‘1899’ Characters Backstories, Explained: Why Did All The Passengers Have A Traumatic Past?


Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese make us privy to certain subplots in the series “1899” that spark a debate regarding the implications of what the characters were trying to achieve. We see that Henry Singleton was running the simulations, where he was trying to study the human mind and understand what it was capable of. Though he was not the creator of Project Prometheus, he was sort of running one simulation among the many simulations operating inside Project Prometheus. The characters in Kerberos had backstories, of which they got flashes throughout the series. There was a hidden shaft in their rooms that led them to their memories, where they could witness their past in physical form. In the article, we will analyze why the characters who were a part of the simulation were given such backstories. We will analyze the purpose behind making every backstory tragic, traumatizing, and devastating. Though we realize that it was all just a simulation, and nothing was happening in reality, we will assess the impact that the experiment of Henry Singleton would have had if it had happened in reality. So first, let’s witness the visions that each character got in the series “1899” and the impact it had on their actions while they were on Kerberos. 

Backstory Of Maura Franklin

Maura found herself near an uncovered grave overlooking a mental hospital. The grave had a wooden cross with the words “wake up” engraved on it. Maura didn’t understand what the real meaning of the words was. She didn’t know that Daniel had been trying to wake her up and exit the simulation for quite a while. The mental hospital, as she believed, was owned by her own father. She was taken there again and again and fastened to a chair. Her father, Henry Singleton, used to inject a fluid inside her that made her lose her memories. She always asked her father about her brother, Ciaran. She believed that her brother had come to know about her father’s real intentions. He had found out what he was doing on the ships. After injecting the fluid, Maura lost her memories and became a part of the new simulation. Maura had kept her son, Elliot, alive in the very first simulation that she had created. It is quite probable that Elliot had died in the real world, and Maura was not ready to let him go. In order to be with Elliot, it was necessary that Maura remembers what she had created, as the boy only existed inside the simulations. Each and every time, Maura had to go through the same excruciating ordeal. At the start of each simulation, her mind was a clean slate, and then she would slowly start to remember everything. Each detail about her past caused her an immense amount of pain. But each time, she made the same choice: to be with her son inside the simulation. Each time, she was not able to let him go.

Backstory Of Captain Eyk Larsen

Captain Eyk often heard a little girl singing a German song, which he knew was his daughter. He couldn’t fathom if he was imagining it inside his head or if it was happening in reality. In his memory, he saw the house where his wife and his three daughters were burned alive. He arrived at the scene a bit late, and he realized that he had lost everything that he held precious in his life. He had become an alcoholic because he didn’t know of any other way to deal with the pain. Time and again he imagined his burnt house and cries of those he loved trapped inside it. He couldn’t go and erase what had happened in the past. He didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to them. He didn’t even get a chance to see them one last time. The past was excruciatingly painful, and the present was even harsher as he still had to live each day knowing that he could save his loved ones. The grief-laden Captain was stuck somewhere between the past and the present and didn’t know how to deal with the traumas that life had given him.

Backstory Of Ling Yi

Mei Mei, who was Ling Yi’s friend, was given the offer to be a geisha and come to London. She was told that from there, she would be taken to the United States of America. Mei Mei was quite excited to leave her native place and finally start the life that she had always aspired of living. Ling Yi had a plan in mind. She had thought that she would intoxicate Mei Mei and go to London in her place. Ling Yi gave her a drink that, instead of making her intoxicated, almost killed her. Ling Yi then put her inside a big box and threw it in the water. Ling Yi still bore the guilt of that act. She couldn’t live with the fact that, just because she wanted to have a better life, she had taken the life of her friend, even if it was accidentally. She knew that she deserved to be punished. She knew that she was a coward who couldn’t deal with the truth. She broke down in front of Olek as she felt burdened with guilt and knew that her actions were beneath contempt.

Backstories Of Jerome And Lucien

Both Jerome and Lucien were fighting a war, probably in the Great Dune of Pyla in France. They were on the verge of losing the battle, and there was no sign of the supply troops or the reinforcements arriving. They had decided to desert their legion when Jerome had a change of heart. He said that it was dishonorable to desert one’s own battalion. He didn’t want to be a traitor. Lucien, on the other hand, told him that there was nobody alive in those trenches who could prove that they were deserters. But Jerome had a strong conscience, and he didn’t want to leave. So, Lucien betrayed his friendship and imprisoned Jerome in the trenches. He then wore the uniform of the dead lieutenant and told Jerome that he would reach the nearest camp and tell them that he was an actual lieutenant, and that Jerome was a deserter.

Jerome served as a prisoner, and Lucien lived an affluent life. They were once again in front of each other, as they were passengers on Kerberos, and it felt like their fates were intertwined. Jerome wanted revenge, though he knew that he couldn’t disregard his friendship like Lucien had. Lucien was suffering from a terminal illness. The impact of his past life and his illness were clearly impacting his relationship with his wife, Clemence. Lucien had escaped his past life, but he couldn’t escape from his sins.

Backstory Of Tove

Tove was bearing the child of her rapist. Her brother, Krester, probably had an affair with the son of the landowner, on whose farm Tove’s whole family was working. The landlord wanted to teach the whole family a lesson, as he considered that Krester had committed a sin. He shot Krester, and though it didn’t kill him, it injured him, leaving a permanent mark on his face. But the landowner wasn’t done yet. He raped Tove in front of her whole family. Though Tove shot him dead eventually, the damage had already been done. The whole family had been traumatized by the horrifying experience. Iben, Tove’s mother, had become somewhat deranged after the incident. She had started believing that she could hear the voice of the almighty. She believed that the child Tove was bearing was a blessing from God. Anker and Tove both knew that Iben was disoriented and that she was not hearing anything in reality, but still they chose to not leave her side and be with her till the very end. 

Backstories Of Daniel and Elliot

Daniel and Elliot both got visions of the first simulation, where they lived together with Maura. Daniel saw that he was sharing an intimate moment with Maura when he heard an automated voice of a woman saying, “initiating shutdown.” He went outside to look for Maura but couldn’t find her. He knew that she had been taken once again by Henry Singleton, who wanted to erase her memory and make her part of another simulation. Elliot saw her mother, Maura, and asked her if he could keep the shiny green bug named Alfred with him. Her mother told her something very ironic. She told him that sometimes one has to let things go just because they can’t be kept forever. Elliot feared abandonment, and Maura feared losing her child. He was not ready to be separated from her mother and father. He feared the unknown and was not ready to accept reality. Maura eventually did trap Elliot in the simulation just like he wanted to trap the bug. We don’t know if she did the right thing or not, but we can surely say that emotions and motherly instincts played a crucial role in making her act in that manner. 

Why Did All The Passengers Have A Traumatic Past In ‘1899’ Season 1?

Henry was glued to the screen, which was showing him what was happening on the Kerberos when Sebastian and Elliot came to him. There was a look of disappointment on his face. He said that every time the passengers made the same mistakes. It is quite probable that the passengers were given tragic backstories to see how they dealt with trauma and stress. Maybe it was a study through which Henry was trying to understand if emotions could be eradicated from human life or at least if their impact could be reduced to a bare minimum. At the start of every simulation, Henry hoped that the passengers aboard would make certain uncharacteristic choices and surprise him with their actions. But even after conducting so many simulations, nothing of that sort happened. Maura had said earlier that her father was obsessed with the human mind and what it was capable of. Henry considered emotions to be a weakness. He believed that in order to harness the full potential of one’s brain one needed to get rid of their emotions. It could be possible that he would have known that in order to survive on the unknown planet where the spaceship was headed, it was imperative to get rid of one’s emotions and think like an AI. That brings us to another theory: that Daniel, Maura’s husband, could be an AI himself. Daniel was the only one who was able to accomplish what he had set out for and, in a way, didn’t let his emotions get in the way. He wanted to change the codes and make Maura wake up in the outside world, which he considered being the actual reality, and he did so successfully. His want to be with Maura didn’t stop him from making her escape the simulation. 

The above-mentioned theories are mere speculations, and it could be possible that the backstories and the challenging situations were just a means to keep the minds of the passengers active while they were in a slumber, waiting to reach the new planet where the spaceship was heading. But even if it were not happening in real life, Henry’s words sparked a debate about a subject on which people have conflicting views in today’s time also. There are people who believe that emotions are, in fact, the greatest weakness of human beings. People often think that emotions influence a person to make irrational decisions and distract them from their purpose.

But I ask this question: what would be the worth of a life without the beautiful bonds that we share with others and without feelings that make us fulfilled? Maybe the world would be without any conflicts, but then wouldn’t we miss out on the most beautiful and gratifying aspects of life too? Just like Oscar Wilde said that he wanted to dominate his emotions, the character of Henry in “1899” wanted to accomplish the same thing. Maybe the world we live in today is moving towards a reality where there is no space for emotions, and ruthless pragmatism overpowers everything else. If that day ever comes, then I am sure that it would be considered a great victory for science, but we would have lost as humans. We don’t know for sure if Henry existed in real life and if the backstories had some specific purpose, but it was quite scary and distressing to imagine a reality where emotions had no place and humanity ceased to exist.

See More: ‘1899’ Season 2: Expectations – Who Could Be In The Missing Pod?

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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