No spoilers, for those who have yet to watch it...

Channel 4 have been broadcasting a new 10-part series called Electric Dreams, based on some of the short fiction of Philip K Dick. The series was commissioned after Channel 4 lost Black Mirror to Netflix, perhaps to try and find something tonally similar. Electric Dreams is executive-produced by Brian Cranston, who also stars in one of the episodes yet to broadcast.

I've read all of PKD's short fiction1 but it was a long time ago so I have mostly forgotten the stories upon which the series is based. I've quite enjoyed going back and re-reading them after watching the corresponding episodes to see what changes they've made. In some cases the changes are subtle or complementary, in other cases they've whittled the original story right out and installed a new one inside the shell. A companion compilation has been published with just the relevant short stories in it, and from what I've seen browsing it in a book shop it also contains short introductions which might be worth a read.

Things started strong with The Hood Maker, which my wife also enjoyed, although she was disappointed to realise we wouldn't be revisiting those characters in the future. The world-building was strong enough that it seemed like a waste for a single episode.

My favourite episode of those broadcast so far was The Commuter, starring Timothy Spall. The changes made were complementary and immensely expanded the emotional range of the story. In some ways, a key aspect of the original story was completely inverted, which I found quite funny: my original take on Dick's story was Dick implying a particular outcome was horrific, whereas it becomes desirable in the TV episode.

Episode 4, *Crazy Diamond*

Episode 4, Crazy Diamond

One of the stories most hollowed-out was Sales Pitch which was the basis for Tony Grisoni’s episode Crazy Diamond, starring Steve Buscemi and Sidse Babett Knudsen. Buscemi was good but Knudsen totally stole every frame she was in. Fans of the cancelled Channel 4 show Utopia should enjoy this one: both were directed by Marc Munden and the directing, photography and colour balance really recall it.

The last episode broadcast was Real Life directed by Ronald D Moore of Battlestar Galactica reboot fame and starring Anna Paquin. Like Sales Pitch it bears very little resemblance to the original story. It played around with similar ideas explored in a lot of Sci-Fi movies and TV shows but left me a little flat; I didn't think it contributed much that I hadn't seen before. I was disappointed that there was a relatively conclusive ending. There was a subversive humour in the Dick short that was completely lost in the retelling. The world design seemed pretty generic.

I'm looking forward to Autofac, which is one of the shorts I can remember particularly enjoying.


  1. as collected in the 5 volumes of The Collected Stories of Philip K Dick, although I don't doubt there are some stragglers that were missed out when that series was compiled. ↩


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