Netflix goes sci-fi

2018-04-15 00:00
 

The amount of original content on Netflix is astounding. In the sci-fi genre, there are the likes of Lost in Space, Altered Carbon and the new Star Trek. Thinus Ferreira checked out two of them.

Star Trek: Discovery

The latest iteration of Gene Roddenberry’s space exploration series is not your parent’s Star Trek – and in this case that isn’t a good thing.

The 15-episode series, set on the USS Discovery, suffered from major production drama and upheaval, with writer and executive producer Bryan Fuller exiting the show after getting too busy with other projects.

Set a decade before the original series of Captain Kirk, Star Trek: Discovery is supposed to be serialised, but the producers and writers set up new plots, characters and a story arch only to forget or suddenly resolve them as quickly as they started.

There’s little depth to many of the characters compared with previous series – try to see how many of the bridge crew you can name.

Although very botched, the series is worth watching if only for Starfleet officer Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green’s) personal and professional story of redemption. There are Klingons with a new look and little motivation, a weak plot, and an unrealistic conclusion. The standout character is Doug Jones as First Officer Saru, an excellent portrayal of the Kelpien officer.

This Star Trek is not for family viewing, with its strong language, sex scenes and extended scenes of extreme violence.

None of the other Star Trek series’ first seasons was any good and they all got better over time, so there’s still hope.

This one has been renewed for a second season, so as the production settles down, it will hopefully start to flesh out the characters better, deal with their back stories and motivations, and take viewers on a real journey of discovery to new life and new civilisations as it’s supposed to.

Altered Carbon

Real lovers of science fiction television will like this new 10-episode, Blade Runner-like series based on Richard K Morgan’s book set in the year 2384.

In this dystopian age, humankind has invented a way to live forever – sort of. Consciousness and memories are downloaded into a disk – called a cortical stack – implanted in the back of your neck, which can be removed and placed in a new body.

The result is that people’s physical bodies have really become dispensable. The rich constantly upgrade to newer, better and more beautiful bodies, while the poor are unable to. The only way to die eternally is if your stack is destroyed – like if you’re shot in the neck.

There are several plot twists and turns, and a surprising ending. Altered Carbon has a beautifully ugly future world that shows what happens when humans take bodies for granted, as just another commodity to be used and discarded.

Since it’s on Netflix, there are sex scenes, nudity, extremely graphic violence and blood, so be prepared. This, however, could be an apt stylistic device that shows the disregard the characters have for the biological vehicles carrying consciousness if one can easily replace it.

The murder mystery and its conclusion is clever and the majority of the characters are inventive and well fleshed out – there is for instance an artificial intelligence hotel manager who goes to any lengths to protect paying customers. Beyond being entertaining, Altered Carbon will make you think about the value of human life.


TV REVIEW The amount of original content on Netflix is astounding. In the sci-fi genre, there are the likes of Lost in Space, Altered Carbon and the new Star Trek. Thinus Ferreira checked out two of them.
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