Some of these dramas are tales of murder and mayhem, others about how ordinary people deal with extraordinary developments. Some take us into the past, others thousands of years into the future (and in the case of 12 Monkeys, into both past and future). But what all of these dystopian dramas offer is gripping viewing.
The Handmaid’s Tale
It’s been a long wait, but worth it, as The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 is finally here. And already, there’s been plenty of tense moments and danger in the first few episodes of the new season of the world’s favourite dystopian drama. If you haven’t plunged into the new adventures of June et al already, there’s a Handmaid’s Tale refresher to get you ready for season 4 here. You can catch new episodes of Season 4 on SBS and SBS On Demand (find links to the latest episodes, plus latest show news and more on the Handmaid’s Tale program page here) and then join the hosts of the award-winning Eyes on Gilead podcast as they talk it all over after every episode.
Watch The Handmaid’s Tale weekly at 9.30pm Thursdays on SBS. New episodes will be also be available to stream weekly at SBS On Demand. SBS Australia’s award-winning Handmaid’s Tale companion podcast, Eyes on Gilead, offers entertaining and engrossing analysis along with exclusive interviews with the stars and talent behind the show. You can subscribe to Eyes On Gilead on your preferred podcast platform now.
Dystopian dramas are often about a dark future. Dark Matter puts a twist on things with a blank past: a six-person crew on board a derelict spaceship wake up with no memory of who they are, or how they got on board. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, written by former Stargate writers Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mull, Dark Matter takes place in the dystopian 27th century, and sees the six crew members, along with an android who has control over the ship’s systems, dealing with secrets, danger and a possible traitor in their midst.
Seasons 1–3 of Dark Matter are streaming at SBS On Demand:
War Of The Worlds
Within days of a transmission from another galaxy, mankind is hit by a devastating alien attack. Things are bad, and then they get worse, in this new version of the classic H.G. Wells story, set in present-day Europe. Gabriel Byrne headlines as Bill Ward, a neuroscience professor whose dedication to his work has taken a toll on his personal life; alongside Ward we see the story through the eyes of a handful of other survivors, including an astrophysicist, a NATO colonel, a blind teenager and a refugee fleeing civil war in South Sudan.
Years and Years
Years and Years stars Emma Thompson as an ambitious politician but the heart of the story is what happens to one close-knit family as dramatic changes in the political landscape see their daily lives changed in ways no one could have expected. Created, written and executive produced by Russell T. Davies (A Very English Scandal, Doctor Who, Queer as Folk), Years and Years spans 15 years, but it happens quickly, reminding us that a terrifying future could be not that far away for any of us.
Fear The Walking Dead
There’s a lot to be scared of in this zombie apocalypse series, but the zombies are only one of the dangers in Fear The Walking Dead. The show kicks off with the apocalypse already in full effect, and the hordes of zombies are a real problem for survivors. But this is a series with intensely timely plot threads: a rising tide of infections from a new disease, rumours, gossip, even a subplot about public protests against police shootings.
Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now at SBS On Demand.
The fictitious Arctic town of Fortitude enjoys a bitterly cold yet peaceful life until the town’s first murder happens. After that, nothing is quite the same, with a series of odd occurrences and more dead bodies piling up. We’re not going to lie: this three-season difficult-to-categorise series is not for the queasy among us. There’s the icy touch of Nordic Noir, a cop show undertone, a science-y bent and a spiritual strangeness that make this one unique, binge-worthy series. It also has a stellar cast featuring Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing), Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones), Stanley Tucci (Limetown) and Dennis Quaid (The Parent Trap).
Fortitude seasons 1–3 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
This action-packed revenge thriller from the producer of The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo is slick, dark and clever. After her brother and his crew left her for dead, Doris (Abigail Spencer) has re-emerged many years later and many miles away into a new, seemingly quaint life in Detroit. Armed with the expected inheritance from the impending death of her husband, Doris embarks on a vengeful mission to destroy the same gang that tried to kill her. Pulp fiction rockabilly meets neo-noir.
Reprisal is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
When Helena visits her estranged twin Siri in an exclusive sanatorium in the Italian Alps, she doesn’t realise she won’t be leaving any time soon. Siri has gone, leaving Helena in her place, and she quickly wakes up to the fact this remote institution is far from a healing retreat; she’s surrounded by predators and manipulators. Before thinking of escape, Helena must first survive. This international thriller from Sweden, with Vikings’ Josefin Asplund as the twins, will get the blood racing.
Season 1 of Sanctuary is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Taboo is a step back in time to a brooding, danger-filled take on 1814 Britain. The series follows James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy), a man who has been to the ends of the earth and comes back irrevocably changed. Believed to be long dead, he returns home to London from Africa to inherit what is left of his father’s shipping empire and rebuild a life for himself. But his father’s legacy is a poisoned chalice, and Delaney is surrounded by murder, a dark family mystery and other dangers.
Taboo season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Not to be confused with the popular SBS VICELAND news and current affairs program, here, the Feed is an omnipresent technology implanted into most everyone’s brain, allowing people to instantly share information, emotions and memories. But when the system starts to go awry, users become murderous, and the inventor’s family are driven apart in their struggle to control the monster that’s been unleashed. A strong ensemble cast helms this sci-fi dystopia set in near-future London, including David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Fargo), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones, Fortitude) and Guy Burnet (Counterpart). Another intriguing vision from the writer of The Walking Dead.
Season 1 of The Feed is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
The Last Wave
In a peaceful seaside resort, everything changes when a wave of clouds and water engulf a group of surfers – they disappear but their boards are left intact. When they mysteriously return they discover themselves endowed with strange powers. While most residents are frightened by all these changes, others think the surfers have been changed by the cloud, that Nature has decided to change them... If so, why? Was the cloud caused by climate change or was it the beginning of the revolt of Nature? This is just the first of a series of phenomena the small-town community will have to face, disrupting their intimate lives and the surrounding landscape. Fans of series like The Leftovers and The 4400 will find a lot to like in this tale of a community struggling to come to terms with a supernatural event beyond any obvious comprehension.
The Last Wave is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
In northern Sweden at the mining site of the world’s largest nuclear waste depository a strange white wall is found deep underground. Project director Lars Ruud (Aksel Hennie) wants to keep it a secret, but rumours spread quickly in the small town. The depository is already years behind schedule and nuclear waste is piling up, stored in temporary containers. Completion of the facility is Lars’ life’s work so he has no intention of postponing the approaching opening ceremony. However, Lars and his team soon realise that the wall is not made of any material known to man. He has to make a decision that may well be the most important in the history of mankind. Should they leave the wall alone? Or should they try to see what’s behind it?
White Wall is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
When Natalie, a young French woman living in Israel, is accused of murdering her husband on the night of their wedding, Karim, from the French consulate, is tasked with helping her. The job is muddied when he finds himself falling for her. What he can’t work out though, is whether Natalie is genuinely vulnerable or incredibly manipulative. Obsessed with the case, Karim delves deep into Natalie’s mysterious past. From Sirens creator Shachar Magen and Bodyguard director BAFTA-nominated Thomas Vincent, Possessions is a thrilling drama and features Hebrew, French and English languages.
Possessions is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
The Crimson Rivers
This two-season gripping French thriller is based on the best-selling novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé, who is also the creative force behind the show. It follows detective Pierre Niémans (played by the legendary Olivier Marchal) and his new partner Camille Delauney (Erika Sainte) as they investigate a series of bizarre crimes in remote areas across France. Each case has a touch of the mystical about it, revealing forgotten customs or regional myths.
The Crimson Rivers seasons 1–2 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.