This story appears in the March/April 2018 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

Since ancient times, humans have lusted for the ability to see the future. Our oracles and prophets, and even some of our modern-day psychics and star-gazers, are commonly characterized as gifted, blessed, touched by a greater power.

But what if knowing the future turned out to really, really suck?

Certainly the idea that such seers might have a steep price to pay stretches across world cultures, from Cassandra of Greek myth to Fiver in Watership Down. But the new “pre-apocalyptic” drama Hard Sun, a BBC series debuting stateside on Hulu, puts a modern spin on the clairvoyance curse that’s as shiny and high-tech as it is archetypal. Two police detectives, Elaine Renko and Charlie Hicks, are investigating the death of a hacker when they come into possession of a flash drive at the center of the case. As bodies pile up around them, they realize what’s on the drive: incontrovertible evidence that the world is going to end in five years, the planet engulfed in an unstoppable cosmic event.

Suddenly they have a choice to make: Do they give in to the shadowy government forces that, fearing global chaos, want to keep the information from getting out at all costs? Or do they tell the world, even though there’s nothing anyone can do to alter their fiery fate? Already constantly at odds with each other and now forced into an impossible situation, they face galactically steep odds.

And yet the man who created these characters, showrunner Neil Cross, doesn’t feel bad for them at all. Hell, Renko and Hicks have it easy; Cross has to write this story—his third television series after the similarly dark BBC drama Luther and NBC’s Crossbones—and keep these characters motivated in the face of extinction. How does he approach it?

“With fear and trepidation every morning,” says Cross. “I go to my computer frightened and feeling that the task ahead of me is insurmountable. But that’s what makes me work hard.”

Besides, isn’t what Hard Sun’s main characters are facing just an extreme metaphor for what the rest of us go through every day?

“The truth is that we all have our personal Armageddon heading for us like a train through time,” says Cross. “We’re all going to die. We don’t know when—it could be in 15 minutes, it could be next Tuesday, it could be in 25 years. So the dilemma that Renko and Hicks deal with, which is finding meaning and worth and value in the face of ultimate destruction, in fact is a choice we all make every morning.”

Maybe that’s why apocalyptic stories never go out of style. Far from making us worry about the real end of the world, the best of them make us feel as though there’s no zombie takeover too ravenous, no denuded landscape too desolate, no flamethrowing-guitar battalion of War Boys too savage to snuff out the human will to live.

“Survival is given such value in that context—that’s the thing,” says Cross. “Life is something to fight for. I think all apocalyptic dramas essentially are reassuring. They’re not really about destruction.”

“People love to look at the apocalypse,” says Kate Harwood, executive producer of Hard Sun, “in the way that we love to look at death—because we think we’re always going to dodge it. And in some ways it makes you feel very alive, doesn’t it? I mean, if you know everybody’s going to die, you think, But it’s a fiction. I’m alive! Let’s celebrate that! Let’s live for today.”

If the addition of the apocalypse to the police-procedural genre makes Hard Sun an offbeat offering, it’s not alone; this year will see a number of innovative takes on the eschatological epic.

Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn play Hard Sun’s haunted detectives. BBC/Hulu

One of the strangest postapocalyptic movies in recent memory, 2013’s Snowpiercer, is getting a television series on TNT that, according to star Daveed Diggs, will delve further into the culture and politics of the train that carries the last surviving humans on a nonstop route around the earth after the arrival of a manmade Ice Age.

Robert Kirkman, creator of the original comic incarnation of The Walking Dead, is debuting a new title called Oblivion Song. It’s set 10 years after a gigantic landmass from an alternate dimension has suddenly materialized in an American city. With a legion of monsters wiping out tens of thousands of people and a wall finally being constructed to protect survivors (in case you were starting to worry these stories were devoid of direct parallels to our current political climate), Kirkman and collaborator Lorenzo De Felici ask: How does humanity recover from a catastrophic event it cannot even comprehend?

Wildest of all might be the Peter Jackson–produced Mortal Engines, coming later this year. Set thousands of years after the apocalypse, the film presents a future in which a motorized London-on-wheels rolls through the barren continents, devouring smaller mobile burgs like an obese house cat hunting field mice.

These are probably not visions of the future you’d want to foresee. Certainly the stars of Hard Sun struggle with that dilemma: If the world is indeed ending in five years, wouldn’t they be better off not knowing?

Jim Sturgess, who plays Hicks, says he imagines that knowledge would give every element of life, every tiny detail, a heightened importance.

“Everything matters; everything has a point and a reason. There’s a beauty in that, in a weird way,” he says. “I would be disappointed if I missed that—if it just hit me and I wasn’t prepared for it. You can really see the beauty of the world we live in when you know it’s all going to disappear.”

Agyness Deyn, who plays Renko, can even imagine a certain acceptance: “I try to live with no regrets. I would just want to be around nature and family and friends. I think I’d be okay with it, when it came to it, if everyone’s going.”

And really, isn’t all this end-of-the-world hand-wringing just a lot of human vanity anyway? Does our refusal to ever say die even matter, given that the universe existed long before mankind and will continue long after? Cross thought the same thing, until he had a conversation with Brian Cox—scientific advisor on Hard Sun and a physicist who has emerged as a sort of British Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Brian said he’s aware of a theory that, despite the vastness of space, the number of coincidences necessary in order for complex life to evolve on Earth are so extraordinary that even given the scale of the universe, it might have happened only once, and it might have happened only here,” says Cross. “If that’s the case, we are where meaning is. Meaning in the universe is with us, and if we’re gone, all meaning disappears.”

So whether or not a molten comet is hurtling toward us, whether or not we can ever learn our species’ expiration date, you might consider investing a little extra energy into making each day count. No pressure.