Ad Vitam Review (TV series)
This dark and cool French TV series, about society that has just recently solved the problem of ageing, got little publicity in the UK, but I found it to be a great thriller with a bonus of being about my favourite subject.
Set in France in the near future – everything is pretty much the same though all cars are electric – most people are able to undertake regular regeneration treatments which keep them looking like they’re about 30-40 years old even if they work hard and play hard. This is a few generations after where the excellent book Suicide Club left off – where people were being extremely careful not to incur any ageing damage whilst waiting for the first therapies.
This technological advance has given birth to three key movements. Firstly, a campaign on radical birth control – i.e. no more children – succeeds in winning a referendum under the banner “give them space.” This results in couples rushing to get pregnant before the vote.
Secondly, and the main focus of the series, is a pro-suicide sect, with teens and young adults rebelling against the prospect of an indefinite, but controlled, life
Finally, the Church of the Glorification which asserts that regeneration is unnatural – there will no doubt be an actual version of this when we reach longevity escape velocity. Its followers are against suicide sects as they believe that the sects give them a bad reputation and confuse the anti-regeneration movement.
Ad Vitam doesn’t attempt to predict how the rejuvenation technology works, which is probably a good idea as that would only distract from the questions of what-if, but realistically it assumes that the first human trials use terminally ill cancer patients, as many new therapies are today.
The practicalities of the regular regeneration treatment involve full-body submersion into a liquid-filled tank. There are clinics in every small town and the better off can afford to have one in their homes. The requirement for regular regeneration is probably what will happen in the real-world, fixing small amounts of damage at a time, so maybe the writers are following SENS Foundation work with interest. Whether we’ll receive government issued reminders is less clear, though maybe if regeneration is significantly cheaper than treating ageing then governments will be obliged to encourage everyone to participate.
To prevent people becoming bored, people are put on retraining every so often and choose a new career in the same way as people select a holiday from a brochure. Though there are restrictions – police officers are limited to three 33-year terms. Darius, the lead detective in the story, is approaching the end of his third term and shows no interest in any other profession. Likewise, another subplot in the series suggests that life has no urgency, and therefore no meaning, if you have unlimited time and career after career. The main character also lost his son before rejuvenation was successful - and he is questioned as to whether hould you forget even the biggest moments in his life after 100 years.
The government does not allow regeneration until people turn 30 – what is termed as "underage." Just before they reach this age they are tested, as some people are incompatible with the regeneration technology.
Other interesting ideas include professional grievers to inform relatives if someone dies as people are no longer used to death and some don't understand it. Death has become a bit of a taboo with death shops – in the same style as sex shops – that sell products that give you a sense of how it would feel like to die.
Overall, I would give it 5 stars, but it loses one for not answering all the questions just to leave the option open for another series (a common trait nowadays) - in my opinion to the detriment of the story. Currently available on Netflix – definitely worth a watch.
Mentioned in this blog post:
Ad Vitam - Science fiction TV show about eternal youth.
Netflix - American media-services provider and production company.
Related Blog Posts
The Meaning of Life Extension (infographic)
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng - Book Review
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