4/5* Siobhan Divers | Shiv’s Show
Based on: Phillip K. Dick short stories
Developed by: Ronald D. Moore and Michael Dinner
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Timothy Spall, Annalise Basso, Juno Temple, Greg Kinnear, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Janelle Monáe, Anna Paquin, Mel Rodriguez.
A unique sci-fi series based on Philip K. Dick short stories, Electric Dreams explores societal differences and the desire to immerse ourselves in fantasy and escape from reality through ten stand-alone episodes.
Since the episodes don’t follow on from one another, it is the perfect show to select a few episodes from and watch in moderation. Though you could also binge watch the series in its entirety (which is what I done…)
Covering all strands of sci-fi (‘The Father Thing’ has aliens, while ‘The Commuter’ has a hidden town, ‘The Impossible Planet’ is set in space, ‘Crazy Diamond’ features synthetic beings and characters in ‘Real Life’ use virtual reality devices), Electric Dreams is a must see series for all types of sci-fi fans.
The only television series which is even remotely similar to Electric Dreams is Black Mirror which also creates a number of alternate realities and dystopian futures. However where these series’ differ is that Black Mirror hugely focuses on technology and the issues with near-future technologies while each Electric Dreams episode differs in premise, style and tone.
With 14 Executive Producers including Bryan Cranston, and a star cast which includes Steve Buscemi, Timothy Spall and Janelle Monáe, Electric Dreams’ only fault is that, with the exception of a few episodes, each story could be feature length productions or, at the very least, two-part episodes but as the series is based on standalone short stories only connected by recurring themes, the storylines are succinct.
Also like all anthologies, some episodes are better than others but this does not mean there are bad episodes per say. Indeed, no episode is unwatchable even although each episode has its positives and negatives.
If you’re looking to binge watch the series, you may as well watch the series from start to finish however if you’re looking to watch a few episodes and see if the series is for you before committing 10 hours of your life to it or even if you’re wondering how to prioritize which episodes to watch first, let me guide the way.
‘Real life’ explores the dangers of virtual reality – a concept which is often explored within sci-fi television series and films – however it offers a twist: it is unclear throughout the episode which character is the ‘real’ one and which one is the virtual reality online persona. The episode is extremely well written and produced which shows the overall quality of the series however the other episodes within the season have stronger themes and more intriguing plots. Virtual reality is also pretty much played out within the sci-fi universe.
Set on a spaceship, the storyline of ‘Impossible Planet’ follows two men who con space-tourists out of cash through showing them a computer generated light show, pretending it is real. An unusually emotional sci-fi story, nostalgia is at the crux of the narrative as the two men are paid a large amount of money by an elderly woman who wants to travel to earth to experience walking upon an area of land which was important to her ancestors. Slightly confusing at points, the idea itself fits well with the sci-fi themes and strands however would also work well as a shorter episode.
‘Crazy Diamond’ is an extremely stylish and unique episode with Steve Buscemi in one of the leading roles. He is drawn in by femme fatale Jill (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a synthetic being who is failing and requires assistance and materials from his workplace. Caught up in a downwards spiral of shame, crime and lies, the episode is bizarre from start to finish. Quirky and exciting though, the mise en scene in this episode in particular is very aesthetically pleasing.
Series co-producer Bryan Cranston stars in this episode as a General of a space military who treats his wife rather poorly and often neglects her. On return from a dangerous mission which involves a war with another species, Bryan Cranston’s character Silas returns as a ‘changed’ man with a more positive attitude towards his life and his wife. Cranston’s character is one of the most impressive within the series as he moves between true nastiness and vulnerability.
The Hood Maker
‘The Hood Maker’ centers around civil unrest between normals and ‘teeps’ – telepathic people who can read minds and are oppressed as a result of this. An interesting episode with some relevant themes – the right to privacy being one and equality being another – the only issue is pacing as the storyline is condensed into an hour whereas it could have gone on for at least another few episodes to fully explore the themes and develop the plot, coming to a more satisfying conclusion.
‘Autofac’ is a strong episode from start to finish (the twist at the end though??) with a great cast and an interesting premise. Even with the intriguing storyline – a young lady is one of the only survivers of a nuclear explosion, Janelle Monáe and Juno Temple make the episode. Worth a watch!
Safe and Sound
A fascinating idea, ‘Safe and Sound’ explores the idea of being overly safe in an unsafe environment and the idea that people can be manipulated as a result of their fear which is often weapon-ised and used against them. Eerie and chilling from the get-go, the episode also deals with the desire to be liked and be popular as well as exploring how we choose where our loyalties lie. What makes it so good is that even although the storyline is so chilling and futuristic – it depicts a nightmarish world completely reliant on technology, it hits the spot since technology is so important in society today so this dystopian future could be in our not-so-distant futures…
‘The Commuter’ follows Timothy Spall’s railway worker character Ed Jacobson, who is unhappy in his job and home life. One day the tragic train employee meets a woman who asks for a ticket to a hidden town called Macon Heights which is not featured on any map or trainline. There are a few scenes reminiscent of Groundhog Day, but the storyline gets more intense and moving as the episode reaches its climax – would you sacrifice one of your loved ones for happiness if you knew that both your lives would be miserable if you didn’t?
The Father Thing
‘The Father Thing’ is one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season and is highly action-based and suspenseful, telling the tale of how aliens invaded the earth through replacing humans.
A tense and captivating episode, this story is very Stranger Things-esque as it centers around children who notice the invasion and then try and save the world by themselves. It is relatively slow to start but once it picks up, it gets very interesting. Again, like ‘The Hood Maker, the story could easily be prolonged and could even be stretched out into its own apocalyptic series like The Walking Dead however still works well within the series.
Kill All Others
‘Kill All Others’ is the last episode in the series and definitely the most enjoyable, relevant and intriguing. Exploring racism, inequality, mob mentality and the power the media and leading figures in politics hold over ordinary people, Kill All Others is eerily captivating. Mel Rodriguez’s character Philbert Noyce, is one of the only people in the country to notice when a political candidate urges people to ‘kill all others’ as everyone else seems to be brainwashed by the media and distracted by adverts. Understandably Rodriguez questions this and as a result is instantly made a target.
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