6 sci-fi fantasy series to stream

 Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale. (AP)
Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale. (AP)

Cape Town - These thought-provoking series on internet TV present us with worlds that are not so different to our own, which makes them all the more chilling.

They might qualify as fantasy, but they’re not at all far-fetched. Stream them this weekend if you’ve had enough of the real world.

1.The Crossing (Showmax)

This is the show that Stephen King called “damn good”, “worth a look” and “strange and beautiful” on Twitter in April when the first episodes launched in the States. It’s about 47 refugees washing up on the shore of a small American fishing town. They say they’re American, too - and are fleeing a war that happens 180 years in the future. After this captivating start, we find out that Reece, one of the surviving refugees who’s desperately looking for her daughter, is not what she seems. Episodes 1 to 6 are currently streaming on Showmax, with the remainder coming in June. The final two episodes will stream express from the USA.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale (Showmax)

Based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Atwood, this dystopian series imagines a not-so-distant future, when the government of the US has been overthrown by a religious fundamentalist group and turned into the Republic of Gilead. The new regime rules with an iron fist, and anyone who refuses to fit into the roles mandated from on high are put to death, or, if they’re lucky, tortured, maimed or disfigured. Elisabeth Moss plays the Handmaid Offred, assigned to one of the Generals to bear a child on behalf of his wife. While the realities of her cloistered, abusive life in Gilead are horrific, perhaps the most unsettling part of the series is her frequent flashbacks to “before”, when she was an ordinary woman called June, with a husband, a daughter, a job, friends, and a life. 

3. HBO’s Westworld (DStv Now)

The second season of this intense, highly complex sci-fi drama is currently airing in the States, and if you’re following it on DStv, don’t even think of Googling “Westworld Season 2” until you’ve watched the whole thing (episodes 1 to 5 are currently available for streaming on DStv Now). This series has proven to be so unpredictable, with more twists than a barrel of pretzels, that the last thing fans want is to find out ahead of time what dangerous steps Delores, Maeve and Teddy take next in their war against the company that owns them and the humans who have tortured them. If you’ve never watched this series, about robotic hosts in a futuristic theme park where the wealthy go to live out their wildest, bloodiest fantasies, catch up by bingeing Season 1 on Showmax.

4. Black Mirror (Netflix)

The stand-alone episodes of the four seasons of this sci-fi thriller are described as being set in “an alternate present”, or a near future. It imagines the unintended, dire consequences of sophisticated new technologies: Cue darkness, death, destruction and despair. It might not sound like a tonne of fun to watch, but it’s so cleverly written and filmed that you won’t be able to look away, and episodes range in tone from legit terrifying (White Christmas - holiday special; Metalhead - Season 4, episode 5; Playtest - Season 3, episode 2) to depressingly dark (The National Anthem - Season 1, episode 1; White Bear - Season 2, episode 2) to satirically (almost) and whimsical (Nosedive - Season 3, episode 1; Be Right Back - Season 2, episode 1; USS Calister - Season 4, episode 1). 

5. Lost in Space (Netflix)

If you’ve had enough food for thought and are craving the TV equivalent of chocolate mousse, Netflix’s sci-fi adventure Lost in Space will hit the spot - it’s airy, sweet and very satisfying, with lots of action set in outer space, and with a big enough heart to balance out all the shooting and crashing of spaceships. Deep down, this is a show about a family (the Robinson family, to be exact, in a reimagining of the 1965 TV series of the same name, which was based on the 19th-Century novel Swiss Family Robinson) and their struggle to survive in a hostile environment, which ultimately brings them closer together.

6. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime)

Imagine the Axis powers won World War II. That’s what Philip K Dick did in his novel of the same name, and it resulted in this gripping, gritty dystopian sci-fi series. Instead of presenting an alternate present or near future, this show imagines an alternate past - it’s set in 1962, in what used to be the United States until Japan and the Nazis split the country in two after their victory in the war. The East Coast is now the Greater Nazi Reich and the West Coast is the Japanese Pacific States, with a no-man’s land stretching down the middle. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Juliana Crane becomes unwittingly engaged in the resistance when she receives a newsreel that depicts a world in which the Allies won the war. Just having seen this film puts her and those she loves in grave danger...

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