Upload (Amazon Prime): actual science fiction

Huh. I read a couple of reviews of this series and they were lukewarm at best, and yet I found it really enjoyable and burned through it in a couple of nights. Now suffering bingewatch remorse.

As ever my tastes are off beam in comparison to the critical opinion in the quality press, but I’ve given up trying to work out why they deem certain shows worthy of weekly recaps and others not. Still, it wouldn’t be right to say that I have niche tastes. Someone wrote and produced this show, after all, and it’s on Amazon Prime. Whether it gets a second series is moot, I suppose.

So why did I like it when the critics didn’t? As so often, I come to this science fictional premise as a long-time reader of SF, and I always appreciate it when a TV series or film is actual science fiction.

One of the things the critics did with this is instantly compare it to NBC’s The Good Place (Netflix in the UK). You can sort of see why they did this (both shows are concerned with an afterlife), but it’s incorrect to do so. While The Good Place was a genre show, it was fantasy rather than SF. The other part of the comparison was also a knee-jerk: The Good Place was excellent, while Upload is not.

Now, while I agree that The Good Place was excellent – in its first season – it’s an unfair comparison. Upload may not be up to The Good Place Season 1, but it’s more than a match for seasons 2, 3, and 4, which were disappointing, for the most part.

But as I said, it’s not a proper comparison, because this is a science fiction show, bearing a closer relationship to the Black Mirror Episode “San Junipero” than The Good Place. And while “San Junipero” was a one-off episode, Upload takes us further and deeper into a world where, if you can afford the data plan, you can upload your personality and memories into a virtual world after death.

I’ve read a lot of science fiction about this kind of thing, and it’s a rich vein. What’s great about Upload is that while it has some of the tone of a light comedy (and plenty of comic moments) it’s also got a darker side, concerning the thorny issue of the ongoing expense, and there’s also a story arc concerning how our protagonist ended up there in the first place, given that he died when his supposedly idiot proof self-driving car crashed.

So if you like proper science fiction, which is very thin on the ground in film and television, give this a watch.

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