The One (2 stars)

Actress Hannah Ware in Netflix series The One

Clunky and clumsy novel adaptation that is disrupted by bland characters, stodgy dialogue and a premise that flops

Is The One a sci-fi drama about how a microscopic sliver of DNA can help identify your perfect life-partner or is it a workplace murder-mystery? Well, it turns out to be both but may as well have been neither, as two disparate ideas clash aggressively against each other only providing an over-diluting effect that fizzles away to nothing.

Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) is a go-getting, trouser-suited, bun-haired CEO of The One, a company that dominates the hearts, minds and billboards of the world after she and her colleague/pal James (Dimitri Leonidas) discover that certain fixed behavioural patterns in ants could be replicated in humans. Their tiny dreams sprout into a global sensation, but not everyone is enamoured with this project. An angry-looking purse-lipped man silently holds a daily placard-clutching vigil to suggest that The One might is not all that it's cracked up to be while all three of the core stories driving the series feature people caught in a moral conundrum over the pursuit of an ideal mate.

All of this could have been explored with nuance and intrigue and much better dialogue but instead it's all blown off course by the insertion of a floating dead body who was also once part of Rebecca's merry old gang. A detective played by Zoë Tapper is determined to uncover the truth while wrestling with her own heartfelt issues, and a journalist (Eric Kofi Abrefa) is flung unwittingly into his own One-shaped disaster: what if you were happily married but found out your true match was still out there? Or more specifically here, what if your own spouse (Lois Chimimba's Hannah) were so paranoid about losing her man that she set in train the very process which would most likely lead to that eventuality?

And almost too inevitably, Rebecca herself might be living a lie regards her own love story as we witness her in flashbacks first as an ambitious happy-go-lucky woman and then as a stern-faced Bowie-esque chameleon shifting overnight into something much more cruel and callous. Unfortunately, her makeover transformation has as much credibility as an episode of Mr Benn, while too many of the characters are so bland that you would happily settle for them having as many as two dimensions.

While Netflix's The One is based on a 2017 novel by John Marrs, it has narrowly been beaten to the small-screen punch by Amazon Prime with its February series Soulmates as well as by a good four years from the airing of its own Black Mirror segment, 'Hang The DJ'. The Charlie Brooker/Annabel Jones anthology series has become an imposing touchstone for much contemporary TV that errs towards the near-futuristic. But whereas the beauty of Black Mirror is in giving the viewer short, sharp (and very memorable) shocks, The One has been dragged out to eight episodes which stretch credulity and patience to snapping point.

Available to watch on Netflix from Friday 12 March.

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