Shad­ow­ing the book

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - The Man In The Castle -

sea­son. “He comes in in episode four and then con­tin­ues through­out. He’s ac­tu­ally one of the most faith­ful adap­ta­tions. There are some scenes that are al­most word for word the way they were in the book. With the stream­ing model that Ama­zon has you can treat it like a novel, so you don’t have to in­tro­duce every­thing in the first episode.”

“In a sense we have chap­ters,” Dava­los con­tin­ues. “There’s 10 chap­ters, and you can sit down and watch three or four, or watch the whole damned thing. It’s over a 14-day pe­riod, our en­tire first sea­son. I love the for­mat.”

De­spite the myr­iad changes, Spot­nitz has re­mained un­wa­ver­ingly loyal to the themes and ideas the novel ex­plores. “Prob­a­bly the most chal­leng­ing to ad­dress, be­cause it’s so in­tel­lec­tual, is what is the na­ture of re­al­ity?” Spot­nitz says. “He has th­ese in­ter­est­ing ideas about his­toric­ity and what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween an au­then­tic ob­ject and an in­au­then­tic ob­ject. The sec­ond one is what is hu­man? And how do you main­tain hu­man­ity if you’re liv­ing in an in­hu­man world? And there’s a third theme, which is more prom­i­nent in the se­ries, which is what is free­dom? What would you sac­ri­fice to be free? That’s the one that is most un­set­tling be­cause you’re not used to see­ing the good guys lose. And not only have Amer­i­cans lost, most of them are re­signed to their de­feat. What would it take to get Amer­i­cans to fight back, to try and change their fu­ture? That’s the ques­tion I wanted to ask.”

The other key chal­lenge be­yond adapt­ing Philip K Dick’s eso­teric prose into some­thing that would work on TV was vi­su­al­is­ing a world turned up­side down – a tricky (and ex­pen­sive) busi­ness. “For­tu­nately Ama­zon has deep pock­ets!” Spot­nitz says. “But it’s a big imag­i­na­tion chal­lenge as well. I talked to a lot of his­to­ri­ans about what the val­ues of a Nazi so­ci­ety would have been if they’d won the war.

Ri­d­ley scott would point us to films, in­clud­ing Blade Run­ner, and spe­cific scenes

And then that in­formed the pro­duc­tion de­sign, so it’s very much about industry and agri­cul­ture and state con­trol. And you ask your­self, ‘Would cars in the early ’60s have had the gi­ant fins that they had? Would you have had that sense of op­ti­mism and the Jet­sons tech­nol­ogy in home ap­pli­ances?’ There were a thou­sand de­ci­sions like that.”

Spot­nitz also had help from a man with ex­pe­ri­ence adapt­ing Philip K Dick – Ri­d­ley Scott, who pro­duced the show un­der the Scott Free ban­ner. “It was mostly in the area of cin­e­matog­ra­phy and pro­duc­tion de­sign, but we had many calls about the prin­ci­ples that should guide us in de­sign­ing this world,” Spot­nitz ex­plains. “He would point us to films, in­clud­ing Blade Run­ner, and spe­cific shots and scenes that he thought we should use as guides and in­spi­ra­tion. He and the lead di­rec­tor for the se­ries, Daniel Per­ci­val, put to­gether this style book with dozens of images from dif­fer­ent films and paint­ings that were used as ref­er­ence for ev­ery di­rec­tor that came on the show.”

As any­one who has read the book will know, the story ends on an am­bigu­ous note. It was a tale Dick tried to re­turn to sev­eral times be­fore his death, with nu­mer­ous failed se­quel ideas trans­form­ing into en­tirely new nov­els. Spot­nitz, who en­vi­sions a long life for the show, al­ready knows his story has a dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tion.

“The se­ries will have a dif­fer­ent end­ing en­tirely,” Spot­nitz re­veals. “The sto­ry­lines and ideas are be­ing laid out in a slightly dif­fer­ent or­der. But for me the way to ex­e­cute a se­ries suc­cess­fully is to fol­low one char­ac­ter’s emo­tional jour­ney and be­cause you don’t know in TV whether you’re go­ing to go two years or 10 years you have to be able to col­lapse or ex­pand as needed. That’s my strat­egy. I know what hap­pens in the last episode for Ju­liana. I know what her char­ac­ter jour­ney is, and every­thing else is an ex­plo­ration as we go.”

The Man In The High Cas­tle is on Ama­zon Prime In­stant Video from 20 Novem­ber.

Will Ju­liana Crain (Alexa Dava­los) and Joe Blake ( Luke Klein­tank) drink the Kool-Aid?

Well, that’s one way of fight­ing back.

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