Review: ‘Altered Carbon,’ Netflix’s ‘Blade Runner’ Replicant

“Altered Carbon” is a lesson in the importance of context.

If it were on the Syfy channel, where it belongs, it would look above average. You’d think, yeah, not bad. On Netflix, where its 10 episodes will be available Friday, it still looks like an above-average Syfy series, which just makes you think, what the heck is this doing here?

To give Netflix the benefit of the doubt, it’s probably there for the cord cutters. If attracting them means recreating the entire ecosystem of television, then there’s room for a low-rent “Blade Runner” knockoff with basic-cable production values and premium-cable nudity. Not everything can or needs to be “Black Mirror.”

But if you’re concerned with maintaining your reputation as a leading purveyor of prestige TV, you might want to think harder about what you slap the “Netflix Original” label on.

Based on a cyberpunk novel by Richard K. Morgan and created by the “Terminator Genisys” executive producer Laeta Kalogridis, “Altered Carbon” takes place in a future when technology has brought about a qualified form of immortality.

A person’s essence — personality, intelligence, memories — can be loaded onto a metal disc called a stack and, in the event of death or boredom, inserted into a new body. The rich, called Meths (for Methuselahs), can repeatedly clone themselves and live out an unchanging prime of life. The poor make do with any body they can get their hands on, whose age, race and even gender may be different from theirs.

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This scenario is the backdrop for a mystery in which, given the new realities, the murder victim is still alive and curious about who killed him. Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), a powerful Meth, creates his own private eye by reviving the stack of a long dead Japanese-Slavic super-soldier, Takeshi Kovacs (Will Yun Lee), and putting it in the cybernetically enhanced, cryogenically preserved body of a recently dead Nordic policeman (Joel Kinnaman).


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