It seems to me to be an imagining of advanced technology in the hands of the victorians. The movie of HG Wells' Time Machine is a good example. Terry Gilliam does something similar in his film Brazil although that's advanced technology with a 1940/50s twist.
Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for your selves! You're ALL individuals! Yes! We're all individuals!