Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams: Channel 4 Review

Ed (Steve Buscemi), Honor (Holliday Grainger), Silas (Bryan Cranston), George (Terrence Howard) and Sarah (Anna Paquin).

Channel 4’s latest sci-fi offering has been the new Electric Dreams, a series of standalone episodes based on the work of famous writer Philip K. Dick. It comes only a couple of years after the release of The Man in the High Castle, another of Philip K. Dick’s works, which was released on Amazon Video in 2015. Electric Dreams offers views of surreal alternatives to the present day and grim dystopian futures, which each episode centred around a different cast, setting and story.

“This series has all the ingredients of something great”

The first three episodes saw the series jump from a somewhat disturbing future where political dissent is rooted out by telepaths, to a space tour back to a destroyed Earth, to a commute to a town that doesn’t exist, but somehow does. The star-studded cast has so far included Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Geraldine Chaplin and Timothy Spall, and will include Bryan Cranston and Steve Buscemi; this series has all the ingredients of something great.

“Falls flat compared to the amazing worlds of Black Mirror”

So far though, Electric Dreams has been nothing special. To me they feel like a lower-budget response to Netflix’s Black Mirror, which took off in a big way after being commissioned by the online streaming service in 2016, despite performing well under Channel 4 for two series prior. Whereas Black Mirror’s alternate realities spare no expense, Electric Dreams feels like it tried, but didn’t quite get there. Electric Dreams’ attempts at the near-future (yes, we can 100% tell that those cars are just VW Beetles with dodgy CGI), but falls flat compared to the amazing worlds of Black Mirror.

“Philip K. Dick is renowned for his dramatic stories”

Don’t get me wrong, the plot lines are unique and interesting, and some episodes have even been thought-provoking, but some of the ideas just feel half-baked in their execution. Philip K. Dick is renowned for his dramatic stories full of twists and turns, but something in their transition to the TV screen makes it feel like the screenwriter got bored and decided to suddenly change things at random intervals.

As well as this, the abrupt endings to certain episodes make it feel like the director realised they were running out of time for the episode and just decided to end the episode there; like a child realising they didn’t have long enough to finish their story and instead concluding with ‘and suddenly they woke up.’

“Fails to stand out from the crowd”

Electric Dreams is another cart that’s been hitched to the dystopian-future bandwagon, but it fails to stand out from the crowd. Were it not for the Black Mirror hype, it would be an amazing show built on interesting storylines and carried by remarkable actors. But, Black Mirror remains a superior show, and in comparison, Electric Dreams falls flat.


Ellen Smithies

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Image courtesy of The Metro: Via Channel 4

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