This week on the Nerd Confessions Podcast we’re afraid of entering VR for fear of torture because we’re covering the cyberpunk mystery thriller TV series exclusive to Netflix called, Altered Carbon! Does it accurately reflect the book? Is Joel Kinnaman’s acting perfect for Robocop, but terrible for Kovacs because he’s not supposed to be robotic? Does Martha Higareda make watching the series worth it all by herself?! Does Richard K Morgan think this reflects his universe well and how long was Laeta Kalogridis trying to do a TV/Movie adaptation of Altered Carbon? We have all the answers to this and more… except if the series reflects the book because we didn’t read it.. Watch or follow along as we discuss!

Listener Confessions this week we are featuring Instagram users @blablabla_gamer and his awesome die cast figure in addition to our own confessions.

Now available on iTunesStitcherYoutube and below:

Show Notes

Altered Carbon on Netflix 2018

What is Altered Carbon?

Altered Carbon the Series on Netflix which is actually a TV Series adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Richard K. Morgan and published in 2002. The book is the first in a trilogy called Takeshi Kovacs who is the main character of the books. Altered Carbon is the first book in the trilogy and the TV Series adaptation was released on Netflix, February 2nd, 2018 and is 10 episodes long.

Altered Carbon takes place in the dystopian future, year 2384. Humanity has developed a technology called cortical stacks which holds the human consciousness including memories. The stack seems to override or replace the function of the brain means stacks can be placed into any human from another human. Due to the ability of taking over other human bodies, human bodies are now called sleeves, as they may not reflect your birth body and are temporary. If stacks are destroyed they call this a real death. There are also those in the world which don’t believe in stacks such as the Catholics which makes them easy targets for murder as they can’t be brought back to testify.

The majority of humanity can’t afford re-sleeving themselves more than once because to afford being  re-sleeved takes nearly a life-time. Most people don’t extend their life-spans beyond one or two re-sleeves due to the amount of labor required to afford the next sleeve.Those that are rich enough to afford being re-sleeved on a continual basis are called Meths. Meths is a biblical reference to Methuselah, the human which lived to the age of 969. Those rich enough are also capable of backing up their stacks to the cloud.

The main character of the series, Kovacs is part of a specially trained task force called Envoys. In this universe the fastest means of travel is data transfer of your stack to another sleeve. Taking over a new sleeve is disorienting because of a new body, however so for military use there are complications with this means of travel. Envoys are specially trained to use their abilities no matter the sleeve they are in and their sleeves have heightened senses.

The series begins with Kovacs re-sleeved into the body of a police officer named Ryker who was imprisoned. Kovacs was brought back for his history as an ex-Envoy to investigate a murder mystery of a long lived Meth.


The series was ordered by Netflix in January 2016, fifteen years after showrunner Laeta Kalogridis had originally optioned the novel with the intent of making a feature film. Laeta Kalogridis is credited with the creation of the TV Series and previously wrote the screenplay for Alexander in 2004 and more recently Terminator Genysis (2015). She is also the founder of the pro-union website Hollywood United and was involved as a peacemaker in the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. So, yeah, hardcore.  According to Kalogridis, the complex nature of the novel and its R-rated material meant that it was a tough sell for studios before Netflix ordered the series.

Miguel Sapochnik directed the pilot episode, you may know him as the Director for quite a few episodes of Game of Thrones, an episode Iron First and the film, Repo Men. The series was produced in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Notable Cast

  • Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs: The main character and ex-envoy turned monotone investigator in Police Officer Ryker’s body! Kinnaman’s most notable movie is probably the reboot of Robocop that came out in 2014. His former sleeve is played by, Byron Mann who played Mr. Chau in The Big Short movie. Definitely eye candy.
  • James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft: The Meth who was murdered and hired Kovacs to investigate. In the TV series, Rome he plays Mark Antony.
  • Martha Higareda as Kristin Ortega: Bay City Police officer formerly tasked with solving Lauren Bancroft murder and former associate of Ryker. Definitely eye candy.
  • Chris Conner as Edgar Poe: An AI that runs The Raven Hotel in Bay City and loosely reflects Edgar Allen Poe as part of the hotel theme.
  • Dichen Lachman as Reileen Kawahara: Sister of Kovacs and also an ex-Envoy. Actor also played Jiaying in Marvel’s Agents of Shield.
  • Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot: Suspect in the Bancroft murder.
  • Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft: Wife of Lauren Bancroft and also a wealthy Meth.
  • Trieu Tran as Mister Leung: Dubbed, “Ghostwalker,” he is a hitman. He also played one of the people in the Flaming Dragon Company in tropic Thunder.
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry as Quellcrist Falconer: Military leader of the Envoy organization. Was previously in the One life to live TV show playing Evangeline Williamson.


Rotten Tomatoes currently lists the series with a 64% from a total 69 Critic Reviews. Audience Score currently rates it at 90% from a total of 3,803 user reviews.

IMDB has the series rated at 8.4 from a total of 49,001 reviews.

MetaCritic has a score of 65 from 24 critics and 8.2 out of 456 reviews.

What are our thoughts?

Not enough story building on the concept of cortical stacks? If human consciousness can be held on a stack instead of in a brain why wouldn’t you also be able to enhance intelligence and memory? We already know Envoy stacks have heightened senses. Is it outlawed? Even if it is outlawed wouldn’t this result in a black market for such upgrades? So even if it outlawed anyone who has their intelligence and memory enhanced would have a clear advantage in life over anyone who would not which would result in an entirely different class of person. Meths don’t appear to have super intelligence. Maybe this is addressed in the books, but it’s definitely not addressed in the Netflix Series.

The series also has complex AI’s that don’t seem to be too far beyond human intelligence. Is this really feasible that humanity would be stuck at this development stage with these abilities?

Story pacing too slow? A bit, particularly in the beginning of the series.

What do we rate it? 8 out of 10 synths and urborous tattoos.

That’s it for this week!

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