I apologize for the vagueness, but I've exhausted the limit of my google-fu on this one.
I'm looking for a mini-series that probably aired on UK Channel 4 in the 90s.

  • It probably had 4 episodes, each exploring a different future scenario.
  • It was set in the near future, and had a cyberpunk-ish theme.
  • One episode was about advanced medical care that was only available to the very rich. It centred around a rebel group attempting to secure treatment for a terminally ill patient. There was a lot of driving around in old vans. Pirate TV broadcast was a theme.
    Possibly some rebels (or all of them), or a doctor, were killed in the attempt.
  • Another episode was about a viral operating system on the threshold of sentience. Essentially a benevolent contagious A.I, as it was a more efficient than the OS it was displacing. The A.I was a major concern for the authorities because it was 'liberating' classified information as it spread.

That's really all I can remember.

  • 1
    There was also one episode investigating the murder of a very rich industriast - he made the point that since we're already paying for private health insurance, schools, security, and so on, what do we need the government for?
    – andrewsi
    Jun 28, 2014 at 22:17
  • 1
    This sounds like a great series, I'd like to know what it's called as well... Jun 29, 2014 at 3:59
  • 1
    Is it possible that these were part of a larger series a la "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits"?
    – Wingman4l7
    Jun 29, 2014 at 5:02
  • @Wingman4l7 While it's possible, a gut feeling says it wasn't.
    – user28792
    Jun 30, 2014 at 14:10
  • Strangely enough, the third one sounds a lot like the plot to the movie "Elysium".
    – Omegacron
    Jun 30, 2014 at 18:06

5 Answers 5


Googling some of the 1990s Channel 4 titles on the site The Telefantasy List (page seems to be down but there's an archived version here), I think I've found it--there was a documentary series called Equinox which had some one-off films called "Equinox Specials" including The King of Chaos from 1998, which has the following synopsis:

Docu-drama of what the media might be like by the year 2012. EQUINOX's first drama, set in the future, focuses on the facts behind the suspicious death of media mogul, Liam Keller, whose software applications have had a huge impact upon broadcast TV, earning him enemies around the world. In the late 1990s, Keller had devised `Gambit', a virus which enabled all technologies (the internet, television broadcasting, e-mail) to converge - to communicate with one another. Found floating in the Thames, a television current affairs programme sets out to explore how Keller might have met his death. Through Keller's life story this drama explores the consequences of future technology, reflecting on what might happen to our present day media over the next few years. The programme also includes interviews with leading futurologists, including British Telecom's Director of Research Peter Cochrane.

The telefantasy list also notes that "'The King of Chaos was repeated on Channel 4 as an episode of Futurecast in 2000", and looking up "Futurecast" I found a summary here which lists some other episodes that seem to match what you remember:

Futurecast, first aired on Channel 4, April 2000, is a trilogy of sci-fi dramas set in 2012-13. Each episode - "The Kidnap", "The King of Chaos" and "Newborn" - deals with the consequences of technological and scientific advances. "The Kidnap", directed by Bryn Higgins, is about a couple, Louise and Craig Richardson (Paula O'Grady and Gary Sefton), who hire radical healthcare activist, Sepp Kurtz (Adrian Shiller) to hack into the world's most popular news channel to broadcast the trial of a powerful biotechnology boss, Terence Singh (Ranjit Krishnamma), they kidnapped to get the gene therapy needed for Craig's leukaemia. "The King of Chaos" deals with a murdered software mogul, Liam Keller (Danny Webb), who may have created the world's first intelligent software. Who killed him and what were their motives? "Newborn" is concerned with how people react when the internet becomes intelligent. A decision is made to shut it down, but with what consequences? How will this affect the flow of information?

"Newborn" sounds like the one you were talking about with the viral A.I. I couldn't find a version online or on DVD, but the company that made Futurecast, Stone City Films, has a page with a short clip of the episode "The Kidnap" here. (update: the Stone City Films page is down but you can see an archived version of the text from the page on archive.org here, and the clip from "The Kidnap" is available on vimeo here, although the first 10 seconds have some kind of audio stutter problem).

  • Well that's a relief.
    – user28792
    Jun 30, 2014 at 15:55
  • 2
    Wow! It predicted the widespread use of drone mounted cameras perfectly, including the date.
    – user28792
    Jun 30, 2014 at 16:01

The closest thing I could find to match the general near-future dystopic themes you describe was the series Play for Tomorrow, produced by the BBC in 1982:

Each of the six episodes paints a vision of life in a future year, near the end of the 20th Century or at the beginning of the 21st.

There is an IMDB entry for the series with very brief plot synopses, and another website with slightly more lengthy plot descriptions and some screenshots. This website provides a more lengthy review / analysis of each episode's plot.

  • 1
    Annoyingly, I know the series the OP is talking about, and have been trying to find it for the last couple of hours; it's definitely not this, I'm afraid. If I remember rightly, it was on towards the end of the 90s - 1997 or later
    – andrewsi
    Jun 29, 2014 at 5:32
  • @andrewsi - can you remember any other details that might help identifying it, like whether you recognized any actors, or whether it was Channel 4 as Adria thought? I found a metafilter thread at ask.metafilter.com/82089/… which gives some extra details on the ep with the AI, the person there thought it was a BBC show though...unfortunately no one could find a definite identification on that thread either, someone suggested the show "virtual murder" but that doesn't seem right from the synopsis I read.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 29, 2014 at 16:05
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    @Hypnosifl - I can't think of much more that's much help. I thought the main actor in the AI show might have been one of the presenters of GamesMaster, but a quick look through the IMDB entries for Dominick Diamond or Dexter Fletcher didn't help. I do remember that the very end of the episode had the main chap turning to the camera just after the AI has started manifesting itself and saying "Did you see that? Did you see..." before the camera faded to black as the internet was turned off to destroy it again.
    – andrewsi
    Jun 30, 2014 at 0:33
  • @andrewsi That date estimate of late 90s 97 "feels right".
    – user28792
    Jun 30, 2014 at 14:11
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    @andrewsi (and Adria) - I found a huge list of 1990s UK telefantasies at homepage.ntlworld.com/john.seymour1/telefantasylist/… , you could look it over to see if any names ring a bell, if not we could try just googling all the titles to find descriptions.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 30, 2014 at 15:22

It's Stone City.

I'm pretty certain that it was first aired around early part of 1998 (probably January, might of been the 1st) on Channel Four, and yes the production company was Stone City Films but there's scant information of it on their site .

There were three episodes: "The Kidnap", "The King of Chaos" and "Newborn"(quite a good summary here ). In the second episode, "The King of Chaos", the main character, Ian Keller, creates a virus (I think it was called Gambit) that is able to merge various technologies such as television and the internet. This allows for the sharing of tv programmes etcetera.

Keller argues that this is no different than him passing a newspaper, that he purchased, onto a friend after he'd read it. "It's my paper I can do what I want with it, I've paid for it", he then offers services that local government don't deliver very well and that you may already be paying twice for anyway. The suggestion here is, don't pay your taxes, you're not getting value for money.

  • welcome to scifi.stackexchange! I took the liberty highlighting your answer. That is I hope you meant to say that it's Stone City. Otherwise feel free to roll back. Usually story-identification-answers tend to be one-liners, or link-only answers. Since it was agreed that that is bad practice I guess this is a welcome change of pace! Anyhow: The tax-list is awfully (realistically) long!
    – Einer
    Aug 13, 2014 at 18:11
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    @Einer - I felt that it added nothing to the answer (given that it was simply copied from the internet) and edited it out
    – Valorum
    Aug 13, 2014 at 18:12
  • Sort of misleading given the answer was Futurecast.
    – user28792
    Sep 1, 2014 at 16:51

I think the show was called If

Which might explain why Google's not much use in this case.

There were at least two seasons, the second aired in either 1990 or 1991. Each episode was an hour long and took the form of a docudrama focusing on the sociological and environmental impact of changes brought about by science. I remember two episodes especially well. One dealt with the repercussions of medical science allowing us all to live longer and the effect this has on the younger generation when the older people are retiring later and living longer,hanging on to their property and sucking up more resources in terms of healthcare and pensions. The result was a society divided not by race or class but by age. The other dealt with gated communities and their inevitably parasitic relationship with their host cities and towns.


Are you sure your not thinking of the Channel 4 and later American produced series Max Headroom? As some of the descriptions sound very similar, ie cyberpunk, pirate TV, driving in vans, organ transplants for the wealthy using kidnapped donors and AI (Max Headroom himself) It was mid to late 1980s though and was a great show.

check out these links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom:_20_Minutes_into_the_Future


and also :

  • Adria already "accepted" my answer of Equinox, indicating that it's correct. Two episodes of Equinox seem to be an exact match for the plots Adria mentioned, while I don't think there were any Max Headroom episodes focused around "a rebel group attempting to secure treatment for a terminally ill patient" or "a benevolent contagious A.I" (Max himself was always run on a single computer and wasn't spreading to multiple different computers, as I recall).
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 4, 2015 at 0:00

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