Biohackers

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Biohackers
Biohackers (TV series).png
Genre
Created byChristian Ditter
Screenplay by
  • Tanja Bubbel
  • Nikolaus Schulz-Dornburg
  • Johanna Thalmann
Directed by
Starring
Country of originGermany
Original language(s)German
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Production
Producer(s)Uli Putz
Jakob Claussen
CinematographyFil Eisler
Running time41–47 minutes
Production company(s)Claussen+Putz Filmproduktion
Release
Original networkNetflix
Original release20 August 2020 (2020-08-20) –
present

Biohackers is a German techno-thriller streaming television series created by Christian Ditter that premiered on Netflix on 20 August 2020. A week after its release, the series was renewed for a second season.[1]

Plot[edit]

Mia Akerlund is a medical student at the University of Freiburg, where she meets Jasper, a talented biology student, and Niklas, his somewhat strange roommate. She is very interested in biohacking technology and becomes involved in the world of illegal genetic experimentation. Mia is also trying to investigate the cause of her brother's death. When she learns of breakthrough biohacking research results which have landed in the wrong hands, Mia has to decide whether to protect her friends or avenge her brother's death.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Luna Wedler as Emma "Mia Akerlund" Engels
  • Jessica Schwarz as Professor Tanja Lorenz
  • Thomas Prenn as Niklas
  • Adrian Julius Tillmann as Jasper
  • Jing Xiang as Chen-Lu
  • Caro Cult as Lotta
  • Sebastian Jakob Doppelbauer as Ole

Recurring[edit]

  • Edith Saldanha as Monique
  • Zeynep Bozbay as Petra Eller
  • Benno Fürmann as Andreas Winter

Episodes[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [2]
1"Arrival"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
A cold open has Mia and Niklas traveling together in a train carriage. Several passengers suddenly fall ill with apparent heart attacks. Mia, a medical student, is trying to give aid as the title sequence ensues, after which the episode resumes two weeks earlier, at the University of Freiburg. Mia is moving into an apartment she will share with several other students—Lotta, the pretty one who likes to party; Ole, the goofy guy who likes to DIY on himself; and Chen-Lu, a rapid-speaking young woman of Chinese descent who is well versed in molecular biology. Mia locks the door to her room and hides some important documents—scientific papers and newspaper clippings, one with a photo of Lorenz, in a music speaker case. Unpacking a figurine of Vicky the Viking, she has a flashback to childhood when her twin brother gave it to her as a birthday gift. Mia first encounters the famous Professor Dr. Lorenz in a large introductory class for students in medicine. Lorenz proclaims that synthetic biology, the future of medicine, "turns us from creatures to creators". Mia has another flashback to her childhood with her brother being rushed into an emergency room; on the PA system, she hears, "Dr Lorenz to the ER please". After class, Mia pursues Jasper, Lorenz's assistant. They first meet in the library after Mia discovers a green fluorescent mouse loose in the library. "Mendel" is Jasper's pet and has escaped. They meet again at a freshman party that same night, and the following day Mia invites Jasper for a drink. After meeting at a bar, Jasper takes Mia for a walk to his personal lab in an isolated hut in the woods. He then sends Mia forms to apply as a clinical assistant to Lorenz. Former colleague, now journalist, Dr. Andreas Winter, is introduced, when he interviews Lorenz. The episode ends with a flash forward to the train carriage, where a medic in a hazmat suit enters the train in the aftermath of the incident that opened the episode. The medic asks Mia her name, and she replies: "My name is Emma".
2"Secrets"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
As the episode opens, Mia is having a flashback to childhood. The two children had participated in one of Lorenz's studies and her brother had died. She overhears her parents arguing with Lorenz about her culpability in the boy's death. Back in the present, Lorenz praises Mia in front of the class for her novel approach to a molecular biology problem. Mia convinces Lorenz to hire her as an assistant on human clinical trials. While discussing developments with her roommates, Jasper, and his best friend Niklas, Mia has another flashback to the car accident in her childhood that killed her parents, but which she survived. Lorenz is present at the accident scene and thinks that both parents and the girl are dead. Lorenz retrieves some documents from the accident site and drives away. After the flashback, Mia is walking with Jasper when she receives an anonymous text message that asks: "Do you have new information?" At Lorenz's lab the next day, Lorenz has Mia take swabs from volunteers in a study about genetic markers related to hormones and female fertility. When one volunteer decides not to participate, Lorenz has Mia take her place. When Lorenz takes a throat swab from Mia, the girl has a flashback to the time that Lorenz had taken a swab from her and her brother as a child. Mia later swaps her sample tube with a swab she surreptitiously obtained from Lotta (so that Lorenz won't discover that Mia is already in her database). After Jasper sequences the samples, Lorenz reviews them with Mia and is surprised that Mia's DNA sequences aren't consistent with Mia having freckles but not the correlated gene variant. As the episode ends, Lorenz gives Mia a passcard to the lab.
3"Suspicion"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
The episode opens with Emma (Mia) as a child, in the wrecked car after the accident. She watches Lorenz drive away and discovers that her parents are dead. Back in the present, she talks her way into the university lab where she finds that the records for her brother are archived off-site, at Lorenz's house. That evening, Mia goes to a marijuana harvest festival party with Jasper, and afterward, on their way to get ice cream, she reminds him he has something to do at the professor's home. Mia goes with him and gets in the house by asking to use the bathroom. Roaming around inside, she finds the computer with the archived files but it is password-protected. Mia surprises Jasper when she finds him in a secret basement lab where she sees a vivarium filled with red-eyed mosquitoes he has created. Jasper suddenly falls ill with an attack related to Huntington's disease. He tells Mia to call his friend Niklas, who is aware of Jasper's genetic disorder and Lorenz's work to treat it. Niklas has to interrupt Lorenz at a meeting to find out what to do. He gives the phone to Mia as he doesn't understand Lorenz's instructions. Mia is reluctant to let her professor know that she is in her house, but only she knows enough lab biology to reverse the gene vector mishap that is causing Jasper's attack. When her attempt fails, she calls Chen-Lu, who comes and saves Jasper. When Lorenz returns, Mia disconnects the wifi so that Lorenz has to use her computer to look up some information. She leaves it on and Mia sneaks back to find and print her records and those of her brother from Project "Homo Deus". She is only able to grab some of the printouts and has to flee so that Lorenz doesn't catch her. Niklas finds the remaining prints and becomes wary of her motives. Lorenz is also suspicious when she finds the disconnected wifi. In the flash-forward at the end, Jasper is on the train that is also carrying Mia and Niklas, and he has a jar of mosquitoes, which he releases.
4"Certainty"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
Mia awakens from a nightmare and discovers that Niklas has not yet responded to her request that he give her the remaining prints. She bikes over to his place, but he won't give them to her; he accuses her of taking advantage of Jasper for her own ends. Mia goes back to see Niklas later and explains everything, including that Lorenz thinks she died, but after the accident she went to live with her grandmother and took the name Mia Akerlund. He shows her the files, but she can't make sense out of the old records, written by a former lab tech, who is now living in a nursing home in Basel, Switzerland. Mia and Niklas go to Basel to meet the technician, Arnold. Back at the apartment building, Chen-Lu and Ole are commiserating over respective failures, and watch a soccer game on TV together. Jasper comes looking for Mia. She's not there, so he joins in watching the game, but his only thoughts are whether or not he can trust Mia. When he goes to the bathroom for a "bio-break", he sneaks into Mia's room. At the nursing home, Mia alternatively charms and pressures Arnold into telling her all about Lorenz's experiments on the Engels twins. He can't understand why she is still alive. The scene switches to Jasper in Mia's room. He finds the documents Mia stored in the speakers. He picks up a strand of her hair to check the DNA. Jasper leaves while Ole and Cheng-lu snuggle on the couch. On the train back, Mia says all she wants to do now is ruin Lorenz. Niklas offers to help. Mia later sees Jasper at a bar where he is drunk, though he never drinks. He asks who she really is, and she admits to having submitted false DNA samples, nothing more. Later, Jasper calls Lorenz, telling her she's right—Mia has faked her identity and she's spying. Mia, having realized that Jasper knows, goes to Lorenz's house, and when Lorenz opens the door, she reveals that her name is not Mia.
5"Betrayal"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
Mia admits she is Emma Engels, but Lorenz doesn't believe her until a DNA test confirms her identity. Lorenz is excited because it means her Homo Deus project was not a complete failure. She wants to sequence Emma's DNA immediately. Emma pretends to be grateful, thanking Lorenz for saving her life, but really intends to expose Homo Deus as an unethical experiment. Mia goes immediately to meet with Niklas at her place in order to work out a plan to get all the records of the Homo Deus project. They end up spending the night together. Emma meets with Lorenz again the next day in the lab at Lorenz's house to study Emma's genome. When Jasper awakes, he finds that Niklas has gone and there is a trashed copy of the train ticket for the trip to Basel. At Lorenz's house, Mia and Lorenz find that the genetic modifications gave her an exceptional immune system, demonstrating a revolutionary new gene therapy. Jasper goes to Lorenz's house and tells her about the ticket. Now realizing that Mia is acting against her, Lorenz tells Monique to block Mia's access keycard. Mia overhears and goes to copy her genome in silico onto an external device. When Lorenz walks back into the lab after talking to Jasper, Mia is now hiding. When the copy completes, Mia dashes out and gets away. Jasper goes back home and gets into a physical fight with Niklas, who wants to get his keycard. Jasper tries to strangle Niklas, who knocks him out with a piece of firewood and grabs the keycard. Mia goes to her building and gets help from Chen-lu in finding a marker sequence that will allow her to identify all of the Homo Deus subjects in Lorenz's database. Mia and Niklas meet at the university lab, and using the marker, discover 237 matches, the "Homo Deus children". They grab DNA samples as an alarm starts, and escape to catch a train to Berlin. On the train, Mia texts the anonymous recipient, saying that they are on their way. Neither of them notices Jasper sitting nearby with his jar of mosquitoes. The closing of the episode is the opening of episode 1 on the train, with Niklas now one of the victims.
6"Fate"Christian DitterChristian Ditter20 August 2020 (2020-08-20)
As she wakes up on the train, Mia is approached by a female doctor in a biohazard suit. Mia notices that the mosquitoes on the train have red eyes, just like the ones Jasper had engineered to carry the genes for a synthetic coxsackie B virus. She tries to explain the situation as well as the cause of the outbreak, but the doctor thinks she's crazy and calls for backup, having Mia locked in the train car. Mia breaks out and arranges with Chen-lu to meet at Jasper's lab with the other roommates, where they can get antibodies to the virus. Mia arrives first and finds the vial but Jasper shows up and smashes it. Before Jasper leaves, Mia tells him everything that Lorenz has been up to with Homo Deus, but he doesn't believe her. He tells the police that the train attackers are in his lab. After the others show up, Chen-Lu and Mia manage to amplify antibodies from the small amount left using PCR. When the police arrive, Mia hides under the floorboards and Lotta tells them she is Emma Engels. Mia goes to the hospital where the train victims have been taken and encounters the same doctor, who takes the antibodies. Jasper goes to Lorenz's house, looks up Homo Deus, and realizes the full extent of what Lorenz has done. When the police come back to investigate a break-in that she staged, Lorenz tells them Jasper was the perpetrator of the attack on the train. Overhearing this, he escapes. At the hospital, the antibodies aren't working so Mia goes to Lorenz's house to trade the DNA samples for antibodies, assuming Lorenz made a batch. Instead, she tells Mia to use the Homo Deus gene therapy, which she gives her in exchange for the DNA samples. The therapy saves the remaining train victims. Lorenz destroys the DNA samples. Back at her apartment, Mia gets an email from Jasper, telling her she was right about Lorenz. His email also includes all the Homo Deus records. Mia arranges to meet the anonymous individual with whom she has been texting, who turns out to be Dr. Andreas Winter. After she gives Winter the data, two figures in black grab her and take her to a van. Inside the van, she finds Lorenz, who has already been seized.

Production[edit]

In addition to the original location at the University of Freiburg, the majority of the first season was filmed in studios in Munich. Principal photography began in May 2019 and wrapped up in September 2019.[3]

The production was partially funded with at least €400,000 from the German Motion Picture Fund and the Bavarian media promotion company FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, which had also partly funded the Netflix series Dark.[4][5]

Release[edit]

The first season's six episodes were originally scheduled to be released on 30 April 2020. However, Netflix decided to postpone the launch due to the public's focus on the spread of COVID-19, as some scenes from the show could be misconstrued as references to the pandemic.[6] 20 August 2020 was selected as the new release date.

Reception[edit]

In a balanced review of the series, Elsa Sotiriadis of Singularity Hub writes, "...the unconventional pieces sometimes move smoothly together and sometimes clash, but the plot is glued together with lots of visually appealing synthetic biology experiments and bioluminescent matter of diverse natures." Additionally, she says, "...don't expect the show to offer deep scientific insights or riveting character arcs, because biohacking is only the backdrop of a revenge plot that feels somewhat rushed." [7]

The journal Science published a positive review of the show, noting that it accurately presents laboratory scenes of complex molecular biology, though these are necessarily rushed.[8] The review also considered the dialog about gene therapies and antidotes to be consistent with how RNA interference therapies work. The show also addresses many concerns about genomic data and genetic engineering, and the motivating drive behind do-it-yourself biology.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grater, Tom (27 August 2020). "Netflix Renews German Original 'Biohackers' For Second Season". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Biohackers – Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Biohackers: Alle Infos zur neuen Netflix-Serie" [Biohackers: All information about the new Netflix series]. chip.de (in German). 11 May 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  4. ^ ""Biohackers": Deutsche Netflix-Thrillerserie abgedreht" ["Biohackers": German Netflix thriller series wraps up]. wunschliste.de (in German). 12 September 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  5. ^ "FFF Bayern fördert mit 2 Mio. Euro drei internationale Serienprojekte bayerischer Produzenten für Netflix und Amazon" [FFF Bayern is funding three international series by Bavarian producers for Netflix and Amazon with EUR 2 million]. fff-bayern.de (in German). 3 July 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Netflix verschiebt Serie "Biohackers" auf unbestimmte Zeit" [Netflix postpones "Biohackers" series indefinitely]. dwdl.de (in German). 20 March 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  7. ^ "Stream or Skip? A Synthetic Biologist's Review of 'Biohackers' on Netflix". singularityhub.com. 2 September 2020. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  8. ^ Greenbaum, Dov (4 September 2020). "Biology's brave new world". Science. 369 (6508): 1170–1170. doi:10.1126/science.abe1950. ISSN 0036-8075.

External links[edit]