The Blade Runner Legacy: Six Shows That Rival the Dystopian Classic – ScreenHub Entertainment

Since gaining popularity in the mid-90s, Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner has been viewed by many as the first and last word in sci-fi. Its depiction of a polluted, rain-soaked, and crime-ridden future gave us a textured world that revolutionized the dystopian sub-genre.

watch the original masterpiece here

Blade Runner’s iconic take on the world of tomorrow may remain unmatched in the cinematic universe, but that does not mean it has no rivals. The increasingly interesting and well-funded world of episodic television has proven itself capable of matching and even surpassing the tone and quality of feature films. These six shows are challenging the supremacy of Blade Runner, and any true fan needs to watch them right now!

6. Travelers

Ever since House of Cards debuted to extreme critical acclaim Netflix has been able to churn out a relatively consistent stream of high-quality original programming. Travelers is no exception. The show is anchored by solid performances by both seasoned actors and new faces. It raises questions that are all too relevant in today’s society. Questions about how our actions today affect the future of the planet and all those who live on it.

Credit: Netflix

The World: Rather than being set directly in a grim dystopian future, the show takes place in the present day. This is not to say it is not every bit as dark as the rest. Travelers paints a very clear picture of a grim future through the lens of a group of time travelers sent back to change the timeline and prevent the events that lead to the fall of society.

The Plot: The show gets around the physical impossibility of time travel by transferring the consciousness of these future fighters directly into the minds of present-day civilians. Early in the pilot episode, you are introduced to the various members of a time-traveling team. It is quickly made clear that those who are sending the teams back in time are far from infallible. Using an imperfect historical record they send several members of this particular team into the bodies of less than ideal candidates. Suddenly finding yourself living the life of a single mom, a meth addict, or a mentally challenged librarian makes saving the world considerably more difficult.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

Watch season one here

5. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is just one of roughly a half-dozen incarnations of the Ghost in the Shell property. Ranging from hardcore Japanese manga to a frighteningly underwhelming live-action Hollywood film, each new iteration raises questions of technological morality and the nature of being human. Stand Alone Complex continues this tradition using an innovative mix of sci-fi shoot-’em-up and serious police drama.

Credit: Production I.G.

The World: The future of the world is biotech. In the distant year 2030, the lines between man and machine have been blurred. The majority of humans have augmented themselves both mentally and physically. Nearly everyone is constantly interfaced with the internet through neural implants. The world has never been more connected, but the blights of crime and violence still remain. Thieves have found new ways to steal, politicians have more sinister ways to lie, and hackers have an entire world of code to break down and rewrite. The more talented hackers can even break into the human mind and alter what you see and hear.

The Plot: In this new technological jungle, we need a new breed of law enforcement. This comes in the form of Section 9, a semi-autonomous special-ops division of the police force tasked with maintaining law and order in Japan. Lead by Matoko “Major” Kusanagi, this eclectic team of officers, ranging from police detectives to former military spec-ops soldiers, use their various skill sets to solve futuristic mysteries and take down truly devious criminals. As the larger mysteries unfold Kusanagi and Section 9 reveal more about the world of this particular Ghost in the Shell incarnation, and begin to ask questions about which side they should really be on.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

Watch season one here

4. Firefly

Firefly is likely to be the most well-known entry on this list. Fresh off of the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the now illustrious director Joss Whedon sought to create a stylised space western that would redefine the sci-fi genre on network television. Season one aired on the Fox network in 2002 and was, shall we say, less than a hit. Its first season would also be its last. The show proved to be ahead of its time and, not long after its cancellation, gained a dedicated fan base. That fan base has grown far beyond cult status and Firefly is now generally accepted as one of the most well written and executed sci-fi television shows in recent history.

Credit: FOX

The World: One of the keys to the popularity of Firefly is the expert world building of Joss Whedon. He designed a universe with swagger. With interesting power structures, characters who are sassy yet lovable, and even a stylized dialect that incorporated southern sensibilities and broken Mandarin.

The Plot: In the future humanity has abandoned Earth and made a new home in a far-off solar system. Between the high society of the inner world’s and the ”revers,” a collection of psychotic pillagers inhabiting the outermost regions, there are people just trying to get by. This is where the crew of a ship named Serenity makes their living. Taking odd jobs, under sometimes less than legal circumstances, they use teamwork, bravery, and a deep reservoir of witty banter to make the best of any crazy situation in which they find themselves.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

Watch season one here

3. Psycho-Pass

Of all the entries in this list, Psycho-Pass is the one most likely to have flown under your radar. Though relatively well known within the anime community, this dark sci-fi series has yet to reach the cultural status of Cowboy Bebop or Ghost in the Shell. Taking inspiration from dystopian classics such as Blade Runner, Psycho-Pass is an excellent show that is certainly worth your time.

Credit: Production I.G.

The World: Psycho-Pass follows the classic dystopian premise of a perfect future that hides a dark and sinister secret. In this future, Japan has developed a way to rid society of all crime. The omnipresent “Sibyl” system watches over every citizen, monitoring each person’s psychological state. Should someone’s psyche cross a predetermined line and show any signs of violent tendencies a special team of “enforcers” is dispatched to arrest or eliminate the potential criminal. Enforcers are able to combat these latent criminals because they themselves have been flagged with a dangerous psyche, or “psycho-pass”. The system is perfect, but what is the cost of this safety?

The Plot: The main plot of Psycho-Pass follows Akane Tsunemori, a young police inspector tasked with chaperoning a team of Enforcers to ensure their dangerous tendencies don’t get the better of them. Before she can adjust to her new position the team is faced with a new and terrifying phenomenon. Someone begins killing innocent people in horrific ways but remains undetectable by the Sibyl system. To unravel this mystery they must discard everything they believed about their perfect world and uncover the frightening truth about the system that is supposed to keep people safe.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

download (1)
Watch season one here

2. The Expanse

On SyFy, a network whos more recent reputation is for such gems as the Sharknado series, The Expanse stands apart. It has extremely high production value, quality acting, and a plot that will genuinely keep you guessing. Based on an extensive book series, The Expanse feels more like a feature film than just another space cowboy series. Though this show borrows heavily from those that came before, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel derivative. The writers of The Expanse have successfully built a believable world, with a realistic power structure and where even second and third tier characters feel layered and three-dimensional.

Credit: Syfy

The World: The Expanse introduces us to a future where humanity has branched out from our humble blue planet and colonized both Mars and the asteroid belt. Earth remains a lush utopia, perfect for the wealthy upper-class. The asteroid belt has become an outer space mega-slum teeming with unrest and anger towards the arrogant Earthers. Mars has split off on its own waging a futuristic cold war against its one-time terrestrial masters. The storyline is essentially about class warfare, but nothing is quite so simple in The Expanse. The wealthy are not all villainous autocrats, the poor aren’t simply helpless martyrs, and those we would call heroes are riddled with conflicting motives and haunted pasts.

The Plot: The first season of The Expanse is split into two arcs. The first follows Joe Miller, a nihilistic detective ripped from a 1920’s noir novel, who is tasked with finding a mysterious girl. His search sends him down a rabbit hole filled with criminals rebels and political intrigue. Through Joe’s eyes, we come to understand the class system and why we should care about the plight of the underprivileged.

The second branch plays a bit more into the traditional space sci-fi adventure. The protagonists are the tragedy-prone remnants of a deep space mining vessel that is attacked and destroyed under extremely mysterious circumstances. This arc provides the excitement and action that we have come to expect from good sci-fi and adds depth and context to the mysteries that inhabit this universe.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

Watch The Expanse: Season 1

Included with Amazon Prime

1. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop has cemented itself in the annals of anime history. Not only was it key in bringing the anime genre to a wider western audience it proved to the west the anime could be more than just girls in skimpy costumes and endless fight scenes. Unlike previous anime that had crossed the Pacific Ocean Cowboy Bebop contained a rich and layered plot that has been compared favourably to the classic futuristic sci-fi series Firefly.

Credit: Sunrise

The World: In the year 2071, Roughly 50 years after a hyperspace gate experiment went horribly wrong, the Earth has become a cratered wasteland. The human race has colonized the solar system, with the wealthiest flocking to a newly terraformed Mars, and the rest of the rabble setting up space slums on whatever moon or rock they can find. With so many colonies the system has become a lawless place, so the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP) have resorted to paying bounty hunters, known as ”cowboys”, to do their dirty work.

The Plot: Among these teams of cowboys flies the intrepid crew of the spaceship Bebop. The crew is initially made up of a former syndicate hitman and a retired ISSP detective. This futuristic odd couple is soon joined by a seductive con-woman, a goofy child hacker, and a super-intelligent corgi who seems to have more common sense than the rest combined. Together this team of space-bound misfits struggles to make a living while fighting criminals, bad luck, and often each other.

Watch the full Season 1 trailer.

download (2)
Watch the entire series here

The dystopian genre is not an easy one to get right. It takes the perfect mix of grim despair and anxiety-inducing suspense, with just enough hope to keep it from turning into a depressing French art-house film. Blade Runner managed to beat the odds and set the standard for the genre. While that classic film has enjoyed quite a while on the dystopian throne, perhaps it’s time to move on and let one of these beautifully bingeable shows take a turn in the big chair.

Did we miss your favourite dystopian sci-fi show? Sound off in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out more of our content at ScreenHub Entertainment such as my review of Halloween or our review of Netflix’s The Outlaw King.


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