When I reviewed the first season of Upload (Amazon), all the way back in May 2020, I said it was ‘proper science fiction’, which is fairly rare, once you step away from the hand-wavy Star Trek space stuff. Season Two picks up where Season One left off, which might not be much of a problem if it wasn’t so long ago. Still, I recollected it fairly quickly, and found it as watchable as before, although a decent recap never goes amiss.
It has an odd tone: a mixture of broad, silly comedy (the AI staff at the virtual resort) and darker undercurrents (a growing movement against these corporations who cater to the needs and desires of the super-rich), and it is by no means perfect, but what I do like about it is that it acknowledges the socially corrosive effects of inequality and actually faces up to it in its plotting.
Another show which straddles the line between quirky and (very) dark is Severance, (TV+), which happens to be another (proper) SF show. The premise here is that the notion of work-life balance has been taken to extremes by one company in particular. Some of the employees at Lumon Industries have undergone a procedure that means that their home selves have no idea what their work selves get up to for 8 hours a day, and vice-versa.
The ‘forgetting’ seems to happen in a special elevator that employees enter at the end of every day. The first episode begins with a newly ‘severed’ employee, Helly, waking up in a room with no idea who she is or how she got there. And a lot of the story revolves around the ways in which Helly keeps trying to quit what she sees as a hellish job, only to be thwarted at every turn. Meanwhile her boss, Mark, is new to his position, uncomfortable and inexperienced in his role, and dealing with his own doubts. His ‘severance’ was a way of being able to function at work without thinking about his dead wife, and his outside self is very sad and apparently lonely.
The atmosphere is strange, the production design (possibly through necessity) is stark and empty, and there are lots of long, empty, white corridors. There are quite a few familiar faces in this. I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable, but it is compelling.
Meanwhile, Suspicion, another TV+ show, is about four apparently unconnected British people who somehow become suspects in a kidnapping plot, and end up teaming up to clear their names question mark… It’s actually a remake of an earlier Israeli series called False Flag. There are quite a few familiar faces in this, including Uma Thurman, but while it’s fairly watchable, it isn’t particularly gripping. After a few weeks, it really feels as if the story is being spun out to eight episodes.
Finally to the Star Trek universe, which is about to begin an unstoppable onslaught on our screen time in competition with the Disney+ crap.
The third season of Discovery is just coming to an end. I bought a season pass for this when it was bumped from Netflix and I kinda wish I hadn’t, because this has not been a great season. I’m so bored with threats to Earth/humanity/civilisation. Please just tell stories. Anyway, this is another one that sags in the middle of its run of episodes, and it could really do with more traditional Star Trek standalone episodes.
Just started is Season Two of Picard, which is better than Disco. I think fans are likely to be more enthusiastic about Picard just because it has Patrick Stewart, albeit a much aged version. But it also has Seven of Nine and other delights, and this second season begins with a couple of episodes full of bold moves and gasp-inducing drop-ins. It’s looking promising, but I warn you now: if there turns out to be a threat to Earth I will roll my eyes so hard.
Coming soon is Strange New Worlds, which is a much anticipated series to feature Anson Mount as Captain Pike (pre-Kirk captain of the Enterprise) and Ethan Peck as Spock. Of course, the last time they tried a prequel series, it was called Enterprise and it went quickly off the rails following 9/11 when the producers decided to introduce an… existential… threat… to… Earth… *yawn*. So it remains to be seen whether the producers will fuck this one up, but I’m looking forward to it.
These three live action Star Treks are joined by two animated series, but the other live action show rumoured to be in development is a vehicle for Michelle Yeoh, who has definitely missed from Season Three of Disco. Anyway, look forward to a future that will be all Star Trek all the time.