Growing up through the transition of a 4-channel world to the gloriousness of the cable box universe, one thing I found myself constantly getting hooked on was the ‘anthology series’. From the still entertaining “The Twilight Zone” to the hit and miss nature of classics like “Alfred Hitchcock Theater”, “Fantasy Island”, “Tales From the Darkside”, “Monsters”, “Amazing Stories”, “The Hitchhiker”, “The Ray Bradbury Theater” and even the “80’s Twilight Zone”. I loved those short formed thrillers and chillers, especially since most ended with a twist. Now you can go to most streaming services and see an anthology series in the vein of pretty much all shows mentioned above. From Hulu’s “Dimension 404”, Netflix’s amazing “Black Mirror” to “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” just released on Amazon streaming.
“Electric Dreams” is a mixed bag of stories, not unlike “Black Mirror” center around technology and the interaction and effect it has on the human species. Though where it differs from “Mirror” is all the episodes are based on stories by author Philip K. Dick. So you will see themes of the film adaptations of his work like “Total Recall”, “A Scanner Darkly”, “Minority Report”, and of course “Blade Runner”. Also like “Mirror” most of the outlook on our cling to technology is bleak for the most part.
Of the 10 episodes, I was glad to discover that 6 of them range from really good to outstanding. Here are 3 of my favorites:
Autofac– After an ‘end of the world’ scenario takes place, a small faction of humans are doing what they can to survive and hope to find a way to stop the pollution caused by the Autofac facility which is now completely automated and is still making mass deliveries of goods that are now considered useless. This is a fantastic classic sci-fi short feature that is still not done often enough, at least not as well as this, even when you see the turns coming it still lands.
The Hood Maker– Teeps are psychics that are hated and considered outcasts by Regulars. When a Agent is paired with a Teep they begin an investigation to a maker of hooded masks that prevent Teeps from reading minds. This one feels the most like the “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report” film adaptations, in both story, tone, and setting.
The Father Thing– In a great throwback to films like “Invaders from Mars” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” a future set but with an 80’s vibe has a young boy who believes his father and others are being taken over by an alien race. While it drags a bit, the story is classically told and presented. Even though the technology feels more shoehorned in here everything else totally works.
The cast assembled for this series consists of the likes of Anna Paquin, Terrence Howard, Byran Cranston(who is also a producer on the series), Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Vera Farmiga, Timothy Spall, Benedict Wong, and Maura Tierney. The performances range much like the episodes, some good, some great, but as a whole “Electric Dreams” is a well done show, but doesn’t crack the echelon of classic anthology series that came before it, it certainly has the potential.