After the relative success of their first Philip K. Dick adaptation, The Man in the High Castle, Amazon purchased the US rights to a Channel 4 anthology series based on his short stories. The series only share one executive producer, but it’s the one that can guarantee the approval of the Philip K. Dick estate—Isa Dick Hackett, his daughter. Each one of the ten episodes is a stand alone story based on, at least in part, a different Philip K. Dick short story, and each episode has a different writing and directing team. And each episode will be reviewed by the same Ms En Scene writing team—Kat Overland, who has seen one episode of Black Mirror, (but has read a lot of Philip K. Dick), and Jazmine Joyner, who reviewed every single episode of Black Mirror’s most recent season.
There will be spoilers!
Electric Dreams 1.7: “The Father Thing”
Michael Dinner (director and writer), John Lindley (cinematographer), John Duffy (editor)
Greg Kinnear, Mireille Enos, Jack Gore (cast)
Based on the short story “The Father-Thing”
What do you think about the future presented here?
KO: This was definitely set in the present day where kids just love to Skype.
How is diversity represented within the narrative?
JJ: This was a very white episode and really didn’t have any characters of color represented in the narrative.
KO: In fact, it actually whitewashes a character from the original short story from 1954!
How effective was this episode’s plot?
JJ: This is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, like exactly. I like Greg Kinnear as an actor but the plot of this story is so overdone that it was a giant bore. Even Kinnear’s role as the body-snatched father was just…whatever.
KO: Yeah, it’s a pretty simple story that was, interestingly, published the same year as Body Snatchers. It was an okay 1980s homage, but there wasn’t anything too interesting going on.
What did you think of the episode’s worldbuilding and setting?
JJ: It was normal life with aliens so they didn’t have to do much to establish the world, seeing as it’s implied that it is our world but with aliens.
KO: The worldbuilding hints at something far more widespread than what the episode shows us with one scene where Charlie (Jack Gore) goes to a police officer for help. The police officers turn out to also be alien replicants, which suggests a conspiracy between aliens in powerful positions—maybe it doesn’t matter if Charlie and his friends burn the growing hosts because these aliens are already infiltrating the city. But the scene was like three minutes, tops. The worldbuilding was minimal and nothing about the acting or setting really elevated the story.
How does each episode relate to Philip K. Dick’s thoughts about the future. Are they true to their source material?
KO: It’s a fairly straight-forward re-telling of “The Father-Thing,” though in the original story the lead kid goes to find an older boy for help, and then a Black neighbor is recruited to help because he was the best at finding things in the area, which is totally a trait I would know about my classmates. However, the subplot of Kinnear’s Father planning to leave the Mother is a twist that only exists in the episode—I guess this is an attempt to add modern flair to the story, but the idea of this type of plot is to reflect that the happy nuclear family can have something sinister lurking underneath. “The Father Thing” episode adds in some Americana by making baseball the kid’s primary interest, but ultimately it’s all set dressing. While most of these episodes could have done less with the source material, this one should have done more.