HBO’s Westworld took a simple premise (Disneyland, but you murder cowboys) and somehow turned it into one of the most convoluted, densely-packed sci-fi series of all-time. Last season we got a storyline about a tech company’s future-predicting mega computer, which caused all of humanity to riot when its predictive info leaked – and that was one of the simpler narrative threads of the show so far. 

Now Westworld is back for a fourth season, which is already finding exciting new ways to make audiences ask: “Wait, who’s that guy again?”

But as off-the-rails as Westworld might seem at times, oddly, the show’s bonkers trajectory has, to a certain extent, followed that of the original franchise that inspired it. The first season of Westworld limited the action to the confines of the park, as did Michael Crichton’s original 1973 film – although HBO’s Westworld inverted the premise slightly; we’re introduced to the Westworld park through the eyes of an arriving robotic “host,” Teddy –

– rather than a human audience surrogate, as was the case in the movie. Clearly we’re meant to sympathize with the hosts, which is also why the villainous gunslinger clad in black is no longer a malfunctioning android, but rather, a psychotic corporate goon. And season two of Westworld expanded to other themed regions of the park, like Shogunworld. Which is not unlike the second movie, Futureworld …

While the other areas of the park are glimpsed only briefly in the first movie, here our characters actually get to visit “Futureworld” and, at one point, they even meet two robot Samurai. At the end, we learn that the parent company, Delos, is secretly robo-cloning important guests and replacing them in order to exert political influence. Similarly, season two of the TV show ends with the revelation that Delos has been copying everyone’s DNA and keeping it on file.

The third season of Westworld took place in the real world for the first time (thus deflating the whole “Westworld is on Mars” theory). And while there was no third Westworld movie, there was the 1980 TV series Beyond Westworld, which also took place in the real world, following two agents tasked with hunting down the robot doppelgangers. No evil psychic computers though.

So while it’s only natural to complain that the show has jumped the robotic-shark, it’s worth remembering that this premise was already taken to wacky extremes on television more than forty years ago – albeit with more shoulder pads and less full frontal nudity.

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Thumbnail: HBO/MGM  

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