Altered Carbon (season 1)

Imagine a future where human consciousness can be downloaded into a chip in the back of your neck, and from there sent across the infinite expanses of space as quickly as light. This ‘digital human freight’ (DHF) needs to be uploaded into a body, or ‘sleeve’, at the other end of course – if you have the money, you buy a good one. If not, you take what’s available.

Digital or not, humans are still humans – so why use the tech just for the means it was intended? After all, once you have enough money you can purchase any sleeve you want, or clone your own. Transfer your conscious into a younger version of yourself, again and again – bingo, immortality.

I loved Richard Morgan’s book when I first read it, full of such cool ideas and a great blend of sci-fi and detective noir. I had my doubts about the transfer to screen, however – could they really capture some of the concepts here?

‘Cyber-punk’ is not the easiest to bring to screen, but this is full of just enough tech and a good mystery to carry the story along. Throw in ‘what ifs’ about near-immortal longevity and what that does to social class, plus the effect of religion, and just what it means to be ‘you’ if you don’t necessarily wear the same body all the time…

However, it’s far from perfect. There’s a lot of backstory and subtlety to the inner thoughts that doesn’t transfer. I really couldn’t get behind the Kristen Ortega character/actor, finding her flat and unconvincing. Thankfully Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) comes across a little better, his blankness reflecting military training. And James Purefoy, as main protagonist Laurens Bancroft, is always good form (hah!).

Despite these flaws, I really enjoyed the series. It probably helped a LOT that I’ve got all the background from the book, but even going in blind you can find things to like. Or to dislike, I suppose: graphic violence, sex, drug use… yeah, not necessarily an easy viewing! But I’m very pleased that a second season has been announced, even if it does mean a new set of ‘sleeves’…!

First broadcast: February 2018
Series: 1
Episodes: 10 @ ~57 mins each

My rating: 8/10

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