Chan­nel 4’s epic new an­thol­ogy se­ries brings the god­fa­ther of sci-fi to the small screen


THE INTERGALACTIC COLONY of Primo 241 can be found just off Lon­don’s A4. The lo­ca­tion for Im­pos­si­ble Planet, one of the short films in Chan­nel 4 and Ama­zon’s ten-part Philip K. Dick an­thol­ogy se­ries Elec­tric Dreams, has a shabby retro-fu­tur­ist vibe. It may be set 500 years in the fu­ture but the in­side of the Dreamweaver space­ship re­sem­bles an Atomic Age cock­tail bar, all Formica sur­faces and moulded fur­ni­ture. In Im­pos­si­ble Planet, writ­ten and di­rected by

The Night Man­ager’s David Farr, a rich, old, blind woman (Geral­dine Chap­lin) hires two cos­mic tour guides (Jack Reynor and Bene­dict Wong) to take her to Earth, pre­sumed long dead. They plan to rip her off but dis­cover, says Reynor, “that there’s some­thing hap­pen­ing on a dif­fer­ent plane of ex­is­tence” — a re­cur­ring theme for Dick, who con­stantly ques­tioned the na­ture of re­al­ity.

Hol­ly­wood has feasted on Dick’s chewy ideas for years with the likes of Blade Run­ner, Mi­nor­ity

Re­port and To­tal Re­call, and now it’s TV’S turn. Five years ago, Dick’s es­tate, led by his daugh­ter Isa Dick Hack­ett, ap­proached vet­eran pro­ducer Michael Din­ner to adapt his choice of the writer’s 121 short sto­ries. Two weeks later he called back: “How about all of them?” Din­ner as­sem­bled a crack team of pro­duc­ers (Bryan Cranston,

Bat­tlestar Galac­tica’s Ron­ald D. Moore) and writ­ers (Jack Thorne, Tony Grisoni, Matthew Gra­ham). “My no­tion was to cre­ate sin­gu­lar points of view,” he says. “I didn’t just go to sci-fi geeks.”

The stand-alone episode for­mat (five filmed in Lon­don, five in Chicago) also helped Din­ner at­tract Steve Buscemi, Ti­mothy Spall, Anna Paquin, Greg Kin­n­ear, Janelle Monáe and Cranston him­self. “Peo­ple re­sponded to the ma­te­rial,” Din­ner tells Em­pire, “and the idea of play­ing in the sand­box for three weeks.”

Re­gard­less of genre, time pe­riod or set de­sign, says Din­ner, the ap­peal of Dick’s sto­ries is in ideas and emo­tions. “I’ve never read sci­ence-fic­tion,” Geral­dine Chap­lin says apolo­get­i­cally. “I should, shouldn’t I? This is so ro­man­tic and so strange.”

Clock­wise fromabove: Jack Reynor as space tour guide Nor­ton with ro­bot RB29 (played by Ma­lik Ib­heis and voiced by Christo­pher Staines); Bene­dict Wong as An­drews, his part­ner in crime; Nor­ton faces big­ger ques­tions than he’d an­tic­i­pated; Be­hind the scenes on set, with Geral­dine Chap­lin as the story’s cen­tral rich tourist, be­side Reynor.

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