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Electric Dreams, Amazon Prime’s Philip K. Dick film anthology, a stunning achievement

Written By | Jan 18, 2018
Electric Dreams

YouTube video still of a scene from Amazon Prime’s “Electric Dreams” anthology. (Promo material, fair use in review)

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2018: On major reason why individuals and families are cutting the cord across the country is the astonishing surge of outstanding entertainment being rolled out by streaming media services. A recent rollout on Amazon Prime Video – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – is one recent example.

Electric Dreams

Promotional poster for the 1982 film, “Blade Runner.” (Fair use, film and video review)

Dick (1928-1982), the late, legendary American science fiction writer, is perhaps most famous among movie and video fans for film adaptations of his novels. Chief among them are the 1982 and 2017 versions of Blade Runner – both dystopian epics based on the author’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Additional well-known movie adaptations include Total Recall – adapted twice to film in 1990 and 2012 – and The Man in the High Castle, an currently ongoing Amazon Prime series.

Philip K. Dick  is regarded by science fiction aficionados as one of the more ethereal science fiction writers. His fiction is distinguished by the author’s exhaustive exploration of religious, philosophical, psychological and political themes. He also expores altered states of consciousness, the definition of self and the possibility of alternate realities.

In addition to the above themes, Dick was also obsessed with the constant threats he believed were being posed by the “military-industrial complex,” a 20th century reality first noted by President Eisenhower in the 1950s.

The current Amazon anthology series Electric Dreams consists of 10 standalone episodes, each of which is based on one of Dick’s lesser-known works of short fiction. I’ve been through five of them so far and have found them all fascinating and impressive in varying degrees. Based in the near or more distant future, each episode embodies the author’s standard themes to varying degrees. Each concludes with an ambiguous but generally hopeful ending that viewers will have to figure out for themselves.

In the main, the stories unfold in a dreamlike atmosphere, a surreal space. The often non-linear plot threads, like the random flows of consciousness, can be challenging to follow but are worth the effort.

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For viewers longing for more thoughtful and genuinely adult content from the TV and film industries, each episode I’ve viewed stands proudly on its own. Each is a carefully crafted thought-piece that requires the viewer to leave the known world behind at least for an hour, the better to explore a heretofore unimagined plane of existence.

The considerable star power of this series – created by executive producers Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Ronald D. Moore and Isa Dick Hackett – is provided by Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Babadook), Vera Farmiga, Terrence Howard, Janelle Monae, Anna Paquin (True Blood), Timothy Spall, Juno Temple and Maura Tierney.

Each cast member right down to the extras, has somehow managed to merge into Dick’s complex psycho-scientific consciousness, including the key moral and scientific ambiguities that drive these stories forward to their various enigmatic conclusions.

Each story derives palpable strength from the writers and directors who brings the dream-world of each adaptation vividly to life. Icing on the cake: the cinematography is deeply impressive throughout, the result of brilliant CGI segments seamlessly joined with good old fashioned atmospheric, imaginative and breathtakingly gorgeous camera work.

Quality-wise, the stories are occasionally uneven. Yet episodes I’ve viewed thus far range from good to great. All are well-worth your time.

In short, for viewers in search of entertainment that involves something beside superheroes, monsters, two-dimensional villains and nonstop yet mindless explosions, each episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams will fit the bill, some faring slightly better than others.

My advice – if you’re already a member of Amazon Prime, you already have Amazon’s video service. So if you haven’t taken advantage of it via Roku or other streaming video interface, you couldn’t do any better than starting out your experience with Episode 1 of Electric Dreams.

Rating: While episodes vary, all are three to four stars, with four being our top rating.


Terry Ponick

Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17