From the absolutely fascinating and innovative mind of arguably the most prolific science fiction author that has ever lived, Channel 4 have finally brought to our small screens the first episode of the hugely anticipated anthology TV show, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It is a TV series that is likely to rival the likes of Black Mirror in terms of its standalone episodes, its narrative storytelling and how frightening technology can be. Based on Dick’s more under-the-radar short stories, these focus a lot more on character development with less emphasis being placed on his more thought-provoking ideas.
In its pilot episode entitled ‘The Hoodmaker’, viewers are transported to a dystopian futuristic society engulfed in chaos and madness, where a war wages between ‘normals’ and ‘teeps’ (human civilians and mutant telepaths). In a world not much bleaker than our own, the teeps are the only link to advanced technology capable of engaging in long distance communication and reading people’s thoughts against their own will.
Dark, moody and depressive, in this dehumanizing war zone, we follow Detective Agent Ross (Richard Madden), who teams up with Holliday Grainger’s telepathic mutant Honor. Both come from a past that is mysterious and little known to investigate disturbances within the facing public that involves individuals wearing telepath-blocking hoods committing acts of vandalism and terrorism.
The difference between the normals and the teeps is easy to spot and separate, as every telepath has the same peculiar, distinct birthmark running all the way down the left side of their faces. With much of the human population rioting about not wanting their minds to get stolen nor being forced into slavery, time is quickly running out for every teep across the globe. When Honor discovers to her surprise that she is unable to read anyone when wearing a hood, the race is on for both her and Ross to find out why and where these hoods came from before it’s too late.
However, with teeps being able to read minds and reveal people’s deepest and darkest secrets, there are some normals that want to abuse this power for their own sexual satisfaction and enjoyment by forcing teeps into sex slavery. The depiction of the battle of wits between humans and artificial intelligence recurs often in cinema, from Hollywood science-fiction blockbusters like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. and Alex Garland’s brilliantly constructed Ex Machina, to German expressionist classics such as Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis.
Despite an ending that will surely provoke many thoughts, the opening episode of this ten-part series may not be on the same visual level of some of Dick’s more talked about film adaptations with deeper grandeur. Nevertheless, it still shares some of the same ideological ideas and concepts that relate to power, control, manipulation and understanding one’s own existence within a future that has been ravaged by war, disease and poverty.
‘The Hoodmaker’ as a pilot episode shows much promise for what we can look forward to and expect from the rest of Electric Dreams in terms of its overall tone and atmosphere. With excellent acting talent involved, such as the likes of Jack Reynor, Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi and Timothy Spall, it’s almost a certainty that there’ll be much more greatness to come.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams returns again next Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4 with Impossible Planet. Let us know what you thought of the episode by commenting below or via social media!