Cyberpunk is so 1990s. And yet, here is Netflix in 2018, throwing millions left and right at virtually any project. Some are successful, and change the cultural landscape, like Stranger Things. Some I enjoy, like the various Marvel comic books adaptions such as Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. Others are strange, like the oft-cliched western, Godless. Then there’s the SF series, Altered Carbon. Based on a cyberpunk novel from almost two decades ago, this 10-episode series is one of the more recent Netflix “original” series, debuting on February 2nd, 2018.
I’ve watched the first episode, and so far I see nothing special. Although I’ve not read the novel upon which it’s based, so far it feels like I’m watching a slightly inverted take on Blade Runner. Rather than a cop as the central character, we have a criminal, a terrorist. Frozen for 250 years (!) after being killed, this person is decanted into another body. Supposedly the state in the 24th century keeps spare bodies around, depositing the essence or souls into these bodies. No mention is made of why the spare bodies are so conveniently present. Did their essence die in the virtual world, leaving the shell behind?
What bad science fiction so often gets laughably wrong is time and technology. Time accelerates with progress, and the difference between the 22nd century and the 24th should be massive, but instead the people and place look almost indistinguishable from the present time, as if nothing happened in three centuries except a few advancements in computer interfaces. This silliness alone makes me hesitate to give the series an additional look beyond the first episode, and supposedly this is just the first season.
Why not create a series of science fiction based on Iain Banks’ Culture novels, instead of warmed over cyberpunk that look like it ripped off Blade Runner?