TV REVIEW: ELECTRIC DREAMS - CRAZY DIAMOND
PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS
EPISODE 4: “Crazy Diamond”
Electric Dreams offered yet another profoundly strange episode in the form of a heist movie packed with allusions to Blade Runner and confused world-building—“Crazy Diamond” whirs by fast and leaves no trace save furrowed brows and an impression that the whole thing did not make much sense.
Ed Morris (Steve Buscemi) lives with his wife Sally (Julia Davis) on a coast that is constantly threatened by erosion. He works in a factory where they produce “quantum consciousnesses” (QCs) that are used to imbue empty synthetic bodies with consciousness. One day, a “failing” synthetic Jill (Sidse Babett Knudsen) approaches Ed to convince him of stealing a QC for her and thus grant her a longer lifespan.
The problem with the episode is that it manages to have a thin plot and a rich universe at the same time. There are hints as to how Ed’s England (I’m guessing because they drive on the left) works: there are natural catastrophes all over the planet, and food shortage is a problem. At the same time, for some reason people are housed on the coastline which keeps crumbling under them. Human genes are crossed with pigs’ and sheep’s genome which produces sentient mutants (Su, the guard) or human-faced animals (the sheep grazing in the field). Humans have become infertile in large numbers and rely on the synthetic androids and human-animal “chimeras” to assist them. The government heavily restricts movement and does not allow people to grow their own food, but gives them synthetic food that expires very quickly. There are several different companies producing the QCs and a lucrative black market for them. If all this seems a bit unclear, the problem is not on your end—and all this is just the backdrop for the plot which is, though formulaic, full of twists and turns.
“Crazy Diamond” has many great ideas, but does not pursue them. It tries to pack a lot into its 48-minute runtime, and it is just simply too much. As a viewer, I was constantly frustrated because the episode did not leave me a moment to reflect on what I’ve seen or figure out how the world of the story works. It just kept hurling new bits of contextual or narrative information every five minutes at my head, making me rethink the whole film again and again until it abruptly ended. I would have loved to see more of this fictional universe—for instance, why is there a layer of metal a few centimetres under the soil? How are societal habits redrafted by genetic experimentation and cloning? Why does the government have to be oppressive? Where are the boundaries between humans, chimeras, and androids, and do they make sense? It’s not that we don’t receive full and satisfying answers to the questions—we don’t receive anything but a hint barely enough to formulate a question. The episode works as a visually quirky and ultimately fun guessing game, but fails as an exploration of important topics.
Is currently doing his PhD focusing on science fiction literature. His research focus is identity creation in Science Fiction and post-humanist explorations of subjectivity. He loves the work of Philip K. Dick and is our resident expert on all things Dickian.