Previously on Electric Dreams
Project Fandom coverage follows the episode Amazon (US) running order as opposed to the original Channel 4 running order, with two reviews each week.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – S1E7 – “The Father Thing” |Starring: Greg Kinnear, Mireille Enos, Jack Gore, Terry Kinney, Shannon Brown
Setting: Current day Earth
In this episode, we’re introduced to Charlie and his father who are away on a camping trip. Through their conversation about baseball it is apparent that the two share an affectionate and loving relationship. Unseen by Charlie, his father, and other inhabitants of the Earth, rocks are hurtling towards the planet. From Charlie and his father’s perspective the sky is illuminated by what appears to be falling pieces of earth. The next day, the news reports that NASA has classified the incident as a meteor shower.
Charlie and his father return home and when his parents speak privately, it’s clear that Charlie’s father missed one of the main points of the trip: telling Charlie that his parents plan to divorce. The next morning, Charlie meets his friend Dylan in the woods and they go to school. Class is slightly empty and the teacher, Mr. Dick acts a little strangely. After school Charlie rushes home to check the all-star baseball roster and is excited that he made the team. He tries to video chat with Dylan, but Dylan’s bully of a brother, Henry, answers the call and promises to beat him up and says the brother is on punishment and not allowed to use electronics due to a prank that Charlie and Dylan pulled on Henry.
Who Are You?
Charlie’s father returns home and Charlie rushes to tell him about the good news, but the boy sees his father being attacked by a strange being in the garage. The being is naked and looks like his father. In shock and fear, Charlie goes back to the house. Less than a minute later, the being who looks and acts quite similarly to his father comes inside. The replacement father (RF) takes Charlie’s mother by surprise when he passionately kisses her. Rightfully, Charlie is suspicious and watches the RF’s every move. At the diner table, the RF suggests a Christmas trip to the Galapagos Islands, which is a dream trip for Charlie’s mother. The RF has tapped into the real father’s memory and is trying to ingratiate himself. Nonetheless Charlie is terrified of the RF and quickly runs away to his room after he notices something running around just beneath the skin of the RF’s face. The RF tries to cajole Charlie out of his room, but Charlie’s mother tells him to give Charlie some space.
When Charlie sneaks out of the house to examine the garage, this doesn’t go unnoticed by the RF who sees a light in the garage and goes to investigate. Before he can be found Charlie runs away, but he leaves his flashlight behind. He goes to Dylan’s house and Henry threatens Charlie that he’ll beat him up unless Charlie tells him his secret. By the time Charlie finishes telling the brothers about his father’s death and subsequent replacement, the RF arrives to pick him up. Doing what any person in this era would do, Charlie hits the internet for answers. He finds tons of other people who say their loved ones are acting strangely and have been replaced. After the internet goes dead, Charlie looks outside to find the RF and other people outside. It’s clear those people are replacements as well.
Charlie awakens to find the RF making blueberry pancakes, which he professes are the boy’s favorite. The RF father is genuinely surprised when Charlie tells him that he doesn’t like blueberries. Apparently, the RF hasn’t completely tapped into the real father’s memories. Despite the RF’s offer to take him to school, Charlie gets his mother to drive him. On the way he tells her mother that they should leave the town and he categorically states that his father is an alien. Unsurprisingly, his mother doesn’t believe him.
At school the classroom is basically empty, and Charlie’s teacher, Mr. Dick is on the roof preparing to jump. Before he jumps the teacher tells a police officer that his wife has been replaced. A bereft Mr. Dick jumps and school is cancelled due to the incident. The RF comes to pick Charlie up from school, but Charlie goes home on his own to break into the garage which the RF has locked. Charlie finds his real father’s face in a bin covered by leaves. The RF finds him and instead of hurting Charlie he takes him to a baseball field. As they pitch balls, the RF admits that he’s replaced Charlie’s father and is enjoying his new life and learning more about human beings. They continue to speak about baseball and when the RF hits Charlie with a ball, the boy runs away. Charlie tries to get help from the police, but they are also replacements, which Charlie figures out when one of them calls him by his name. After Charlie escapes he goes to Dylan and Henry for help and in order to prove that he found his father’s face in the trash, the three go to the city dump. The trash arrives around the same time and they see Charlie’s father’s body being dumped. The brothers finally believe that Charlie’s father was replaced.
The trio return to Charlie’s home and spy on the RF and Charlie’s mother. The two are discussing Charlie and hugging. The boys plan to save Charlie’s mother by baiting the RF into a number of traps in the garage a la Home Alone, but none of the traps hit the RF. After the boys narrowly escape as the RF attacks them in retaliation, the RF chases Charlie into the woods. Charlie finds himself surrounded by the pods of replacement beings including those that look like his mother and himself. Just as the RF is about to attack Charlie, Dylan and Henry save their friend by running the RF over with a car. As the RF’s body dies, a big bug crawls out of its mouth and Dylan steps on it. The boys proceed to light the pods on fire. Charlie returns home and vlogs to tell the world to resist the replacements.
Moral of the story: Treasure your relationships; Pay attention to the changes in people’s behavior; Resist.
Thoughts and Observations
- The teacher’s name, Philip Dick, which was a sweet homage to Philip K. Dick.
- The story was a bit lackluster, but the acting was good, particularly from Jack Gore, Greg Kinnear, and Mireille Enos as the family unit.
- Henry ended up being helpful and the character was more self-aware than the typically written bully.
Plot: 6 | Dialogue: 6 | Performances: 8 = 6.7
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – S1E8 – “Impossible Planet” | Starring: Geraldine Chaplin, Jack Reynor, Benedict Wong, Georgina Campbell, Malik Ibheis, Christopher Staines
Setting: Well into the future. Earth has been destroyed and the universe has been chartered enough that space tourism is alive and well with a corporate amusement park type of approach.
An Attractive Offer
Imagine space travel with all the cheesy bells and whistles associated with a trip to a children’s pizza parlor. This is the environment in which Andrews and Norton work. They’re bored and have little enthusiasm for their jobs and the tourists they encounter every day. Andrews sits in his office and mocks the tourists with a smile on his face while he waves to them, and he also watches space porn at work. His colleague Norton provides monotone voiceovers and fake galaxy views on overcast days by adjusting the colors projected.
As Norton and Andrews commiserate and discuss Norton’s plans for a promotion to the corporate headquarters planet Primo Central, an elderly woman and her robot companion stop by. Although Andrews doesn’t want to talk to the woman because it’s the end of the work day, Norton feels a strange connection to her. The woman explains that her name is Irma Gordon and she would like to be taken on a trip to Earth. Irma is 342 years old and hearing impaired, so she speaks for herself, but her robot RB29 also helps her communicate. As Norton looks at Irma he has a flashback to the spokes on a bicycle.
Although the men initially refuse to take the assignment, Andrews agrees when RB29 offers to pay the men a substantial fee. Andrews plans to fake the trip by taking Irma to a random moon because Earth technically doesn’t exist anymore. As Andrews attempts to convince Norton to join him on the expedition, Norton’s girlfriend, Barbara, calls and tells him to check his email. Norton finds out his hopes to transfer to the head office have been dashed. This is his fifth application and Barbara is tired of waiting for a more upscale lifestyle. Due to the financial rewards, Norton decides to take on Irma’s assignment.
Irma tells Norton about her grandmother and stories of her grandmother and grandfather’s life on Earth in ‘Carolina’ and she asks to be taken to a specific place where her grandparents spent time on Earth: Elk River Carolina. Not too long into the trip, RB29 starts asking questions such as if the crew usually has only two crew members and why the paperwork wasn’t completed. He isn’t very impressed and makes sure to tell Norton that Irma is old and going to die of a heart condition in two months. Norma is trusting, and her companion doesn’t want her to be taken advantage of. Later on while Andrews sleeps, RB29 enters the command room to check the flight path and discovers that he was right to be suspicious: the flight path is not towards Earth. The next day, Norton and Andrews discuss what they will do with Irma’s money and Norton tells Andrew that he wants to tell Irma the truth, but Andrews disagrees.
When Norton visits Irma’s quarters with a drink she asks him about himself. RB29 is present but shut down so Irma uses a machine to transcribe Norton’s words so that they can have a conversation. Norton gives Irma a brief bio on where he was born and his career. He also tells her about being in a relationship with Barbara for five years. Irma asks him why they haven’t married yet and if Norton loves Barbara. He answers yes to which Irma asks him if the plan to settle on Primo Central is his idea or Barbara’s. Although Norton doesn’t answer, Irma is fairly certain that Norton is not the mastermind behind the plan. In the midst of Irma and Norton’s chat, he has another flashback to the spokes of a bicycle wheel and this time a boy and a girl are riding the bicycle together, but their faces don’t appear.
When Irma calls Norton to help her with an old dress handed down to her from her grandmother and mother, the two bond over the desire to go to unchartered territory. After Irma sends RB29 away, she kisses Norton and shows him the picture of her grandparents. Norton looks exactly like her grandfather. Irma also tells him that she dreamt of him. This revelation and the previous conversation with Irma makes Norton reassess his relationship with Barbara so he calls her in the middle of the night. Norton proceeds to tell Barbara that he doesn’t want to live on Primo Central and asks her if she wants him in particular or a specific life trajectory. She refuses to answer or to engage in a discussion. Can you blame her? She seems over him, but who wants to have that discussion in the middle of the night with no warning? When Norton asks Barbara if she dreams of him, Norton answers for her and tells her that he doesn’t dream of her either. The connection breaks as Barbara asks him to turn the ship back around and come home.
When Andrews tries to play a random green planet off as Mars, Irma tells Andrews to stop playing around. RB29 steps in and explains that there was an incident that changed some of the planets appearances and Norton chimes in to explain that Earth also changed a bit. Irma is sad because she wishes to see the blue and green of Carolina. RB29 looks at Andrews to signal him to change the color. Irma requests to land on Earth and despite Andrews’ protests, Norton promises her that they will do so. The landing is shaky and dangerous and after they crash land Andrews refuses to give Irma the immersive tour that RB29 requests on her behalf. Then Irma asks the best question of the show, why is Mr. Andrews so angry? Andrews has been a pain even though he’s hitting the jackpot from this excursion. You’d think he would gain some joy from that.
While Andrews is away from the command room, Norton gives Irma an outdoor helmet and suit for the immersive tour. She requests that he wear her grandfather’s outfit from the picture beneath his suit. RB29 watches them leave and when Andrews asks where Irma is, the robot tells him that Irma is resting. When Andrews asks if RB29 knows the truth about where they are, RB29 calls Andrews out on his lie to Irma. Andrews figures out that Norton and Irma have gone outside and radios Norton to tell him that the suits only have auxiliary breathing tanks.
Norton and Irma hear chirping, and they are not sure if it’s the decreasing oxygen or if it’s real. Irma takes off her helmet and transforms into a young version of her grandmother. The dark environment transforms into Earth as it was during Irma’s grandparents’ younger days including the lake and the bicycle which Norton dreamed of. Norton takes off his helmet and suit to join Irma, who has already gone to skinny dip in the lake. As the two embrace in the lake, Irma tells Norton that she knew they would make it to the lake.
Moral of the story: True love is eternal; Don’t be a greedy bastard; Don’t try to outsmart a robot.
Thoughts and Observations
- Was Irma her grandmother reincarnated? Or was Irma actually the younger woman she described all along who lived to be over 300 years old?
- Wonder what happens to Andrews. Not sure he’ll make it back to space given the headache inducing conditions of the planet.
- RB29 is the real MVP. The companion was hip to Andrews shenanigans, but he wanted Irma to be happy, so he handled Andrews appropriately. Hopefully he can fly the spacecraft back home if Andrews doesn’t make it.