I’ve finally finished watching the first (and hopefully not the last) season of Netflix’s sci-fi series Altered Carbon.
Following on from my comments regards the first half of the season, the show really does look spectacularly entrenched in the 1980s, for good or ill (depends on your point of view, I guess). Partly this is naturally due to its debt to Blade Runner, but it goes much deeper than that. Altered Carbon owes much to 1980s shows like Max Headroom and the pop videos/movies that aped the style of Ridley Scott’s classic for all of that decade. It also is so purely cyberpunk in style and attitude that it is drenched in the vibe of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), and the work of Bruce Sterling and John Shirley. As someone who read so much of that stuff during that decade it’s really something of a nostalgic thrill to see it brought back. That said, it’s also a sobering thought that this series spends so much time looking back and displaying such retro sensibilities. In just the same way as Blade Runner had a 1950s noir vibe within its futuristic trappings, this series carries a relentless 1980s vibe. Imagine a 1980s sci-fi television show indebted to Blade Runner but with our current cutting-edge CGI and a budget up there with Game of Thrones. That pretty much sums Altered Carbon up.
That being said, I believe that the second book leaps forward in time and has a completely different setting so it may very well lose that Blade Runner/1980s style completely. This could be exciting and enable the show to remain fresh and different each season.
One of the fascinating things about the show, and its chief conceit of ‘sleeves’ and people’s minds inhabiting successive bodies, is that in just the same way as Dr Who has been graced by many different actors in the title role over the years, so might Altered Carbon‘s main character, Takeshi Kovacs, be played by different actors each season. This might become the shows chief frustration, too, as it dispels audience familiarity and empathy for a particular actor, but it does raise interesting possibilities. Perhaps the show could be a sci-fi anthology show like Fargo, with a wholly different cast and setting each season. Who knows?
I just hope Netflix lets us find out.