TV Review: Electric Dreams - Autofac
PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS
EPISODE 8: “Autofac”
What if there’s no one left to shop? Who’s going to buy all those designer sneakers? If you ever wondered about the discrepancy between the dictum to consume more and the warning to be environmentally conscious at the same time, you will definitely enjoy “Autofac.”
This episode of Electric Dreams is about a small post-nuclear war community who just want to live the usual hunter-gatherer post-apocalyptic life – their endeavour, however, is thwarted by the Autofac, an all-purpose factory controlled by an AI. The Autofac continues to produce and deliver to the survivors goods that they cannot use, polluting the environment further in the process. The survivors want to convince the AI to shut down production and leave them be. They concoct a plot to get the Autofac’s attention, which sends them a representative in the form of an android, Alice (Janelle Monáe). Their hacker-in-residence, Emily (Juno Temple) tries to break into her programming to make the Autofac understand that humans don’t really like to think of themselves as “replaceable.”
“Autofac” is clearly a parody of the interplay between global capitalism and environmental issues, a mockery of irresponsible consumption. The episode is not the least bit funny, but it could have been – there is potential here for dark humour that I felt was left undeveloped. I couldn’t help thinking of the kind of irony that is present in, for example, John Carpenter’s They Live (1988), a film that aims for a similar commentary on consumerism. Perhaps my sense of humour is too wicked, but the combination of the enormity of the problems that we are facing and the blatant ignorance of political hegemony borders on the hilarious to me. I think that a pinch of humour here and there would have emphasized the ridiculousness of the survivors’ situation and made the latent satire more biting. Of course, there is a twist ending, which further strengthened my feeling that this could have worked better as wonderful satire in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut.
Sadly, there is only so much time in a single TV episode, and “Autofac” takes up not one, but two extremely complex problems (I won’t spoil the second one). It is a thoroughly enjoyable ride into the nightmare of someone who hates shopping malls, but in the end it becomes a bit too ambitious for its own good.
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.