Shadowing the book
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.