With anthology television having made a big comeback (thanks almost entirely to American Horror Story), a new UK-US co-production Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams brings to life futuristic stories by an enigmatic science fiction author.
Borrowing its title from Blade Runner‘s source, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and not the Giorgio Moroder song!), the series comprises 10 stand-alone stories with varying casts, writers and directors. Many of them are marquee names including Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, Essie Davis, Anna Paquin, Vera Farmiga, Geraldine Chaplin and Ronald D. Moore.
The first episode is “The Hood Maker” written by Matthew Graham (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes) and directed by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane, Kinky Boots).
Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) stars as government detective Agent Ross operating in a futuristic world where mutants with telepathic powers read minds of an angry, insurgent public.
But hoods which can block their powers are circulating underground Ross teams up with Honor (Holiday Grainger) a “Teep” to help investigate the problem. Honor vows never to read the mind of an Agent, even though she can.
Across the dusty, rain-soaked metropolis, the two chase a hood-wearing rebel whilst forging closer ties and finding their own allegiances blur. The key theme centres around trust but also plays with how society might cope without any technology. On that front the timeframe is unclear: there are old convertible cars, trenchcoats and fedora hats. Is this post-apocalyptic or an alternate universe…?
The script and direction are a serious, sometimes plaintive, affair and a little more crackle would have been welcome. But Madden and Grainger are well-matched on the case, if not each other, with Madden stepping up as a sexy, intelligent hero.
The production design is the standout from this episode. The sets are feature-film worthy, creating a ghetto that looks post Cold-War, steeped in dull colours and noir lighting.
The challenge for the series will be to exist in a world where Black Mirror is the current holder of the genre crown (and Twilight Zone is the blueprint), but Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is of to a promising, if serious, start. And with such big names attached I reckon there’s some fun in store.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams premieres Monday on Stan.