Biohackers is great science, but lousy science fiction

This Netflix series has believable science, but not a believable story.

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Netflix's Biohackers takes the typically sunny college series and turns it on its head. While Mia Akerlund and her friends go to parties, get drunk, and go on lake trips, they also do self-surgery implants, smoke bioluminescent weed, and seek to rid the world of genetic diseases. It has the potential to be a great show, but it falls flat in an unexpected way.

Biohackers is a German sci-fi intrigue show following Mia Akerlund as she balances her own tragic backstory with her first year at a prestigious medical school in Freiberg. She gets caught up in a love triangle and has quirky roommates, but also tries to take down a medical conspiracy from the inside.

Usually, in science-based shows like this, the techniques used are beyond not only the average viewer's scientific knowledge, but beyond technology as a whole. Take the Fox series Bones, where DNA tests can be run almost instantaneously and projected onto a hologram. In Biohackers, the science is very slow and methodical, usually showing biosynthesis as a multi-step process instead of a step in a larger scheme.

Mia finds a luminescent mouse.


Unfortunately, while the science shines, the story suffers. In between the teen drama, Mia is trying to take down star professor and leading gene therapy expert Tanja Lorenz. Lorenz has the sleek bob and icy demeanor that you'd imagine, but her encounters with Mia feel more like they're coworkers who don't get along well rather than mortal enemies. While other shows use science as a vehicle for the story, Biohackers uses the story as a crutch for the science.

Professor Lorenz lectures to her students.


The climax of the show is introduced in the very first scene. Mia and love interest Nicklas are on a train when suddenly all the passengers come down with what appear to be heart attack-like symptoms. While this serves as a great hook to keep viewers watching til the last of its six episodes, the payoff is initially satisfying but quickly becomes a transparent way to establish stakes and a ticking clock for Mia.

Considering how much effort was put into the science and realism of this show, it's worth checking out if you're intrigued by things like CRISPR and gene therapy. If you're more into gripping sci-fi, you're better off sticking to fellow German series Dark. If you do take the plunge, be warned there's a cliffhanger ending that will leave you frustrated, but with a first season of only six episodes, it's likely there's more on the way.

Biohackers is now streaming on Netflix.

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