Season 1 of HBO's Westworld—the sci-fi drama about a Western theme park populated by increasingly sentient android hosts—was, in many ways, totally unique. But although few series have tackled the same themes as Westworld on such an ambitious scale (not everyone has HBO money, after all), there are plenty of meaty shows out there that use a similar lens to explore what it means to be human.
While you wait for season 2 to air on April 22nd, here are seven gripping shows like Westworld to help the wait gallop by—in between re-watching Season 1 and obsessively perfecting your fan theories about The Maze, of course.
Like Westworld, this short-lived 2009 sci-fi show from writer/director Joss Whedon follows a woman who questions her identity after remembering previously suppressed experiences.
The series' two seasons center around Echo (Eliza Dushku), an 'Active' at a Los Angeles Dollhouse. Essentially, actives are living dolls: humans who are rented by wealthy patrons from various establishments called 'Houses'. Actives have their original memories wiped and are re-programmed with new personalities and memories for each mission—but Echo retains some of these memories and experiences over time.
Like Dolores in Westworld, as Echo evolves beyond acceptable Active behavior and becomes more than just a vessel for patrons' desires, she throws the system in which she exists into chaos. In its brief run, Dollhouse asked compelling questions about identity, consent, and the impact of memory.
This beloved SyFy show follows the human survivors of a nuclear attack on the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. The apocalyptic strike was perpetuated by the Cylons, an AI species that developed sentience and later attacked their human creators. Now a small fleet of ships, including the warship Battlestar Galactica, are all that remain of humanity. The survivors must attempt to avoid further Cylon attack while searching for the mythical thirteenth colony called Earth.
As the series progresses, the survivors realize that some Cylons are now indistinguishable from humans—and that, for better or for worse, some well-respected crewmembers aboard Galactica are Humanoid Cylons.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Skip the 2017 live-action movie adaptation and head straight to the 1995 anime movie or the 2002 series. Ghost in the Shell is set in the year 2030, at a time when cyborgs have become ubiquitous. In the fictional city of Niihama, cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi leads an anti-cyberterrorism task force called Public Security Section 9.
As the Major and her team uncover corruption in Niihama, the show explores questions about sexuality, identity, and what it means to really be human — all in a slick and super-entertaining cyberpunk package.
The first season of this original series arrived on Netflix February 2018, so there's a chance it's flown under your radar. A cyberpunk dystopia set hundreds of years from now, Altered Carbon explores a world in which death as we know it is all but obsolete. Individual's memories—and therefore their identities—are stored on a device called a cortical stack, which can then be inserted into the spinal column of a new body, or 'sleeve,' whenever previous sleeves perish.
After mercenary Takeshi Kovacs is killed during a mission, he is re-sleeved 250 years later and given a choice: solve the murder of a wealthy CEO, or spend eternity in prison. Kovacs' quest for answers takes the audience along for a dizzying ride through a future filled with AI, alien tech, and dangerous political intrigue.
As The Observer noted after Westworld premiered in 2016, the HBO series' narrative gymnastics owe much to the late 1960s British series The Prisoner.
The 17-episode show—which was later rebooted to middling acclaim in 2009—follows a British secret agent who resigns from his intelligence role and finds himself transported to a surreal, isolated seaside town where everyone is referred to by a number.
Now known as Number 6, the secret agent struggles to escape the quintessentially British town that has become his prison, but is consistently thwarted by the revolving cast of characters who assume the role of Number 2.
Like Westworld, The Prisoner trusts audiences' intelligence and patience. Although built around a core series of mysteries—who is Number 1? Where exactly is The Village, and how or why did Number 6 become imprisoned there?—the true joy of The Prisoner lies in the confounding journey to those answers, rather than the destination.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
This short-lived Fox series stars nerd royalty. Not only was Game of Thrones' Lena Headey at the head as Sarah Connor, but Firefly's Summer Glau also starred as Cameron, a terminator sent to 2027 by John Connor to protect his younger self.
The series opens in 1997, but Sarah, young John Connor (Thomas Dekker), and Cameron soon leap to 2007 to avoid a terminator's pursuit. Determined to give her son a relatively stable life, Sarah finds creative new ways to take down Skynet, and forges alliances with members of the resistance.
Like Westworld — and the rest of the Terminator franchise — The Sarah Connor Chronicles depicts the potential hazards of AI, and empathetically portrays both sides of the android-human divide. It also highlights complex, kick-ass female characters who could hold their own in a firefight alongside Westworld's Maeve or Dolores.
This critically acclaimed HBO series is historical fiction rather than sci-fi. But if you enjoy the wild, wild west aspect of Westworld, you'll probably enjoy the grit of Deadwood.
Set in Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s, the series follows the town's good, bad, and ugly, and features both entirely fictional characters and those based on historical figures. Binging Deadwood might not be as satisfying as an actual visit to Westworld, perhaps—but it would certainly be cheaper, and with less risk of robot murder.
Featured still from "Westworld" via HBO