Inappropriate things to watch while self-isolating

Spoiler Warning: There may be spoilers ahead for the titles on this list. If you haven’t seen one and want to be certain of avoiding spoilers, skip ahead to the next entry just to be safe.

Depending on where you are in the world, you may have been suggested, requested, or outright forced into self-isolation as a result of coronavirus. I’m one of the people you’re keeping safe by self-isolating – I have a fairly complicated set of health issues, several of which tick the boxes for putting me at greater risk from the illness. So thank you for helping to keep me safe, I appreciate it!

But being stuck at home is awful if you aren’t used to it, so as a way of saying thanks for staying indoors and limiting the spread of this disease, here are a few television series and films that would make for highly inappropriate quarantine viewing.

Film #1: Contagion (2011)

Bodies being buried in mass graves in Contagion.

Contagion takes a realistic approach to a global pandemic, focusing on the doctors and scientists leading the response and trying to find a cure. It demonstrates how a pandemic can easily get out of control, and how those tasked with leading the response can be just as in the dark as everyone else in the early stages of an outbreak. There’s a great performance from Lawrence Fishburne in particular.

Film #2: I Am Legend (2007)

Will Smith in I Am Legend.

A scientist attempting to find a cure for cancer accidentally releases a pathogen which kills more than 90% of the world’s population and turns almost all of the rest into zombie-like creatures. Dedicated to his research, he stays in an eerily abandoned New York City trying to reverse the effects. I Am Legend is, in parts, a very emotional film, and its ending, while deliberately ambiguous, seems to suggest that the zombies were a lot more “human” than they were given credit for.

Film #3: 28 Days Later (2002)

London is deserted in 28 Days Later.

A man wakes up from a coma in a hospital to find it deserted and the world outside ravaged by zombies. No, this isn’t television’s The Walking Dead, but it’s 28 Days Later, a film directed by Danny Boyle. Set in the UK in the aftermath of a virus called “rage” that turns people into living zombies, a small group of survivors look to escape London and find safety.

Film #4: World War Z (2013)

Brad Pitt in World War Z.

This Brad Pitt-led film gets somewhat of a bad rap, perhaps because it was so different from its source material. As a zombie infection begins to spread, a scientist must travel across the world in search of a cure. Things get progressively worse as society collapses around him.

Film #5: The Road (2009)

Father and son share a drink in The Road.

Not specifically about a virus – though that could perhaps be the cause of The Road’s unspecified disaster – this film focuses on a father and son as they try to survive in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. A strongly character-driven story looking at a dark, gritty post-apocalyptic environment where people will do anything to survive, it’s a fascinating, if depressing, film.

Film #6: The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson in one of cinema’s most iconic scenes.

What better to watch when stuck in place with no one to talk to than a film about a man being driven insane by being stuck in place with no one to talk to? This adaptation of the Steven King novel is a classic, and one of Jack Nicholson’s most legendary performances. It recently spawned a sequel – Doctor Sleep – but that film didn’t seem to have recaptured the magic.

Film #7: The Purge (2013)

Masked attackers terrorise a family in The Purge.

If you want to torture yourself with fears about being burgled and having your home broken into in these days of a supposedly limited police response to what they deem “less-important” crimes, why not check out 2013’s The Purge? In an America which has solved crime by legalising crimes for one night of the year, the film sees a family hunker down in their home as criminals try to break in. Can they survive the night?

Film #8: The Hole (2001)

Teenagers trapped underground in The Hole.

A group of teenagers end up locked in an underground bunker after a party goes wrong. They begin to run out of food and medicine while trapped, unable to leave the “hole” – they should’ve stockpiled toilet paper and pasta. A deeply claustrophobic film, The Hole is perfect quarantine viewing!

Television series #1: Survivors (2008)

Abby wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world in Survivors.

A small group of people must survive in a post-apocalyptic UK, after a disease has ravaged the world and killed the vast majority of the population. The disparate group must pull together to overcome obstacles in the world the virus has left behind, and contend with people who become incredibly selfish in the face of survival. As a show that examines the duality of human nature in the face of disaster, Survivors is a fascinating look at the post-apocalypse.

Television series #2: The Andromeda Strain (2008)

A dead body in The Andromeda Strain.

A loose adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel, The Andromeda Strain is a miniseries which looks at a disease that comes from space – an extraterrestrial microbe. Naturally humanity has no immunity or resistance to the infection, as it comes from space, and it quickly spreads through an American town. Primarily focused on the government response, the miniseries looks at how a situation can spiral out of control.

Television series #3: The Last Ship (2014)

The USS Nathan James in The Last Ship.

This show made my list of the top ten shows of the 2010s a few months ago, and for good reason. It’s a fascinating look at survival and rebuilding in a global pandemic. The action is focused on the crew of the USS Nathan James, a US Navy ship which is tasked with researching and curing a disease called the “red flu”. During Season 1, it becomes clear to the crew that the virus is far worse than they imagined and that society is on the precipice of collapse. Along with lone virologist Dr Rachel Scott, Capt. Chandler and his crew race to find a cure before it’s too late for humanity’s remaining survivors, but they must contend with a Russian ship which is also researching the disease. Later seasons introduce other antagonists, like the crew of a rogue submarine and pirates in East Asia, and look at how American society is slowly being rebuilt.

Television series #4: Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak (2019)

Title card for Pandemic.

I actually have a review for this series already posted on the blog – you can find it by clicking or tapping here. A documentary looking at various aspects of pandemic prevention, including attempts to synthesise a general cure for all kinds of flu, Pandemic is an interesting look at its subject matter – if somewhat politically slanted and limited by its focus on specific individuals. It attempts to be a broad overview of the subject matter, and although an incomplete picture, it is genuinely interesting.

Television series #5: The Stand (1994)

Gary Sinise in The Stand.

Based on a Steven King novel, this miniseries looks at the accidental release of a biological weapon based on influenza, which is rapidly spread across the United States. The disease has a massive death toll, leaving only a few survivors worldwide. The miniseries featured some great performances from actors who either were big stars already or who would go on to find further fame later on, like Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, and Molly Ringwald.

Television series #6: Helix (2015)

Promotional image for Helix.

Helix is one of those shows that starts off great but gets progressively worse as its story progresses. At a remote research station in the Arctic, a disease has infected a number of scientists and workers. A team from the CDC is dispatched to bring the infection under control, and the plot then spirals into a zombie story, a family drama, and a global conspiracy of silver-eyed immortals. Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager) guest stars, and the cast is led by Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star William O. Campbell.

Television series #7: The Strain (2014)

One of The Strain’s vampires.

The way this vampire story unfolds – particularly in its first few episodes – focuses very much on how the infection spreads from one “master” vampire to everyone else. Focusing on a CDC doctor in New York City, this show has a great cast – including David Bradley, whose performance is outstanding – and is a fun bit of fantasy-horror in a modern setting.

Television series #8: Twelve Monkeys (2015)

Title card for Twelve Monkeys.

Based on a film from the 1990s, Twelve Monkeys is a time-travel series that starts off with a fascinating premise: a man must travel to the present day from a future where a deliberately-released disease has killed off most of humanity. Over the course of the first season, the time-traveller unites with a doctor from our time to track down the source of the virus. Later seasons go off the rails and stop looking at the disease, focusing on a conspiracy to destroy time itself(?) at which point I stopped watching. But the first season in particular is outstanding and thoroughly worth a watch.

Video game #1: The Last Of Us (2013)

Promotional image for The Last Of Us.

Another one of my top tens of the 2010s, this time in the video games category, The Last Of Us is essentially a road trip that sees a man escort a young girl across America, twenty years after a fungus-based disease brought down society. In a few secure locations, some semblance of the American government still exists, but for the most part it’s everyone for themselves out in the wilderness. There are some beautiful locations for players to explore – even though the game was released on last generation’s PlayStation 3. And not to spoil anything, but the final act of the game is incredibly emotional and a great example of a videogame telling a story that would be just as at home on the big or small screen.

Video game #2: Plague Inc. (2012)

Promotional screenshot for Plague Inc.

Now available for PC, this game started on smartphones just at the right time, when phones were taking off and becoming a legitimate gaming platform. Rather than taking on the role of humans facing a disease, Plague Inc. sees players take on the role of the disease itself. There are various types from viruses to bacteria to fungal spores, and diseases must be upgraded in order to achieve the goal of wiping out humanity. Striking the right balance between being sufficiently contagious, able to remain undetected, severe enough to cause mass deaths, and able to adapt to and outsmart human researchers is no easy challenge – so be prepared for a lot of defeats before you’re finally able to get your version of coronavirus to kill everyone.

Star Trek has looked at diseases, quarantines, and issues surrounding isolation at many points in its history, so as an addendum to the main list, here are a few episodes from various iterations of the Star Trek franchise which would also make for inappropriate self-isolation viewing!

Star Trek episode #1: The Conscience of the King (The Original Series, 1966)

Kirk must solve the riddle of this man’s identity.

Years before he assumed command of the Enterprise, Captain Kirk was resident on a colony which ran out of food. In an attempt to save lives, the colony’s governor condemned half of the population to death so that the remaining food could be rationed among the other half – those he deemed worthy of survival. When a man beams aboard the Enterprise who may be the tyrannical governor, Kirk must put the pieces together.

Star Trek episode #2: The Deadly Years (The Original Series, 1967)

A terrified Chekov in The Deadly Years.

Several senior Enterprise crew members are afflicted with a disease which causes rapid ageing. Dr McCoy and his medical staff must try to find a cure – before it’s too late! Not even Spock is immune, and it seems as though the ship and its entire crew are in danger.

Star Trek episode #3: Starship Mine (The Next Generation, 1993)

Picard talks to the mercenaries in Starship Mine.

Trapped alone aboard a deserted Enterprise-D, Picard must contend with intruders set on stealing a byproduct of the ship’s warp drive. Without any of his friends or crew to help, Picard must outsmart the mercenaries using only what he can find on the deserted ship. Starship Mine is actually one of my favourite episodes of The Next Generation.

Star Trek episode #4: Genesis (The Next Generation, 1994)

Barclay attempts to diagnose himself, kicking off the events of Genesis.

An attempt to cure a case of the flu goes horribly wrong, resulting in the “de-evolution” of the Enterprise-D’s crew into various inhuman monsters. Picard and the immune Data must synthesise an antidote before it’s too late!

Star Trek episode #5: Armageddon Game (Deep Space Nine, 1994)

Chief O’Brien is in a bad way in Armageddon Game.

Infected with a biological weapon, O’Brien is dying and trapped in hostile territory with Dr Bashir. This episode would mark a major milestone in the friendship of these two characters, whose relationship would be a significant factor in later seasons of Deep Space Nine.

Star Trek episode #6: The Quickening (Deep Space Nine, 1996)

Dax and Bashir work on a cure.

The Dominion used a biological weapon (the titular “quickening”) to punish a wayward planet. Dr Bashir attempts to find a cure for the disease, which can cause rapid death, in an episode which was an interesting look at how doctors cope with an “unwinnable” situation.

Star Trek episode #7: Phage (Voyager, 1995)

Tom Paris and The Doctor work to help Neelix in Phage.

Voyager encounters the Vidiians, a species suffering from a centuries-long plague which causes their bodies to rot. They survive by becoming pirates, capturing others and stealing body parts to replace their own disease-ravaged ones. The Phage would crop up several times in Voyager, and despite the best efforts of the crew they never managed to find a cure.

Star Trek episode #8: Year of Hell, Parts 1 & 2 (Voyager, 1997)

The USS Voyager suffers extensive damage in the two-part episode Year of Hell.

A time-travel story in which the Voyager crew see their ship constantly attacked and running out of energy and resources. Crew members die and become maimed, the ship falls apart and whole sections become uninhabitable, and resources dwindle to the point where Capt. Janeway gives the order to abandon ship.

Star Trek episode #9: A Night in Sickbay (Enterprise, 2002)

Porthos in A Night In Sickbay.

Capt. Archer’s beloved pet dog becomes ill with an alien virus, and he spends a tense night in sickbay with Dr Phlox as they wait to see whether Porthos will pull through. A Night in Sickbay is a surprisingly emotional episode that any pet owner can relate to.

Star Trek episode #10: Observer Effect (Enterprise, 2005)

Sato and Tucker suffering from the effects of a virus.

Sato and Tucker are infected with a silicon-based virus in this Enterprise episode, while the crew are being observed by a noncorporeal race who want to see if they can figure out a cure in time. Observer Effect served as a semi-prequel to The Original Series episode Errand of Mercy, featuring the same alien race.

So that’s it. I hope we can all stay safe and well during these strange times, and if you are told to stay at home please follow the instructions of the authorities in your local area. I know it can be frustrating and that “cabin fever” is a real sensation, but if we all comply we’ll all come out the other side and life can get back to normal.

Staying at home isn’t just for your own selfish benefit – it helps people like me, who have health issues and would be more likely to suffer complications from coronavirus. It also helps doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers to not become overwhelmed with tens of thousands of cases all at once. I’ve seen lots of people, including in some major national newspapers, arguing that because coronavirus is “not that bad” that everyone should just carry on as normal. And while we should all certainly be avoiding panic-buying, things cannot carry on as normal, at least not in the short-term. By staying in, avoiding as much contact with people as possible, and maintaining a high level of hygiene, we can slow the spread of the disease which will relieve the pressure on hospitals and allow more time for the development of a vaccine. Staying at home isn’t actually all that difficult, especially with YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, digital videogame platforms, hundreds of television channels, and the entire internet providing us with so much to do.

If none of the shows, films, or episodes I’ve semi-jokingly listed seem like something you’re interested in, then stay tuned because I’ll be bringing you more lists and reviews of things to watch while you’re stuck indoors. Once again, I urge all of my readers to follow local advice and requirements, and do what you’re told to avoid making things worse and inadvertently spreading this nasty disease to others.

Stay safe everyone!

All episodes, games, television series, and films listed above are the copyright of their respective studios, publishers, distributors, producers, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.