 15 years, writer Russell T Davies’s brilliant BBC One drama Years and Years conjured up a vivid vision of our near-future.  

Davies’s forecasts ranged from the trivial to the truly dystopian, covering technology, politics, food, entertainment, the state of the planet and social trends. And it was much too believable

From the re-election of Donald Trump to the Queen’s death, from hangover-free booze to meat-free meat, here’s our round-up of 35 predictions made by the series…

The Queen will die in early 2022

In Davies’s fictional future, Her Majesty passes away aged 95 and is succeeded by King Charles III. In other deaths-of-leaders news, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dies the following year, just short of her 70th birthday, throwing the country into turmoil after 18 years in charge.

Populist politician will become PM 

Years and Years depicts the rise to power of Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), a businesswoman and political novice who founds the populist Four Star party. There are shades of everyone from Nigel Farage to Katie Hopkins, from Boris Johnson to Donald Trump, in the way her far-right views are rendered palatable by her patriotic, no-nonsense, anti-elitist and (seemingly) common-sense approach.

Some smart use of social media, profile-raising TV appearances and sharp soundbites help propel her toward Downing Street – as does, it’s rumoured, backing from Russia. When the Four Star party gets into government, though, it takes them by surprise and they haven’t got any policies. This couldn’t happen in real life, obviously. Ahem.

The BBC will be closed down

Under Rook’s leadership, not only are journalists who ask difficult questions banned – “Fake news! False facts! You are the enemy of the people!” Rook cries, Trump-ishly – but the BBC loses its charter and the Corporation closes down. As a result, ITV stocks soar and Netflix snaps up rights to the Beeb’s back catalogue. 

Synthetic booze will eliminate hangovers

Edith returns from her travels with two bottles of under-the-counter Japanese synthetic spirit, which are meant to be highly intoxicating with no after-effects or health damage. “Alcosynth” certainly does the first job, making the refreshed family dance around the campfire to Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping and, in the case of Stephen (Rory Kinnear), remove their clothes.

Judging by the next day’s hangovers, however, the recipe still needs perfecting. Such a product might really be on the way to market – British scientist David Nutt has developed a safe substitute called “Alcarelle”. 

Stephen (Rory Kinnear) tries unsuccessfully to avoid a hangover Credit: Matt Squire/BBC

Two terms for Trump before President Pence

Donald Trump was re-elected in Years and Years, then succeeded by Mike Pence – widely viewed as a puppet for his predecessor. Under their administrations, the US swings further to the right: nuking China, banning the speaking of Spanish, suspending gay marriage and overturning the Roe v Wade abortion ruling, all of which causes the UN to uproot its HQ from American soil. With typical modesty, Trump also has his face carved into Mount Rushmore. Presumably, the granite is given a lick of orange paint.

Vegan meat will cook itself

By virtue of Rosie Lyons (Ruth Madeley) going from school dinner-lady to street-food truck-owner, Years and Years provides insights into the future of fast food. On the menu will be algae pies, membrane burgers, acorn burgers, paper burgers and meat made from recycled orange peel, all seasoned with “saltless salt”. There's also a “Goldilocks system” of self-cooking food: not too hot, not too cold, just right.

We will be sent to a watery grave

The eco-friendly alternative to burial or cremation in the 2020s is “alkaline hydrolysis” at an “aquatorium”, where human remains are dissolved in liquid. This is a real process, originally developed as a method to process animal carcasses into plant food. Rather than ashes, the bereaved family are given vials of fluid as a memento. Cue Edith knocking back her father’s remains in the pub. Cheers, dad.

We’ll put lemon on our pizzas

One brief mid-series scene shows that people in the future have lemon as a pizza topping. And you thought pineapple was wrong.

Compulsory and IQ-tested voting

Viv Rook not only makes it compulsory to vote in the 2026 general election for the first time in British history, but proposes that citizens be forced to take an IQ test before they can take part. Only those with scores above 70 would be allowed to vote. “Let the people decide,” she declared. “But only the clever ones.”

Porn will be on the school curriculum

In the 2020s, schoolchildren from the age of 11 are taught pornography – or, to give the subject its full name, “Sexual Awareness Imaging Control”. Vivienne Rook is firmly against this and, in a rabble-rousing speech, promises to jail the Silicon Valley CEOs responsible for British children’s exposure to online porn, claiming she’d found explicit clips on her six-year-old goddaughter’s phone.

Chaos across Europe

We see reports of populism sweeping across the continent, with France swinging to the far-right and Spain’s “January Revolution” seeing the far-left Nueva España party seize power. Hungary is declared bankrupt. There are outbreaks of Grexit-related violence in Athens as Greece withdraws from the Eurozone. The Italian government resigns and martial law is declared after rioting. Following a military coup in Ukraine, the Russian army enters the country to “maintain stability” and embarks on a purge of all enemies of the state – notably, anyone LGBTQ. This sparks a refugee crisis, with Ukrainians fleeing to Britain and being housed in shipping containers.

Rook makes it compulsory to vote – unless you're stupid Credit: Guy Farrow/BBC

Conspiracy theories will proliferate

A combination of online forums, distrust of official sources and sheer stupidity will lead to all manner of swivel-eyed conspiracy theories. Ralph (Dino Fetscher) – a schoolteacher, terrifyingly – becomes a “Flat Earther” and buys into the belief that germs don’t exist, while Woody (Kieran O’Brien) insists that that the Hong Sha nuclear bomb was faked. You know, like the Moon landings…

Chocolate will become a luxury

Due to a post-Brexit shortage, chocolate becomes an expensive rarity, rather than an everyday treat. Better start weaning yourself off it now.

Urban areas will become fenced-off

Early in the series, we hear how affluent areas of London have been sealed off to “commoners” and access to a ring-fenced Kensington is now means-tested. This goes further under Rook’s regime, with council estates designated as “criminal zones”; there are night-time curfews and ID required to enter or leave. 

Kids will become human emojis

Those cutesy Snapchat filters beloved by youngsters will become digitised holographic masks, beamed from a headset over the user’s face. Early in the series, troubled teenager Bethany (Lydia West) sits at the dinner table, hiding behind a cutesy cartoon animal mask, complete with voice synthesiser. 

Bethany (Lydia West) wears the holographic mask Credit: BBC

Cures for spina bifida and macular degeneration

Spina bifida sufferer Rosie speaks about how such birth defects can now be all-but-cured in the womb by keyhole surgery and nerve-tissue repair – a procedure which is actually on the cards in real life. Gran Muriel’s deteriorating eyesight is also diagnosed via an app, then cured with stem-cell therapy.

We’ll be integrated with our devices

As a teenager, Bethany blindsides her parents by coming out as “trans” – not transgender, but transhuman. She wants to discard her body, upload her consciousness into the cloud and live forever digitally. Across the series, we follow her journey towards integration. First, she has her smartphone implanted into her fingers via sub-dermal implants.

Later, when she gets a job in data-mining at the Home Office, she’s chosen for a government-funded “upgrade”, fitted with “interaction nodes” in her hands, a silicon chip in her head and cameras in her eyes, fully plugged into the internet. Her dying aunt Edith beats her to it and is turned into data first.

Robots for housework (and sex work)

Androids will be widely available to help out with odd jobs around the house, as Rosie discovers when she goes on a first date with single dad Tony (Noel Sullivan). When she finds an “attachment” for Keith the robot in Tony’s bedside drawer, she realises with amused horror that he helps out with other jobs too.

Edith (Jessica Hynes) becomes a transhuman Credit: BBC

Toy Story: Resurrection will be released

A fleeting gag but a good one – and timely too, with the fourth Pixar film out this week. Edith (Jessica Hynes) said she was taking her nephews to see this sequel at cinemas. Buzz Lightyears and Years, anyone?

Lots of rain, no insects

Climate change will reduce the country to a soggy mess, low on wildlife. In the 2028 of Years and Years, Britain has endured 80 consecutive days of rain, leading to widespread flooding. The North Pole has melted away, while the bird and insect populations have fallen catastrophically. Grandmother Muriel (Anne Reid) reminisces about butterflies becoming extinct – not so far-fetched, as recent studies show that 70 per cent of butterfly species are in decline.

Working from home will fall out of fashion

In Years and Years, we see TV news reporting on the “Towntime” phenomenon, which sees freelance workers sharing city centre offices and returning to a nine-to-five routine rather than working from home, where people tended to “eat and masturbate”. Perish the thought. 

No more going bananas

Yes sir, we have no bananas. Sometime in the next decade, Davies’s drama predicts, the world’s favourite fruit will die out.

Muriel (Anne Reid) remembers the days when butterflies were real Credit: Matt Squire/BBC

Notre-Dame rises, Pisa falls

In the Years & Years finale, we heard how Notre-Dame de Paris had re-opened, a decade after the fire. But it wasn’t all good news for famous landmarks, as the Leaning Tower of Pisa finally toppled over. It’s the Instagram poseurs we feel sorry for. 

Drone parks will spring up nationwide

With people flying drones as a hobby and companies using them for everything from deliveries to surveillance, “drone parks” will begin to open across the country. On Years and Years, rolling news shows the MP for Manchester Medlock snipping the ribbon on a new site – before absent-mindedly walking into the drone’s blades and being decapitated live on-air. His death opens the door for Viv Rook to win the by-election and begin her ascent to power.

Monkey flu will be a killer disease

Forget bird flu and swine flu, the next epidemic will be monkey flu. In the Years and Years finale, the virus has swept Europe, claiming 1,200 lives. It has even reached the Arctic Circle, while America has grounded flights and closed its borders.

Celeste (T'Nia Miller) exposes the truth about sugar Credit: Matt Squire/BBC

Fructose intolerance will replace gluten

We could be barking up the wrong tree with our supposed intolerance to gluten. When Bethany goes fructose-free, her mother Celeste (T’Nia Miller) explains: “Turns out it was a misdiagnosis for most of the world. What we thought was gluten intolerance was actually fructose intolerance. It’s this sugar chain thing.” Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruits, honey and many processed foods. Studies show that it can indeed trigger gastrointestinal symptoms in those with gut sensitivities.

‘Deepfake’ videos will threaten democracy

It’s a step up from fake news on Facebook. These counterfeit clips, engineered by artificial intelligence software, see convincing CGI mock-ups of politicians spouting extreme views. The subsequent outrage ruins debate and destabilises the traditional parties.

It’s not as futuristic as it sounds: such hoax videos have recently put words into the mouths of public figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump. The technology is also being used to make fake celebrity porn. Of course it is. 

Mo Farah on banknotes

Sir Mo appears on currency in the 2020s, quite possibly doing “The Mobot” to celebrate his new-found status. 

Rook with the 'blink' device Credit: Guy Farrow/BBC

‘Blink’ devices will take us offline

Viv Rook makes it the centrepiece of a campaign speech: she wields an illegal Taiwanese cyber-terror weapon called a “blink”, which takes out all electronic devices within a 30-metre radius. She claims that every parent and schoolteacher should have one of these magic wands to force children off their screens.

We later see that her internment camps each have a super-sized blink to block phone signals and disrupt wireless communications to the outside world.  

Medicines in short supply and ineffective

A financial crisis means that pharmaceutical companies go bankrupt, leaving everyday medicines in short supply. Post-Brexit, the European Medicines Agency has left for France, so British firms have to test drugs from scratch on human guinea pigs. Meanwhile, bacteria develop a resistance to antibiotics, which now fail to treat infections – with deadly consequences.

Eat up, it’s electric food

For the Lyons family’s feast in the series finale, Ruby (Jade Alleyne) cooks chestnut risotto made from “agitated bacteria with zero footprint”. “It’s going to save the world,” she explains. “It’s called electric food because they get water and zap it to produce hydrogen, which feeds bacteria and produces this – a brand new foodstuff. It’s never been alive.” Er… yum?

Edith exposes the camps in the Years and Years finale Credit: Matt Squire/BBC

Return to old-fashioned paper

A National Grid blackout crisis, widely blamed on Russian cyber-attacks, causes regular power cuts, meaning that digital systems crash and data are lost. The surprising solution is a return to old-fashioned paper, baffling the younger generation with old-fangled “newspapers” and records kept in filing cabinets “like something out of a period drama”.

Virtual assistants all over the house

Communications in the Lyons family homes are run by Alexa-meets-Siri devices called Señor, but by the series finale, even these have been replaced. “The signal’s in the air now, it’s in the wires and the walls,” Celeste tells Muriel. “You can speak out loud anywhere and he’ll hear you.”

Breath tests for identification purposes

Fingerprint scanning can be faked too easily, so by 2027, proof-of-ID is provided via a breath scan. Just make sure you clean your teeth first.

Mass migration around the UK

There’s a triple whammy of widespread flooding, coastal erosion and dirty bombs poisoning cities with radiation. This forces millions to evacuate their homes, creating an unprecedented housing crisis. Rook duly introduces an emergency “bedroom law”, under which anyone with two spare rooms is legally obliged to take in a homeless British citizen. Well, apart from the ones shipped off to the camps.