Mild spoilers ahead! Set hundreds of years in the future, Netflix's new series Altered Carbon (executive producer: Laeta Kalogridis), adapted from the 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, exists in a world where humans are nearly immortal. The technological advances include humans' ability to digitally upload their consciousness into an implant called a "stack" and transfer it into various bodies called "sleeves." The series' main character, Takeshi Kovacs, is a former Envoy, who's been placed in a new sleeve. Who are the Envoys in Altered Carbon?
In the Altered Carbon books, according to SlashFilm Envoys are superhuman soldiers. Essentially, they are one of the most advanced and most terrifying things to come out of this futuristic society. These soldiers switch sleeves constantly and as a result, have built up an extremely advanced coping mechanism for the constant switching. Envoys have heightened senses, which gives them an advantage over regular people. To make them completely efficient, the soldiers also have been completely desensitized and possess the ability to stop psychological or physiological reactions that humans tend to have naturally. These reactions are mainly the ones that would trigger feelings of remorse or fear. Basically, these guys are everything that is terrifying about what technology could potentially do to turn humans into weapons.
In Altered Carbon (key makeup effects artist: Ashley Forshaw), the Takeshi character is a Japanese-American Envoy soldier who was placed into digital prison for about 250 years because a mission he took part in went awry. After all that time in the deep freeze, his digital consciousness is taken out and placed into a white man's body. His skills are needed by a wealthy and powerful "Meth" named Laurens Bancroft, who would like to find out how his original sleeve was murdered. Takeshi has been forcibly put into a completely different body that happens to be a completely different race than his own, and now he has to hop to it and get back to work.
Bancroft is part of the super elite group of people in this dystopian future that can live forever due to their extensive wealth and power. This affords them the ability to have an infinite number of sleeves to move their downloaded consciousness into, whenever they choose to. Meths are named after the biblical figure Methuselah from the Old Testament, who lived until the age of 969. The term isn't exactly one of endearment and is used as a derogative insult to the super rich of Altered Carbon's time. After all, Meths are known to switch bodies long before they are elderly, simply to get into a younger, more attractive sleeve. The rest of society tends to wait until they have lived a complete life in their current sleeve before making a switch.
Bancroft's case certainly calls for someone with the unique and elite skills of an Envoy soldier because it isn't exactly common for someone to be murdered in this society, with no suspect to be in sight. In a world where people can be uploaded after "death" into another sleeve, it is a time where murder victims can lead authorities to the person who murdered them. Bancroft's death was initially labeled a suicide, but he's certain that he didn't kill himself. And now he believes that only an Envoy soldier could investigate how a perpetrator disabled Bancroft's consciousness long enough to murder him anonymously.
There are a lot of fascinating bits of science fiction progress that have been dreamed up for Altered Carbon, but the idea of the Envoy soldiers is a particularly scary one. But Season 1 of the series will probably show that there's more to these emotionless super soldiers than meets the eye.