Prime Video’s ‘The Peripheral’ is a sci-fi drama that takes place in different timelines in the future, creating a complicated web of events that affect the past just as much as they affect the future. The protagonist is Flynne Fisher, a young girl who is focused on taking care of her family but becomes embroiled in something that points towards bigger conspiracies. Created by Scott Smith, the show is executive produced by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who are known for another mind-bending sci-fi series, ‘Westworld’. From the technology to the imminent fate of the world portrayed in the show gives an eerie feeling to the audience, especially considering how some sci-fi stories tend to predict the future. If you are wondering where the concept of ‘The Peripheral’ came from and how much it resembles the real world, then here’s what you should know about it.
Is The Peripheral Based on a Book?
Yes, ‘The Peripheral’ is based on the 2014 book of the same name by William Gibson – it is not based on a video game. The author is previously known for creating sci-fi stories that dig into futuristic technology while also focusing on the political and climatic future of the world. For ‘The Peripheral’, the idea came to him as a very simple scene. “I had this girl walking down a hill to go to see her brother who lived in a house trailer. I didn’t really have anything else at all, and I didn’t know when it was, and I was just trying to channel the feeling of this girl who was the character,” he said. Once the characters seemed to be in the right place and the kind of people he wanted to follow, he started expanding the story, focusing on the world that they were living in. From here, things moved forward very quickly.
London serves as one of the important settings in the show and taking ‘The Peripheral’ there definitively molded its story. One time, Gibson was visiting London when he met a friend, who started talking about the political structure of things in the city. “He started telling me in glorious, and possibly completely fictional detail—I’ve never had the heart to look it up—how the government of the city of London actually works, how spookily non-democratic it manages in some ways to be, and how nobody ever really elects these people. And it completely delighted me,” he said. It impacted Gibson so much that he decided to put London as the other main setting of his story. “I decided that what was on the other side of the video game screen for Flynne was this relatively far-future London, run by those guys, and it instantly worked,” he added.
While ‘The Peripheral’ is a unique story on all fronts, Gibson confessed that there were several other sci-fi stories that influenced his creation of this new world. He especially credits Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner’s ‘Mozart in Mirrorshades’ for informing the time travel aspect of his novel. He’d also read a lot of feminist science fiction of the 70s, from authors like Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Alice Sheldon, and Octavia Butler, which has influenced the way he writes female characters in his works.
For Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, creating ‘The Peripheral’ was an opportunity to concoct an entirely new world for television. Nolan had always been a fan of Gibson and when the opportunity to bring his work on the screen knocked on his door, he decided not to let it go. Despite the expansive scale of the novel, adapting it for the screen led to several changes in characters and their plot lines, as well as in the representation of technology and the look of the different timelines and alternate realities. At its core, however, the show remains faithful to its source material, which in turn remains grounded in reality, even though it takes a fictional approach to show our world a fractured mirror.