Amazon dropped all 10 episodes of Electric Dreams on January 12th. Electric Dreams is an anthology based on the short stories of Philip K. Dick which were written in 1954 and 1955. It is a joint effort by Amazon Studios and the U.K.’s Channel Four. The episodes are written by both American and British writers with stars from both sides of the pond. Since the short stories were written by Philip K. Dick, they tend to be paranoid; however, at the same time, they are uncomfortably relevant to the current world situation.
The anthology has pulled together a host of well-known stars such as Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Janelle Monae, Terrence Howard, and Richard Madden for the anthology. The production values are high, but the episodes are uneven. Some are exceptional while others are problematic. To a certain extent this is to be expected when there are different writers, directors, and actors for each episode.
Episode 1-Real Life-This is an unsatisfying look at a person riddled by guilt who becomes lost in a fantasy “vacation.” This episode is based on a short story titled “Exhibit Piece.”
Episode 2-Autofac-This one is worth watching because the twist at the end is unexpected and quite satisfying. This episode is based on the short story of the same name.
Episode 3-Human Is-The idea of what being human means has been addressed by previous anthologies such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Human Is does not break new ground. This episode is based on the short story of the same name.
Episode 4-Crazy Diamond-This is probably the weakest episode in the entire anthology. It involves a “synthetic” femme fatale. It really is not worth the time. This episode is based on a short story called “Sales Pitch.”
Episode 5-The Hood Maker-This is a sublime thriller involving police work, telepaths, and a hood maker. It has a wonderful twist at the end and the social commentary is right on the mark. It is one of the best in the series. This episode is based on the short story “The Hood Maker.”
Episode 6-Safe and Sound-This episode is uncomfortable to watch. A poor teenager (superbly played by Annalise Basso) is manipulated by a society she does not know or understand. This all transpires while her mother is obsessed with her own political cause, so much so that she is oblivious to what is happening to her daughter. The performances are amazing and there is a slight twist at the end which brings home the horror of what was done to this young woman. The social commentary of this episode is devastating! This episode is based on the short story “Foster, You’re Dead.”
Episode 7-The Father Thing-Fans have seen type of this type of story in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and Stranger Things. This episode is based on a short story called “The Father-Thing.”
Episode 8-Impossible Planet-This episode is a love story with a little fantasy thrown into the mix. This episode is based on the short story titled “The Impossible Planet.”
Episode 9-The Commuter-A man makes a journey of self-discovery. Instead of a twist at the end, there is a satisfying reconciliation with his fate. Watch for Fiore (Tom Brooke) from Preacher. This episode is based on the short story “The Commuter.”
Episode 10-Kill All Others– This episode demonstrates why the anthology is at its best when there is biting social commentary. Mel Rodriguez is incredible as the everyman trying to do the right thing but who is overwhelmed by a corrupt and evil system. This episode is based on the short story “The Hanging Stranger.”
Electric Dreams has been compared to Black Mirror but it may be an unfair comparison. Black Mirror is more concerned with the impact of technology on our society and humanity while Electric Dreams is about what we are both as individuals and a society. Neither anthology portrays a pleasant picture of what we will become.
The better comparison would be to The Twilight Zone, since in many ways Electric Dreams is the true successor to The Twilight Zone. Both shows have episodes which run the gamut from straight science fiction, to fantasy, to social commentary or any combination of these. Some episodes such as Kill All Others, The Hood Maker, and Safe and Sound are devastating social commentaries. There are other fantastical episodes, such as The Commuter or Impossible Planet, which warm the heart while at the same time challenging the viewer’s conceptions about what is important. If you only plan to watch a few episodes, start with The Hood Maker and Safe and Sound. You will not be disappointed. If you can find the original short stories, they are definitely worth a read. It’s really fascinating to see how the stories are changed for the new medium of television in 2018, but how relevant the stories are to the present human condition.
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