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I recall when the French T.V. series Les Revenants was released in the United States. It has something of a buzz about it and I made a point that I was going to watch it. However, by the time it was released in the U.S., there was already an English language version under development. In fact, I dare say part of the push to talk up the French series was to generate interest for the American version. By the time they made it to Netflix, I had both available to me at roughly the same time.

I wasn’t sure which one to watch first. Should I try to see the original, and then watch the U.S. version be able to judge it as an adaptation? Or should I start it off with the material that was meant for me specifically? Surely setting a show in the Pacific Northwest, rather than France, would make it easier for me to follow some of the more subtle references, assuming there are any? I recently watch The Killing, the U.S. version, without first taking in the Danish series, and it seemed to work out OK. There were certain moments where I became aware that, for example, all the names were Danish or that the landscape, while convincingly Seattle, was an awful lot like Denmark. Culturally, though, it matched my own.

In the end, Netflix has made the choice for me. The U.S. series is being removed from their streaming offerings by the end of the week so I have that long to try to make it through. The show is well done, and so I am certainly happy to give it a try, I’m just not sure I have enough time to fit it all in. It is a short series, only 10 episodes in all. Having not reached the end, I still don’t know yet if all will be revealed. I’ll leave that to you to find out on your own.

Instead, a little bit on the title. The French series was based on a French film from 2004, also with the same name. The film version was translated into English as “They Came Back.” It is also identified as a “zombie film.” It deviated from the “zombie” formula in that the risen weren’t monsters, mindless or otherwise, whose presence threatened the rest of us. They didn’t eat human flesh nor did they pass on their curse to those they came in contact with. Nevertheless, they are “the other,” something not entirely human (as we, the living, define ourselves) and so, perhaps, they are in some other way a threat to our existence. One that we don’t immediately appreciate.

When the series was recreated for the American audience, the translated title is “The Returned,” which is also how it is reference in Amazon for the original, French version. Now, revenent is derived from revenir, meaning “to return” or “to come back.” So the noun form, certainly, implies “They who have returned.” However, in French, le revenent, is also understood to mean “the ghost.” It probably wouldn’t refer to a zombie, where one might expect to see, much as in English, the actual term zombie or perhaps “living dead.”

They concept behind the show, the return of the dead, wouldn’t seem to have much grounding in reality. I wonder, though. It may be a bit of a fringe following, but there are a growing number among us who anticipate, and wholeheartedly believe in, some form of a Singularity. Such is defined as an advance in technology, most often attributed to advanced (possibly sentient) Artificial Intelligence (AI), that would overturn many of the rules by which society has thus far functioned. One of the more sought-after benefits is an end to aging. This could be brought about by advanced medical science that would allow the repair of the aging effects upon our bodies to grant us extended youth and immense life-spans. An alternative possibility is that the advancement of AI would allow humans to transfer their consciousness to a computer, allowing an immortality of mind, if not of body.

For me, this raises a certain philosophical question. Imagine you are offered the opportunity of transferring your mind to a computer. You are assured that, upon doing so, you will continue to live on, forever. Imagine also that this idea appeals to you (although, for many it may not). You are assured, including by those who have undergone the process before you, that indeed your sense of self remains intact through the transfer. However, you suspect differently. In an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type of scenario, you begin to suspect that those advising you are simply clever AIs who want to profit by assuming the identity of living persons, whom they can then eliminate without arousing suspicion. How could you know?

Imagine it this way. What if I told you that every night, when you go to sleep, your mind actually dies. In the morning, a new person, and new consciousness, is created. That person inherits all the memories and identifying features of the dead person and thus is indistinguishable from the deceased. In fact, the newly-born mind feels that they, themselves, have experienced the life lived by the person who passed on overnight, even though their “life” before this very morning is merely false-memories created by another. I tell you this. Can you prove to me it isn’t true? How could you go about doing that?

As a character in the show says, “There’s only one way to find out.”