Electric Dreams is a new anthology series based on the short stories of prolific science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Each episode is self-contained, with a distinct cast and tone, but many fall back on similar tropes of science fiction. This makes the series a great introduction to the genre, but an underwhelming delivery for the science fiction connoisseur who may have high expectations given some of the impressive names signed onto the project.
The natural comparison is to Black Mirror, and some have touted the series as a less dystopian take on the short story sci-fi premise; ultimately, however, the shows accomplish different things. While Black Mirror is designed to challenge assumptions about society and illustrate theoretical dystopian futures, Electric Dreams focuses more on the humanity of its characters and storytelling in creative, fantastical worlds.
In one episode entitled ‘Autofac’, a group of human refugees live on the edge of an industrial wasteland where an artificially intelligent factory pumps out consumer goods for a world no longer capable of consuming them. The deliveries lie unopened and the land goes to waste outside of a small secure Eden where the resources are protected. Although the world-building is uninspired as far as science fiction goes, the storytelling is phenomenal with a stunning performance by Juno Temple as a tech-savvy rebel determined to take the factory down.
Like many of the episodes, the story is a whirlwind with the psychological experiences of the characters at the centre. Other episodes are visually appealing with simple premises that are beautifully executed. In ‘Crazy Diamond’, starring Steve Buscemi, a factory worker confronts an artificially intelligent ‘Jill’ robot who is after the small pods harbouring life, in a world where every good has the shortest of shelf lives. Filmed in Kent, England, the maritime, hierarchical society is fascinating to glimpse.
Although the pacing can sometimes feel a bit slow, the build-up has an incredible yield and the imagery lingers in the mind after the inspired final shots. The combination of American and British TV talent is interesting to watch, as American glamour and drama meets the traditional and subtle character of British television. Georgina Campbell shines as Barbara in ‘Impossible Planet’, where she plays an aging woman determined to make it back to her great grandmother’s homeland in Carolina despite the uncertainty associated with a voyage to earth. Her subtle acting style plays beautifully alongside Jack Reynor and Benedict Wong. It is these performances, above all, that make the series an intriguing watch.
Image: Christopher Dombres via Flickr