As season one of the Channel 4/Amazon studios production Electric Dreams reaches its mid-season break, Whiplash Review looks back at the last six episodes and ranks them from best to worst.
Disagree with the ranking, or have your own opinion?
Starring: Benedict Wong, Jack Reynor, Geraldine Chaplin
Synopsis: A pair of bored space-tourguides decide to con an old woman who wants to visit earth. They oblige, despite knowing Earth is uninhabitable yet discover that things may not be as they seem.
Verdict: A dull and plodding affair, this episode attempts to be profound while dealing almost exclusively in cliches. The script is dull, Reynor’s performance wooden and the whole episode smacks of being “bad sci-fi”. Impossible Planet offers nothing new or interesting at all to explore, instead falling back on age old cliche’s. At one point Irma points at her heart and tells Brian that “here there will always be mystery”. Just as the characters seem tired and jaded by their jobs and lot in life, writer David Farr’s script is stuffed with the same dull lines used in a thousand Sci-Fi plot lines before.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Essie Davis, Liam Cunningham
Synopsis: Set on a future earth running out of resources, Bryan Cranston is the Commander tasked with infiltrating an alien planet to steal Hydron. Yet when he returns he is not the same human who left, leaving his wife to question if he’s the same person at all.
Verdict: Suffering from a painfully low budget, the final episode is another great example of how not to do sci-fi. The sets are dull and uninspiring, the plot slow and the characters difficult to feel sympathy for. Cranston’s acting as Commander Silas is excellent in this episode, it is one of the few redeeming features in an otherwise lackluster hour. The episode could have explored the themes of societal and environmental breakdown in much more detail, and in the process perhaps been much more pertinent to today’s society.
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Julia Davis
Synopsis: Ed Morris ( Buscemi) is Ed Morris, a genetic designer bored with life. His life is interrupted by a mysterious Jill (Babett Knudsen), an android who is determined to live longer than her shelf life.
Verdict: The episode isn’t terrible – Buscemi’s acting is serviceable, and the script does raise some interesting concepts – the episode is set on the coast, in a community of pods built precariously close to the sea. Coastal erosion means that these pods are in constant threat of falling into the ocean, and yet Ed and Sally are unwilling/unable to move. They are stifled in their life by rules and regulations – unable to keep food even a day past it’s expiration date, or grow their own food in an attempt to be self sufficient. A dull, unoriginal slog which wasn’t even saved by the acting chops of it’s stellar cast.
Starring: Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger
Synopsis: This series opener depicts the struggle between the “normal” populace of the country, and “Teeps”; those with telepathic abilities able to read the thoughts of anyone in the country. Agent Ross (Madden) is a government employee tasked with harnessing a Teep called Honor’s (Grainger) telepathic abilities in order to find and arrest those rebelling against the Government’s Anti-Immunity Bill.
Verdict: A bold opening to the show, which brings up many pertinent themes but sadly fails to explore them in any meaningful way. The manner in which Teeps are ostracized and treated like second class citizens in this dystopian future is so relevant in today’s post Trump/Brexit world, yet the episode instead chooses to focus on the relationship between Ross and Honor. An entertaining and stylish hour, it’s visual style is part Blade Runner, part Life on Mars. While the universe presented in the first episode of Electric Dreams is interesting in many ways and presents some interesting themes to explore, it never quite manages the dizzying emotional and intellectual sucker-punch needed.
Starring: Timothy Spall, Tuppence Middleton
Synopsis: Ed (Spall) is works in Woking railway station, and is stuck in a loveless marriage with a difficult son. One day he is offered the chance to escape to the perfect villiage of Macon Heights – a railway station that shouldn’t exist. Upon returning to his real life, he realizes he’s paid the ultimate sacrifice for his dreams of escape.
Verdict: Like all the best Sci-Fi it is open to many different interpretations. Does Macon Heights represent an allegory for religion, a dream, a psychotic episode or merely a yearning for a life free from responsibilities. It confronts the viewer with an uncomfortable truth – in having to look after his difficult teenage son Sam, Ed has become miserable. Those we love the most are not always the best for us. Yet the alternative presented here is even more unpalletable – separate yourself from the world and do not even attempt to meaningfully connect to someone else or accept responsibility. The only episode of Electric Dreams to date which is set in the here any now is also one of the strongest.
Starring: Terrence Howard, Rachelle Lefevre, Anna Paquin, Laura Pulver
Synopsis: Switching between the near and the far future, this episode explores the nature of reality itself, as two characters – Sarah (Paquin) and George (Howard) both use virtual reality headsets and find themselves in each other’s lives. As the lines between reality blur, both start to question what is the dream, and what is real life.
Verdict: An engaging and well directed exploration into a fascinating subject matter. It makes you constantly question which world is real or if both of them could be, while leading towards a devastating and tragic finale. The acting from the leads is excellent, with Terrance Howard’s George particularly memorable as the guilt wracked billionaire. Strong supporting performances are also found in the form of Georges friend and confidant Paula (Laura Pulver) and Sarah’s girlfriend/partner Katie (Rachelle Lefevre). Real Life plays out as a fast paced action thriller – a succinct hour long exploration of a basic concept, done well.
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Electric Dreams will continue in 2018.