Season 4 of the original Being Human, set the daunting tasks not only of recovering from the loss of Aidan Turner but of writing out Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan as well, always looked like it would be transitional. Its eight-episode run on BBC Three last spring just had to firmly establish the new line-up; the real test would be season 5, with the new era, having shed the last of its original cast with the departure of Lenora Crichlow, moving past its wobbly first steps and able to stride forward on firmer ground.
But Being Human 2.0 won't have that chance to prove itself. BBC Three has already preemptively announced, within days of the season premiere in the UK, that the six-episode season 5 will be the program's final outing. The UK series will wrap for good on March 10, with, we're promised, an "apocalyptic end."
The Corner of Fifth and Final
Being Human is the latest in a string of innovative series to be preemptively canceled on the verge of their (often shortened) fifth seasons, making "fifth and final" a phrase that haunts cult sci-fi/fantasy series. There was Eureka, which had its sixth season yanked after it was too late to make the fifth season build up to a series finale; Fringe, which Fox renewed for a "fifth and final" rather than canceling out of respect more than anything else; Chuck, which had fended of cancellation every year and got a half-season send-off as a compromise with vocal fans; and most recently Merlin, which is ending on the moment of recognition that could have served as a new beginning.
It makes it seem as though five years is a natural production span for a show that succeeds creatively but doesn't attain blockbuster status; but there's always that sense that five years was not enough--that the creative potential was aborted. Meanwhile, perversely, shows with an actual five-year plan, like Supernatural, generally survive beyond it (or fall short of it). Or there's some kind of fluke, as with Babylon 5, where the five-year plan was hurriedly forced into four years, and then they got a vestigial fifth year after all.
Apparently, those capricious, whimsical gods of television development have fixed it so you can't go in figuring on a five-year arc, because you can't get it if you plan for it; but if you make a viable, dynamic sci-fi premise that would be strongly workable beyond five years, you're in danger of being forced to wrap it up into an imposed "fifth and final" year.
Setting up Season 5
Being Human currently stars Michael Socha, Damien Molony, and Kate Bracken as a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who, like the original line-up of Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, and Lenora Crichlow, are "monsters" trying to cope with living among humans, seeking new self-identity through ordinary routines and social interactions in the face of threats largely from their own kind. Season 5 also stars Steven Robertson as one of the government Men in Grey introduced in season 4 who help hide the existence of supernatural creatures from the public.
Creator Toby Whithouse had planned big things for season 5, and with the cancellation of the series, which he might have suspected and made contingency plans for, he's free to end the season and the series with a bang.
On his blog he outlined the progressive themes for the series to date.
The Evolving Story
"Series One told the story of Mitchell, George and Annie settling into their new home and the beginning of their (ultimately futile) attempt the ape humanity and live a normal mundane life," he said. "In my mind it was titled 'There Goes The Neighbourhood'." (This name was used, naturally without the extra British 'u,' as the title for the pilot episode of the North American version of the series.)
"In Series Two, our heroes were being hunted and manipulated by a shadowy group of religious zealots who had perverted the word of God to suit their own agendas, believing the eradication of supernatural creatures was a divine mission. I called it 'God Loves, Man Kills'. Series Three dealt with the aftermath of the massacre Mitchell committed in Box Tunnel the previous year and his ultimate destruction at the hands of 'The Wolf-shaped Bullet'. And Series Four detailed the vampire myth of 'The War Child' -- George and Nina's orphaned baby -- and her part in destroying the vampire aristocracy."
"When we started work on Series Five we gave it the title 'The Greater Good'. But in the end we settled on 'The Trinity', because this was the first entire series with our new cast. Thanks to the brilliance, enthusiasm and sheer elemental talent of Damien Molony, Kate Bracken and Michael Socha; it was their skill and passion that would stop me rocking and dribbling and draw me out from under my desk to actually write the scripts. And so this series title belongs to them. The new heroes of Being Human. The new trinity."
The Fate of the New Team
Whithouse also gave some hints as to what we can expect from his new heroes. "Every year we try and up the ante," he wrote. "Blowing Mark Gatiss and a baby up at the end of series four was good, but we could do better. We wanted to tell a story that was even greater, even more labyrinthine and epic than anything we've done before. Slowly a story about sacrifice and misplaced courage started to take shape."
It's easy to see that within such a context, a series finale has a lot of dark and powerful possibilities, especially for a program that's gotten progressively more dark and freighted with emotional turmoil over time. And each of these characters, damaged in their own ways, has a lot of play for how they'll react to the convoluted progression of crises that Whithouse has placed them into.
Whithouse subsequently promised an "epic, thrilling and shocking finale."
Here and There
It's still not clear exactly when the last season of the UK Being Human will air here in the States. Season 4 started airing on BBC America near the end of the original run on BBC Three last spring, but no announcement has been made about season 5. Meanwhile, you can catch up on the first four seasons on home video and on Netflix.
One final note: it may be too much to hope for, but BBC Three did give the cost of Being Human as its excuse for canceling the amazing series The Fades. So maybe, just maybe, now that they've dropped Being Human, room might be made in the books for a certain other brilliantly innovative show...?