Back in school, mathematics was another name for terror for me. Not that I was bad at it; just the objectivity of the numbers always transcended my limited sense of understanding. The fact that an entire universe could be hidden in numbers was incomprehensible to me. But what I enjoyed was a good story. So, when I got my hands on an abridged version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” I realized for the first time the power science harnessed within itself. It was a tale of horror; it was a tale of science fiction. Since that day onwards, sci-fi has become a beloved genre of mine. What a fantastic innovation—one takes the traditional forms of storytelling, which have been responsible for building and sustaining civilizations, and punches scientific ideas into them; in doing so, the audience is simultaneously entertained and educated. The recently developed ecosystem of original television series produced for the OTT has given rise to the number of sci-fi shows. In fact, these T.V. shows have become the go-to entertainment options for the millennials and Gen Z people who grew up with their fascination for Marvel and D.C. Comics and films like “E.T., “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” and many more.
In the 21st century, climate change and its consequences are a part of our earthbound existence. So, it is only natural when plots related to environmental issues slip into our television viewing experience, and more often than not, they are presented to us packaged in the form of ecological sci-fi thrillers. The recent German television show “The Swarm,” produced for ZDF, is one such sci-fi ecological thriller that imagines the world going through an apocalyptic doom. Various anomalies in the mutations and adaptations across numerous marine species around the world’s oceans urge a group of scientists to come together to find a remedy to save the world from the verge of destruction. This group includes mainly marine biologists, an astrophysicist, and a medical pathologist. They are backed by a rich Japanese shipping tycoon who wants this problem to be cured because the shipping routes across the globe are getting blocked.
The global pandemic has made us realize that the part where millions of people get affected by a sea-borne virus can very much be a reality. The group of scientists and researchers eventually figured out that all the strange mutations were being caused by a swarm that lives in the depths of the Arctic Ocean. They named it “YRR.” After initial communication, it was established that the “YRR” is the intelligent sea spirit—a swarm of single-celled organisms from which all life on this planet has evolved—and that it has resided in the waters since the time of the Panthalassa (the Super Ocean). The way the scientist establishes communication with the “YRR” will surely remind you of the 2015 film “Arrival” by Dennis Villeneuve. After the scientists discover all the secrets about the “YRR,” the series eventually takes the shape of a superhero film, pushing the viewers to judge it like a supercop vs. supervillain situation. The only twist here is that the supervillain was once a nurturing force of nature whom mankind hurt so badly that it eventually charged up to take its revenge on the human race. “The Swarm” is streaming on Hulu. Now, here are some other shows from the sci-fi genre that anyone who liked “The Swarm” can add them to their watchlist:
The Last Of Us (2023-)
The recently released popular HBO Max series “The Last of Us” follows the protagonist Joel as he escorts a young girl named Ellie, who is the last hope for saving the human race from the fungal growth that has been scathing America for the last 20 years. In the wake of having lived through a global viral pandemic, “The Last of Us” is gut-wrenching and will definitely bring back memories from the recent past. The show was developed from a popular 2013 video game of the same name. It features Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay, who were earlier parts of the famous HBO series “Game of Thrones,” in lead roles. “The Last of Us,” like “The Swarm,” gives the viewer an opportunity to judge what the destruction of the environment would seem and feel like.
“Chernobyl” is a 2019 limited miniseries produced by HBO. It fictionalizes and records the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl that occurred in April 1986 in the entire continent of Europe. “Chernobyl” records true events and probably cannot be classified under the genre of sci-fi shows, yet it exposes us to some violent images showing what really happened in Soviet Russia. It also shows us what harmful effects gamma radiation can leave behind. The effects of those gamma rays are still felt in Russia.
Black Mirror (2011-22019)
When we talk about the sci-fi series, we cannot help but mention the British anthology series “Black Mirror.” It is a T.V. show from the future with episodes that have plots highlighting the weird manipulative power of science and technology. The interactive film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” can be viewed as a great accompaniment to the series, which was extended over five seasons. So, if you are a fan of dystopian reality and want to indulge yourself in some speculative science fiction and thrillers, “Black Mirror” should be at the top of your watchlist.
Stranger Things (2016–)
“Stranger Things” on Netflix was one of the first shows that got many of us hooked on our phone screens. The show follows the supernatural incidents that happen in Indiana in the mid-1980s when a government laboratory experiment produces a number of unwanted, unasked-for villains that start threatening the lives of the people in the fictitious town of Hawkins. Created by the Duffer brothers, “Stranger Things” is a thrilling watch for audiences of all age groups. There are four seasons to this show, and a fifth and final one is in production, all set to be released sometime in 2024.
Dark (2017- 2020)
Even if someone argues they fully understand the German television show “Dark,” you should listen to their explanations with active skepticism. A lot of things began happening in the little town of Wilden in Germany after a couple of kids go missing. “Dark” is a complicated drama about dysfunctional families, their overlapping pasts, and hidden secrets, which is further complicated with the sci-fi twist added to the narrative. There is a fair share of time travel happening on the show, and the presence of the wormhole that takes the protagonists to parallel worlds in 1921, 1954, 1987, 2020, and 2053 is a wonderful and awe-inspiring take on the theory of Schrodinger’s cat.
We live in a world where our phones are getting smarter, and our worlds are shrinking every day. “Westworld” is a science fiction show that warns us about the negatives of our overdependence on technology. Created by HBO, “Westworld” deals with a futuristic dystopian reality. Based on a 1973 film with the eponymous title, the series takes us on an adventurous theme park ride where all of a sudden, the robots and automatons are breaking the code provided by their programmers and indulging in abrasive behavior.
Alice In Borderland (2020–)
Adapted from the manga by Haro Aso, “Alice in Borderland” is a science fiction series that is available on Netflix. It follows an obsessive gamer named Arisu who, in a strange turn of events, finds himself and his friends in an emptied Tokyo of a parallel gaming universe where he and his friends have to undergo various challenges and dangerous adventures to keep their visas alive and in turn to survive.