Not sure how far along this show is in the US, but the first episode aired in the UK this week.I don't normally watch a lot of tv but this got universally excellent reviews so I thought I'd give it a look. It was great. The original Michael Crichton story and the film they made of it was basically just Jurassic Park with malfunctioning robotic cowboys instead of velociraptors, but the makers of this show have taken a wholly different approach which is way more subtle and interesting.

The basic premise is that Westworld is an aging attraction that's been running for about 30 years where wealthy people pay money for a fully immersive trip into the old west, populated by an array of android characters which look, feel, act and believe themselves to be real people. Their memories are wiped at the end of every day so they keep running through the same basic story arcs that they're programmed for, with scope for some improvisation depending on the interactions they have with the guests but intended not to stray too far from the basic script. It's a good job as well, because Westworld has long since strayed from a kitsch, Disneyfied attraction and begun catering more for the darker desires of the paying guests. The first android character we meet is Delores, a beautiful, wholesome blonde farmgirl type whose day ends with her parents and boyfriend getting gunned down and herself getting dragged into the barn to be raped by a human guest who it turns out has been a repeat visitor for 30 years and has no doubt acted out that same dark fantasy dozens of times over the years. In the morning she wakes up to repeat the same script with no memory of the horrors her human guest had subjected her to the night before, which she has no doubt been subjected to hundreds of times.

We're obviously intended to sympathise with Delores, but it raises all kinds of interesting questions. When you step away from the appearance of a beautiful young woman having to witness her parents brutally murdered and then be subjected to rape, what we actually have is just an artificial experience designed for the gratification of the guest. None of it is actually real. So to what extent does this differ from if the guy had been sat at home playing Grand Theft Auto ? Is he really doing anything wrong ?

That latter question will presumably depend upon the extent to which the various androids are really 'alive', which will no doubt be explored as the series progresses. It's a promising start though.