TV Review: Electric Dreams - Impossible Planet
PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS
EPISODE 2: “IMPOSSIBLE PLANET”
Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams continued with its second episode, and frankly, it was quite a disappointment. The series did not improve on its somewhat lacklustre first instalment — “The Impossible Planet” started with a good setup that was badly executed in the end.
The point of the short story “The Impossible Planet” is that the crew find Earth accidentally—in an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist involving a US nickel, they find out that they stumbled upon the original planet by chance. It is now depleted and barren, evoking the not-so-distant landscapes of the finest climate change fiction.
By 2017, this plot twist is sort of a bore, and the episode deviates from it in promising ways. There is a nice contrast between the Golden Age-look of the company’s advertisements and Miss Gordon’s robot helper, and the grimy ship and its chief navigator, Mr. Andrews (Benedict Wong). They are selling a “strictly spectator-based tourist experience”, and even when the social commentary tips into the heavy-handed, at least Norton’s (Jack Reynor) monologue on simulacra and the society of the spectacle does not last too long. His dilemma about the whole affair is portrayed with finesse, and the scenes between him and Miss Gordon (Geraldine Chaplin) are emotionally relatable.
But then the problems begin to surface, starting with the robot RB29’s ridiculous angry red stare when it realizes that Andrews and Norton are scamming Miss Gordon. Apparently, RB29 has a strong moral compass and a built-in feature to indicate indignation by flashing his eyes. Even more problematic are the flashbacks that Norton has throughout the episode, which culminate in a convoluted inexplicable ending. The elevated symbolism of the denouement was a mismatch to the previous 35 minutes of excellent one-set drama. Instead of the (I’m guessing) desired effect of emotional charge, the last few minutes were full of confusion. Was this a dream? Was it a hallucination triggered by hypoxia? A different dimension? Be it any of the above, did it offer any commentary about consumerism and virtual realities, a theme that was set up basically from the beginning?
“Here there will always be mystery,” says Miss Gordon clutching her chest. Was the last scene proof that human spiritual transcendence is possible anywhere? If so, that’s too corny for my taste and nostalgic in an escapist “the human spirit will always be there” way that is politically and ideologically problematic. The beauty of anthology series is that every episode starts with a clean slate and has a chance to blow you away or disappoint. Unfortunately, this time for me it was the latter.
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.