Electric Dreams finds hope in a dystopian future
On the surface, it would be easy to compare Amazon’s new show Electric Dreams, the 10-episode series based on short stories by Philip K. Dick, to Netflix’s Black Mirror. Both anthology series are set against the backdrop of a technology-driven future, and tend to have a rather bleak outlook.
But if you dig below the surface a bit, you might find that Electric Dreams is offering one of the only things that’s often (but not always) missing from Black Mirror: hope. At least, that’s what executive producer Bryan Cranston’s goal is.
While Black Mirror may frequently leave viewers wondering if humanity is already doomed, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams could be the optimistic alternative you’re looking for. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna-ish, but Electric Dreams actually has a very positive outlook on life, hidden in this dystopian sci-fi future,” Cranston says.
In addition to executive producing the series, Cranston also stars in an episode titled “Human Is,” which is the perfect example of that outlook. In it, the actor plays a hard-edged and cold military hero who goes on a mission to another planet. When he returns, after being attacked by the hostile lifeforms on this new world, he’s a different man. His quiet rage has been replaced by compassion, his coldness replaced by caring. It leads those around him to question whether he’s truly changed after the events he faced, or if his body is being occupied by an alien.
“If you think about the themes that we’re telling through those stories, what is it to be human, it’s not in the big, grand gestures.” Cranston says. “It’s found in simple kindness, in thinking and compassion. That’s where love is. That’s where love resides, in the everyday little things that we do. And that’s why ‘Human Is’ is an important story to tell, because it is how we behave and treat each other on a regular basis that really is the measure of humanity.” According to the actor, that same sense of hope can be found in each episode of the first season, adding, “It keeps coming back to positive relationships.”
Given the negativity that seemed to permeate 2017, Cranston is hopeful that the hopefulness on display in Electric Dreams is something the audience will spark to. “If there’s anything I think our world needs right now, it’s some positive storytelling, non-cynical positive storytelling,” he says. “We’re in such anxiety right now, politically. The sexual politics of what’s going on with the predators, it’s disturbing. We need to tell stories that embrace everyone and respect everyone and give everyone space to be themselves without apology, and not be preyed upon.”
The tales that make up the first season — each of which are adapted from or inspired by Dick’s short stories — have a wide range, from Cranston’s “Human Is” to the episode “Impossible Planet,” starring Jack Reynor and Benedict Wong as space tour guides tasked with fulfilling a dying woman’s wish. Game of Thrones stars Richard Madden and Liam Cunningham also make an appearance, along with the likes of Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin and Terrence Howard. All 10 standalone episodes of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams will debut on Amazon Prime Video on January 12.