“Bodies” Is the Muslim-Led Sci-Fi Crime Drama of Your Dreams

The standout star of “Bodies” is Amaka Okafor as Shahara Hasan, a Muslim detective who is the lead in the 2023 portion of the time travel crime show. Shahara breaks stereotypes in her portrayal as a complex character, with her faith and culture intricately woven into her storyline.

“Bodies” Is the Muslim-Led Sci-Fi Crime Drama of Your Dreams
Amaka Okafor said she "rarely felt represented" in fiction media before reading DS Hasan's role in "Bodies."

“Bodies” (2023) is a new miniseries on Netflix that is part crime drama, part sci-fi mindbend, and all groundbreaking Muslim representation.

The series follows four London detectives across different time periods investigating the same mysterious body that has appeared up in each of the four time periods at once. Despite occasional narrative complexity, the “Bodies” maintains a balance between entertainingly ridiculous and thought-provoking. The diverse cast, including standout performances by Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Shira Haas, Amaka Okafor and Kyle Soller, elevates the high-concept storyline. While addressing issues like homophobia, antisemitism and societal prejudice, the series revolves around a doomsday cult, a 2023 tragedy and a future marked by both technological advancement and autocracy. 

The standout star of “Bodies” is Okafor as Shahara Hasan, a Muslim detective who is the lead detective in the 2023 portion of the show. Shahara breaks stereotypes by being portrayed as a complex character with her faith and culture intricately woven into the storyline. She wears a hijab and is an active, practicing Muslim.

While Shahara experiences little Islamophobia directly, it is still deliberately woven into her background. There are messages and microaggressions in the back of the story that are clear to the viewers familiar with it. Shahara is assigned cases related to her cultural background even as the audience sees her fellow (white) detectives openly discriminate against SWANA suspects while at work. It all works together to paint a robust picture of the environment Shahara is in and the nuance with which she must navigate her environment.

At the same time, Shahara is not condensed to solely having her story revolve around her faith and culture. She is a single mother, she’s able to take care of herself and most importantly, she has a pressing time travel murder to solve.

"There's not one character that doesn't have something that makes them an outsider," series creator, Paul Tomalin, told Cosmopolitan UK. "We did the research, looking for cast that preferably had lived experiences, while making sure we had the best actors. Each thing that made the characters different could be a whole show, so we highlighted it then developed it alongside the main story." Shahara is Muslim, just as Whiteman (Fortune-Lloyd) is Jewish in a bomb-rattled 1941 London and Inspector Hillinghead (Soller) is closeted in 1890. These characters’ lives are informed by the issues of otherness they face, but they are not defined by them.

In conversation with Yahoo UK, Okafor expressed how “Bodies” provided her with a rare sense of representation on screen. In playing DS Shahara Hasan, Okafor says she feels a connection to the character as a fellow single mother and Muslim woman. "It's not issue based,” Okafor said in the interview. “It's not about her faith; it's not about the fact that she's not white; it's not about the fact she's a single mum. But those things are all things that are true.”

Okafor continued by saying that she appreciates the nuanced portrayal of her character in “Bodies,” praising the writing for not reducing the character to only her faith or ethnicity. She describes the role as “the most nourishing” of her career, emphasizing the show's ability to break free from restrictive stereotypes and allow her to authentically portray her character. 

Adapted from a graphic novel by Si Spencer, "Bodies" effectively weaves four intersecting storylines, keeping viewers engaged with each detective's unique perspective and the crucial information they uniquely contribute to the case. The show succeeds in its intrigue and the earnest investment the audience has in its characters. “Bodies” goes beyond mere checkbox representation, tackling societal issues while delivering an engaging series with a central theme of love and acceptance.

"Bodies" is available now on Netflix.