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Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams

Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams is a new series of single episode renditions of PKD short stories. It's being broadcast on Channel 4 (UK) and is/will be available on Amazon video.

There have been four episodes so far, the most recent one being "Crazy Diamond", which I posted about in a newsgroup before the series started. The story that one is based on had been discussed in the group in the past, and it is the PKD short story I have most recently read. (I have read his complete short stories, but most many years ago.)

Let's use that to discuss the series, since it offers a good lens on the differences between the promise and the reality.

PKD's stories are often cynical about technology, question how we can know what is real, and/or question if homo sapiens can or should survive. They are also frequently changed a lot on the way to being filmed.

"We Can Remember it For You Wholesale" is a short story about a service to implant memories. In that story a customer wants a Mars trip implanted, and then the service tech finds that there was an different memory that was activated. In the story it is clear that the different memory is the real one. When the story became Total Recall, it became a lot more difficult to separate real from fiction and introduced mutants who might supplant homo sapiens as the new homo ... species. In that way the story became more PKDish.

In "Sales Pitch", a robot tries to sell it's own services, and makes life increasingly more miserable for the intended customer. The closest model in today's world, might be if 4chan sold "not harassing you online" as a service. Or ransomware.

In "Crazy Diamond", it's not a robot, but a "Jill", which looks like a human, but is more like a replicant from Blade Runner. The Jill is ostensibly selling life insurance, but has sidelines in seduction and black market consciousness seeds for Jills like herself. Seeds that our protagonist has access to at the office. So here we have a of things added and changed, resulting in a much different direction.

The Jills, like replicants, have a shorter life span that limits them. The seeds provide a way to extend that life span. Okay, sort of triggers the new species themes.

There's a subplot with their house possibly going to erode into the sea, and the corporation that supplies everything providing short dated foods, and not letting people grow their own. There's a bit of unstated implication that the corporation could be using the erosion "problem" to sell new houses elsewhere.

The protagonist would like to stick it out until retirement, then sail the world. His wife would like to buy a new house. And the Jill exploits that difference for her seduction routine. There's nothing particularly PKDish about that.

Eventually the protagonist signs on the line for the life insurance, and it doesn't matter either way. Things don't get better or worse for him because of that decision (other decisions, sure, but not that one), which kind of robs this whole thing of the "Sales Pitch" connection.

On the whole, this TV series promised a Black Mirror like dystopian view of the future, but perhaps a future further out than Black Mirror. The chilling hook for Black Mirror is how easy it is to imagine going from today to that future. Some of them are entirely possible with today's tech, and some are just small incremements away.

Instead Dick's Electric Dreams has been delivering sci-fi stories that are not very compelling and exist in a world that is not easily connected to our world. As such they lack they punch of "are we headed there" and the hook of good story telling.

Two days out of a five day egg expiration date.

ObDman: Black Mirror is not unlike a modern Twilight Zone, with each episode a self-contained story, preying on psychological fears of the current times. But Twilight Zone wandered more into fantasy than Black Mirror does.

Final thought: it is, however, fun to be able to talk "dick dreams" and not be referring to porn.