Based on the 2002 novel by Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon has one of those great sci-fi premises that feels like it has existed forever, even though it’s based on futuristic technology. 400 years in the future, human minds can be downloaded and transplanted into new bodies, meaning that those who can afford to keep ‘resleeving’ themselves can theoretically live forever. Hardboiled kercenary (yes, this is cyberpunk) Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is hired to investigate the murder of one of the world’s wealthiest men. His client: the dead man himself.
The Netflix adaptation loses a lot of the sheer weirdness of the novel, but the central idea is intriguing enough to roll around your head for weeks. A second series starring Anthony Mackie as Kovacs (remember: ‘resleeving’) has been announced.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
An acquired taste, but it’s impossible to like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – it either leaves you cold or it’s your favourite thing ever. Starting as a low (and we mean low) budget cable show in the states, an astronaut and his two robot friends are forced by a mad scientist to watch real terrible B-movies, in a bid to drive them insane. You watch it with them, as they crack jokes at the rubber monsters and wooden acting. That’s it.
And yet, and yet…MST3K is one of the most relentlessly, breathlessly funny shows ever made. MST3K was so far ahead of its time, we’ve not caught up yet. Misties (as we die-hard fans call ourselves) have somehow kept it alive since 1988, almost shaping the course of technology through their passion. Before the Internet, fans swapped VHS tapes with each other. In the days of dial-up, it was one of the first major forces in file sharing. Every snarky YouTuber owes Joel and the bots and debt, and now Netflix has brought it back with a surprisingly fun reboot starring Felicia Day. The archive also features some gems from the old show: try out the episode ‘Space Mutiny’ for a sense of whether it’s for you.
Oh, and if you’re wondering whether this qualifies as ‘true’ sci-fi, just repeat to yourself: “it’s just a show, I should really just relax.”
Probably the coolest sci-fi ever made – although that’s not hard in a genre where bobbly headed aliens come as standard – Cowboy Bebop was one of the first Japanese anime to find a committed audience in the West. Looking back, it wasn’t just down to novelty. The adventures of bounty hunters Spike, Faye, Ed, Jet and the good ship Bebop herself remain just as fun, funny, exciting and (there’s that word again) cool as ever – an all too brief glimpse of a solar system that runs like the wild west with a better soundtrack. In fact, most episodes take their inspiration from different genres, whether that’s jazz, blues, heavy metal or the Rolling Stones.