Hit or Miss: 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams'

What is it about?

Taking a cue from Black Mirror, this new anthology series from Amazon will focus specifically on the short stories of legendary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

Why it could be good?

Arguably, this series could attract the same audience of science fiction lovers who flock to Charlie Brocker’s Black Mirror on Netflix. There certainly is an apetite for smart, well-made science fiction and the added bonus of someone such as Philip K. Dick being the well of inspiration can’t hurt ether. Dick died back in 1982; however, his short stories and novels have gone on to be the basis for some of the biggest science fiction movies of the last 35 years. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and The Man in the High Castle all stem directly from dicks material. Most commonly, Dick’s stories were set in dystopian futures and explored the dark side of technological innovation. Of all the adaptations thus far, Blade Runner may be the most accurate depiction of his material for those unfamiliar. The irony being that Ridley Scott’s 1982 film is actually quite different from the original source material, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; however, the movie perfectly lands the tone and meditative ideas that lie at the heart of much of the author’s material. But, what of viewers who are unfamiliar with Dick’s work? Luckily for Amazon, Electric Dreams sports an impressive all-star cast including Bryan Cranston, Terrence Howard, Anna Paquin, and Steve Buscemi.

Why it could be bad?

There are two potential problems I see for this series moving forward. This first is an obvious comparison to Netflix’s Black Mirror. Both series follow a similar structure and cover similar ideas about technology and near-future societies. As someone who recently finished the most recent season of Black Mirror, I can admit that I have begun to feel a little fatigued. At four season, the series is already starting to feel a little repetitive with many of its ideas and concepts. This could potentially spell trouble to a show on another network attempting to copy the same formula. However, the most pressing concern surrounds what kind of legs this series has going forward. Unlike Black Mirror, the stories in Electric Dreams are entirely based on existing source material. Disregard the fact that there is a finite amount of material, assuming none of the tales adapted into movies will be covered going forward, and you still have a series that lacks the surprise factor that its competitor has. Part of the appeal of Black Mirror, even at its worst, is the feeling of unknown. Many episodes are often kept a secret, making a large part of the fun watching them unfold in a way that can sneak-up and surprise you.

Hit or Miss?

I am certainly interested in seeing what Amazon has in store with Electric Dreams, especially considering the top notch cast they’ve assembled to bring Philip K. Dick’s tales to life. However, I find myself doubtful the results will reach that large of an audience. There are likely to be many that just view it as a Black Mirror knock-off and those familiar with the source material are unlikely to face any major surprises like in Brooker’s series. Toss in the fact that Electric Dreams seems to be getting very little marketing, I didn’t hear about it until earlier this week, and you have a series that is likely only to appeal to the most avid of science fiction fans, which is a disappointment for a company looking to step their game up in the streaming wars.

TelevisionJesse Nussman