BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - Crime thrillers always work. And Heimatfilm-type productions are also considered secret weapons of German television. On the other hand, anything that deviates from this and belongs to genres such as horror, fantasy or science fiction seems daring in the German TV market. This spring, however, two elaborate productions are being shown that focus on near-future scenarios.

Sky (and the streaming service Wow) is launching the seven-part dystopian drama series "Helgoland 513" (from March 15), which is set in the year 2039. And the fourth season of the medical series "Charité", whose six episodes are set in 2049, will soon be shown on ARD (ARD Mediathek from April 5; TV from April 9).

"The 'near future' genre focuses on showing future scenarios and playing out their effects on people and society," says political scientist Isabella Hermann, who published the book "Science Fiction zur Einführung". This questions the present and encourages reflection. "Current challenges are usually extrapolated into the negative, such as dehumanization through advancing technology or the threat to democracy and freedom through populism," says Hermann. This offers scope for captivating dramaturgies and stories.

In the case of "Charité", the company Ufa Fiction produced on behalf of ARD Degeto, Arte and MDR, and much of the filming took place in sunny Portugal.

"Writing the medical history of the future, is that even possible? In the end, of course, it's up to the viewers to decide," says ARD Fiction Coordinator Jorg Schonenborn in the accompanying press release. But the season has been researched with great care and packs today's insights into the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow's medicine into a plausible narrative. "This journey through time into a world in which we encounter many questions that are already on our minds today has what it takes to provide material for discussion and to entertain in the best sense of the word."

Climate change and polyamory in Berlin

Will it go down well with German TV audiences if series are not set in the here and now, but in 25 years' time? Will the millions of viewers of "Charité" so far accept the new approach?

For example, the series shows the consequences of climate change, temperatures of up to 45 degrees and heavy rainfall have become normal in the German capital; in medicine, cancer vaccinations, early detection of Alzheimer's and telemedicine are standard and in everyday life, algorithms determine things like shopping or visits to the doctor.

But the series is also very different in social terms and in the choice of main characters. In a nutshell: white heterosexuals are not the focus for once. Germany is shown as an immigration society as a matter of course, for example with a health minister named Nguyen. The top researcher Maral Safadi also has a wife instead of a husband, and polyamory, a love triangle, is also part of the plot.

Pandemic and apocalypse on Heligoland

Set ten years earlier than the new "Charité" season is the "star-studded end-time vision "Helgoland 513"", as Sky itself calls it. This was also produced by Ufa Fiction.

"In the year 2039, a murderous pandemic decimates humanity. In Germany, 513 inhabitants are holed up on the island of Heligoland. Because resources are scarce, another inhabitant must die for every newborn. If no volunteer comes forward, a ranking list determines who is killed based on an assessment of achievements and missteps." Martina Gedeck and Alexander Fehling play the leading roles of the island boss and the only island doctor, while the film was directed by Hollywood director Robert Schwentke ("R.E.D. - Older. Harder. Better.").

"I liked the subject matter, the unusual way of dealing with the apocalypse," says actress Gedeck in a Sky interview about the series. It's not just about horror and fear of the future. She also sees the playful element. "The characters are human and there is a comedic level. It's important to keep it light. As long as people feel joy, nothing is lost."/gth/DP/zb