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 1.8: “Impossible Planet”
David Farr (director and writer), Tony Slater Ling (cinematographer), Ben Lester (editor)
Geraldine Chaplin, Benedict Wong , Jack Reynor (cast)
Based on the short story “The Impossible Planet”
What do you think about the future presented here?”
JJ: I dig the space tourism thing, and the fact that space travel is so common place that being a space tour guide is like a shitty dead-end job. I thought that was super realistic. I liked that this wasn’t some glamorous “space is the final frontier” thing. It was just a lame job.
KO: Same; I really love junky space ports, and the idea of space tourism being kind of a racket.
How is diversity represented within the narrative?
JJ: Benedict Wong is in this episode. I love him in a ton of films, but of course in this episode he is the sleazy guy who is stealing money from an old woman. Why is every person of color in this show an antagonist? It’s a disturbing pattern.
KO: I really liked Benedict Wong in this (I respect the hustle) but yeah, so far the only protagonist of color we’ve seen was Terrence Howard in the first episode. It’s tedious. Geraldine Chaplin plays a deaf woman but is not, I believe, deaf herself—and I felt her hearing was used more as a plot device than anything else. The men can talk about their plan in front of her without her noticing, but being deaf doesn’t keep her from responding to questions that she couldn’t hear. Instead of back and forth communication, she monologues in several scenes, so we’re not introduced to her speech-to-text device until later because she finds it creates a barrier to conversation (but really it seems to just mean she can’t pontificate without end).
How effective was this episode’s plot?
JJ: So the plot of this episode has something to do with reincarnation, or past lives. My issue with this episode’s plot is it was a bit muddled. I see what they were trying to do and I’m into it, but I just wish they could’ve possibly explored the two main characters more. I feel like if I had cared about them more or knew more about them as people, I would’ve cared about the outcome of the episode more. The big “pay-off’ at the end just fell flat to me because of that.
KO: I think it was trying to play too coy with the weird generational love affair to really get anywhere else with the themes of perception and what makes reality, which is really more central to Philip K. Dick as a whole. And I agree, if the romance is going to be there, then I need to be fully engaged with it—but I wasn’t, really, and I kind of just wanted to know more about Benedict Wong and Jack Reynor and class stratification in the space age rather than listen to long speeches about earth.
What did you think of the episode’s worldbuilding and setting?
JJ: The world was great, you could see how space tourism was for the elite and the working class was just trying to survive. I enjoyed that disconnect; it made the hierarchy of the world visible and made you understand why a character like Wong’s would do what he did.
KO: Agreed, this felt like a very realized world that made sense, and really informed the characters.
How does each episode relate to Philip K. Dick’s thoughts about the future. Are they true to their source material?
KO: I think it really missed the mark of the kind of wry tone of the original story, the ending especially. The romance between Brian (Reynor) and Irma (Chaplin [yes, that Chaplin family]) felt like a way to insert sentimentality into a rather ironic story more interested in how we can distort the perception of reality. David Farr (who wrote and directed The Night Manager) felt like he wasn’t committing to either the adaptation-only love story or the detachment of Dick’s style, so the episode ends up feeling, as Jazmine said, muddled.