The novel Altered Carbon, when it arrived in 2002, was a bold hybrid. It mixed the tough grizzled soldiers and intergalactic travel of military science fiction with the grim atmosphere moral quandaries of cyberpunk, usually two flavors of SF that don’t go together. But it worked, and like any novel that gets a lot of critical attention, it was quickly optioned to create a hard-R feature film, which was the start of a long road to a TV series.
Which makes the TV series Altered Carbon, arriving this Friday in a full set of ten episodes on Netflix, all the more fascinating. Set in a world where everyone is stored in a cortical “stack” that preserves their mind, meaning hopping from body to body (called “sleeving”) is trivial for the rich and a matter of life and death for everyone else, the series follows Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), a rebel soldier who’s been in deep freeze for centuries, dragged out of deep storage and ordered to investigate the attempted murder of one of the world’s richest men.
Even for peak TV, it’s a hugely ambitious story, dealing with everything from how the effective end of death changes religious belief to what murder means in a world where the murderer, if they’re rich enough, can simply buy the victim a new body, no harm no foul. It’ll be fascinating to see where Netflix takes this. Besides, where else will you see a sentient AI pretending to be Edgar Allan Poe blow some sucker away with a shotgun?
This Week’s Geeky TV
Supergirl, Monday, Jan. 29th 8pm ET, The CW: Supergirl now has two Worldkillers to contend with, which kind of makes you wonder how terrible Krypton was that she and her cousin are the only nice people to survive.
The Flash, Tuesday, Jan. 30th, 8pm ET, The CW: Barry may be forced to reveal himself after a crime boss plans to kidnap all the metahumans in Iron Heights. But they might at least get a cell with a toilet.
Black Lightning, Tuesday, Jan. 30th, 9pm ET, The CW: In case you were wondering whether this series would put poor Jefferson Pierce through the whole Peter Parker-grade guilt trip, this episode revolves around a funeral.
Riverdale, Wednesday, Jan. 31st, 8pm ET, The CW: As Archie goes the full Donnie Brasco, a fun fact about this week’s episode title: The Wicked And The Divine happens to be a great comic book you should read.
The X-Files, Thursday, Feb. 1st, 8pm ET, Fox: James Wong, the horror maestro behind the Final Destination series among other things, is back writing and directing.
Arrow, Thursday, Feb. 1st, 9pm ET, The CW: “A house divided cannot stand” should really just be chiseled over the door of every superhero team’s hangout.
Agents Of SHIELD, Friday, Feb. 2nd, 9pm ET, ABC: All we’re saying is that for all the stuff Fitz built, he’d better have gotten a bunch of patents.
Star Trek: Discovery, Sunday, Feb. 4th, 8:30pm ET, CBS All Access: Remember, you can always check the score on your phone, what’s happening to Michael Burnham is way more interesting.