More (K) Dick

Blade Run­ner 2049 is not the only new work in­spired by the sci-fi mas­ter this month

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

In 2015, Chan­nel 4 was the proud pro­ducer of the most orig­i­nal, rel­e­vant show on Bri­tish television for years — Char­lie Brooker’s Black Mir­ror — only to have it stolen away by stream­ing gi­ant Net­flix with its 40m Yan­kee dol­lars. It felt like a telling mo­ment in TV his­tory, a re­minder that the truly ground­break­ing stuff — even if it’s home­grown — be­longs in Amer­ica.

Black Mir­ror sea­son three duly aired in Oc­to­ber 2016 wear­ing its new bud­get like

a grand fur coat and, more dev­as­tat­ingly for Chan­nel 4, was even more bril­liant than be­fore. But rather than ad­mit de­feat, the chan­nel’s an­swer has been to pair up with Ama­zon Video and come out swing­ing with a dis­tinctly Black Mir­ror-es­que show all of its own, while poach­ing a mem­ber of US TV roy­alty. Take that, Amer­ica!

Philip K Dick’s Elec­tric Dreams is a 10part an­thol­ogy series spear­headed by

Bryan Cranston, adapted from the short sto­ries of the tit­u­lar Mr Dick (Blade Run­ner,

Mi­nor­ity Re­port). In­trigu­ingly, Cranston — who serves as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and stars in one episode — says the writ­ers, in­clud­ing Emmy-nom­i­nated Ron­ald D Moore and Michael Din­ner, were given com­plete free­dom to rein­ter­pret the sto­ries.

“We de­cided early we wouldn’t just be tak­ing Dick’s work and putting it into a screen­play, but al­low­ing the writ­ers to to­tally reimag­ine them,” Cranston tells

Esquire at the south Lon­don stu­dio where his episode, “Hu­man Is”, is be­ing filmed.

“We said: ‘Change the gen­der, change the lo­ca­tion, change the time, put it in the past or put it in the fu­ture — wher­ever you want to go.’”

As for the debt to Char­lie Brooker, Cranston is happy to ac­knowl­edge what is prob­a­bly still a sore point for his new bosses.

“I look at Black Mir­ror as a big brother,” he says. “It showed us there is an au­di­ence for this kind of sto­ry­telling again, which went out of fash­ion for a while but used to ex­ist in stuff like The Twi­light Zone and The

Outer Lim­its. It’s for peo­ple who are deeply cu­ri­ous, like fans of Dick’s sto­ries.”

If the set visit we were taken on is any in­di­ca­tion, Chan­nel 4 has pulled out all the stops for this series — in­clud­ing build­ing an en­tire space­ship and a liv­ing room of bot­tled plant life set in an at­mos­phere-free fu­ture — but it is per­haps the tal­ent Cranston has man­aged to at­tract that is the biggest cause for ex­cite­ment. Ti­mothy Spall, Greg Kin­n­ear and Steve Buscemi are among the stars, the thought of the lat­ter in a space­suit in a south Lon­don in­dus­trial es­tate be­ing al­most too good to bear.

With that kind of pedi­gree, Philip

K Dick’s Elec­tric Dreams has a fight­ing chance of prov­ing, once again, that Bri­tish TV has more to of­fer sci-fi than Doc­tor

Who. Just don’t tell Net­flix if it works.

Elec­tric Dreams airs on Chan­nel 4 this month

Elec­tric Dreams’ star-stud­ded cast boasts, clock­wise from be­low, Steve Buscemi and Ju­lia Davis in episode ‘Crazy Di­a­mond’;

Jack Reynor in ‘Im­pos­si­ble Planet’; Bryan Cranston in ‘Hu­man Is’

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