Although the concept of BBC3’s complex zombie drama, In The Flesh, might seem a bit far-fetched, the compelling story and subtle allusions to contemporary social issues make this not ‘just another zombie programme’. The show, now in its second series, explores the tensions that surface when sufferers of Partially Deceased Syndrome, that is, the dead who have risen and are taking medication in order to live as a normal human rather than a ‘rabid’ zombie, try to integrate back in to normal society alongside the living. An extremist faction called the Undead Liberation Army want to bring about a second rising and, in reaction, the anti-undead Victus political party is formed with the agenda of wiping out all those with PDS. This degree of ‘zombie realism’ takes a while to become accustomed to, but acts as a timely allegory of contemporary social tensions.
As part of the run up to the European elections, BBC news showed a clip of David Cameron visiting his local constituents and asking them about their concerns, the upmost being immigration. Five minutes into In The Flesh an eerily similar clip was shown, in which newly elected MP Maxine Martin is speaking to her constituents about their concerns, with the integration of PDS sufferers in to society being the first issue to be raised. Whilst the show is by no means deliberately trying to reflect society or fulfil a political message, it is refreshing to see a zombie-horror programme which more accurately reflects realistic social conflicts and tensions, rather than just gruesome prosthetics and gore.
Protagonist Kieran Walker, (Luke Newberry), most effectively shows the psychological consequences on PDS sufferers struggling to cope with their controversial place in society, with a particularly poignant scene in which he covers the bathroom mirror with a towel before removing the makeup and contact lenses which disguise his ‘undead’ appearance. However, the new local Victus party MP, played by Wunmi Mosaku, was at times portrayed like a comedic pantomime villain, drilling through a rabid zombie’s skull and collecting the records of PDS sufferers with sinister intent.
For the most part, In The Flesh does a superb job of portraying an authentic and conflicting society struggling to accept as fellow citizens those who not long ago they were trying to kill. A fascinating concept, masterful plot, relevant contemporary nuances and a small dose of humour, In The Flesh proves the zombie franchise hasn’t died out quite just yet.
You can watch In The Flesh on BBC iPlayer now or on Sundays at 10pm, BBC3