I just rebinged Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. I noted a number of things I hadn’t picked up on the first time through. I’m a big fan of rewatching a movie or series to learn more as a writer. Because we have an idea of what’s going to happen from our first viewing, we can focus on how the writers structured the plot and arced the characters.
I also look for the core idea, the genesis of the story. Here are some recent series I’ve gone back to and my thoughts.
Man in the High Castle. Brilliant premise coming from Philip K. Dick. The master of brilliant premises. The story plays out with multiple strong character threads. As it gets further into the seasons it gets a little blurry about how exactly this travel between worlds occurs and why some people are Travelers, but those are things you have to accept; it is science fiction. Overall, very entertaining and at the core, our favorite Nazi, John Smith, sums up a poignant issue: of all the versions of us we could be, this is the one I ended up being. Pretty damning. I did have some issue with the very end. Too wide open to interpretation. I read where the writers wanted it open-ended like the end to Blade Runner but in that case, Dekker either was or wasn’t a replicant. In High Castle there are way too many possibilities. Still, I’m not sure I could have come up with something more definitive, so kudos.
The Peripheral. You can tell the influence from the people behind Westworld. Out of the brilliant mind of William Gibson. I really enjoyed this series and hope we will see more of it—checking, it has been green lit for Season 2, so that’s great news.. Like High Castle it has multiple timeline worlds. I’m a sucker for that, given my Atlantis and Time Patrol series. Lots of great ideas packed in every episode and some really great characters. One of the best things I’ve seen in a while. I always tell people to watch the pilot of Westworld to see great set up of plot and character. This is almost as good and plays out as well. I really liked the military angle of the haptics. Also, how this world was being treated by the other timeline—colonialism via parallel world. Brilliant.
Altered Carbon: Lots of action and moral questions, which good scifi goes for. I like how the rich, of course, have more options for living longer than the rest of us schmucks. That was at the core of Burners, which I still think is one of the best ideas I’ve written. The shift of main characters in a new body in season 2 caught me a bit off-guard but fits completely in the world that is built. Having Edgar Allen Poe as a sidekick is never a bad idea. A murder mystery inside a much larger story with a large backstory always works! The pilot packs a lot into it.
The Expanse: Start small and go big. I ended up doing that in my Area 51 series which starts with what seems to be a small, internal security problem, eventually rewrites the entire history of mankind, and by the end encompasses galactic empires. A big part of The Expanse was great characters. Each had well-developed back stories and arcs. I really like writing when you can understand all the sides in a struggle and to some degree empathize with them. Also, the rough look of all the machinery and ships brought a realism to the show.
Bottom line? Four great series I highly recommend.