ALTERED CARBON – Season 1 Episode 1 – SPOILERS
Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is a bitter and disillusioned revolutionary who has been dead for 250 years. He is resurrected into a world controlled by those who defeated his revolution. (This is kind of like having Leon Trotsky reborn in present-day Russia in the body of a soldier.) Kovacs is re-sleeved into a body with combat muscle memory and brings with him impressive paramilitary skills from his previous lives.
This may or may not be important, but when we first see Kovacs’ new body (before it is pulled from the tank) there is what appears to be a bug bite on its left foot.
In the ALTERED CARBON universe, people are defined by their thoughts, not by their DNA. On their first birthday, everybody has what is basically a digital brain recorder (stack) attached to the base of their brain. If they die, this recorder can be “re-sleeved”, or inserted into a different body (ideally a clone grown for the purpose, but any functional body will do). If the stack is destroyed, the person is entirely dead, and cannot be resurrected, unless they are very rich, and can afford to have themselves backed up wirelessly to a secure location on a periodic basis. Stacks would probably need to have diagnostic ports for purposes of repair. One wonders if it is possible to overwrite someone’s stack from a distance. But the reasons why wireless brain backup should be prohibitively expensive are difficult to understand.
There are hotels and strip clubs controlled by autonomous A.I. entities. Holographic advertising is broadcast everywhere. If a brain can be backed up into a disk that can be held in the palm of the hand, what difference would it make (cost wise) to beam the backup to a secure facility across town?
Kovacs was born on a planet about 80 light years from Earth. That planet has two very large moons in its sky, and one, apparently yellow, sun. What we see of it is quite earthlike. Some sort of FTL capability is implied in the colonization of other planets, and by the fact that people can be “needlecast” into a clone on another world, thereby avoiding travel by ship. (The needlecast signal must be FTL, or the trip would take too long, and the planets had to be colonized first by ship to set up the needlecast capability.)
DARK MATTER‘s Transfer Transit was a slightly different type of broadcast transport. It was easier to use and less expensive because the clones were 3D printed at the destination instead of being expensively grown.
It is a curious thing that science fiction writers can imagine all sorts of biological modifications that might be made to people, and yet almost never conceive of modifications that reduce the rate of human reproduction. ALTERED CARBON has people with enhancements that make them fight better, and people such as Miriam Bancroft (Kristin Lehman) who have substances present in their saliva and sweat that make them sexually irresistible. Yet no one has, apparently, addressed the overpopulation problem (or the cities would be much friendlier-looking places). Indeed, Miriam Bancroft tells Kovacs that she has, over the years, given her husband 21 children.
The father of all those children, Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), is a centuries-old Meth (short for Methusehah). and he has brought Kovacs and all his skills back to life. He has a good reason for this. Bancroft was murdered, and he wants to know who did it. (He was re-sleeved even though his stack was destroyed because meths are very wealthy and can afford remote backup. He lost the memories of the 48 hours before his death in the backup process, so he cannot identify his killer.) It’s a murder mystery that might have been written by Dashiell Hammett, had he been scientifically inclined.
Kristin Lehman (Miriam Bancroft) spoke to Jean Bently of The Hollywood Reporter about the show’s depiction of violence against women. “I think examining violence against women is fair and is necessary and certainly with the zeitgeist of the times, it appears to be examined through a lens of hopeful progress. At the same time, I think that we are — and this is no justification whatsoever — we make a product that is intended to titillate and the people are fascinated by the shadow elements of society’s psyche…I still think that ultimately, the human psyche wants a place to have its fantasies safely held and I don’t know that there will ever be a day where violence against women is not going to be held within the fantasy of this human psyche.”
In an interview with Ariana Brockington of Variety, showrunner Laeta Kalogridis talked about the show’s extensive use of nudity and violence. “This is a show where our bodies because accessories, so there is some handling of the human body that has to reflect that…What I wanted to do was hold a mirror up to what I regard is the ongoing extremity of violence against women and disenfranchised people. The most graphic violence is visited on a white, male body on purpose. The show is a cautionary tale.”