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Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: Review

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Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams gives us an anthology of visions of the future that reflect on the present, and though not all episodes are equal in merit, overall it’s an impressive interpretation of Dick’s work.

The anthology series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams premiered on Amazon Prime on Friday (originally released in the UK last September). Given the wealth of source material and the quality of Philip K. Dick’s writing, it’s no surprise that the show touches on a variety of intriguing themes.

The acting talent can’t be dismissed, and there are a wealth of spectacular performances. Steve Buschemi’s smarmy Ed Morris is outstanding, and Joanna Scanlan was charming yet on point in a smaller role as Su. Bryan Cranston was excellent in Human Is, and Mel Rodriguez’s increasingly alarmed Philbert Noyce was a perfect contrast to Vera Farmiga’s cool politician. Janelle Monae is always a favorite of mine. My personal favorite was Timothy Spall in The Commuter. Throughout the series the acting is impressive more often than not, which isn’t something we always see in science fiction, where acting often takes a back seat to special effects.

Quite a lot of the episodes cover well-trodden sci fi territory, but are able to make something of familiar themes. Drawing on concepts sometimes outlandish and always surprisingly relevant, the show explores environmental catastrophe, consumption and escape, privacy vs. security, and other topics that clearly reflect current realities. For example, Dee Rees’ Kill All Others can be interpreted as a chilling examination of political dog whistling, among other concerns.

My personal favorite deals the least with the future or science fiction. In The Commuter, Timothy Spall plays a railway employ in an unfulfilling job. He and his wife have a grown son who is occasionally violent as a result of some form of behavioral or psychological issue. Watching the parents navigate the choices and realities of complicated parental love, and choosing to embrace the difficult alongside the beautiful, was moving.

Each episode is unique. Episodes like Kill All Others unsettle and disturb, whereas others like Crazy Diamond allow us to explore the future from a (somewhat) comfortable distance. The episodes push us to question the world we are creating and what kind of normal we are willing to accept.

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

Cara spends way too much time thinking about subtext and, when not watching TV, can generally be found with her nose in a book.