Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, the New Series Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin & Steve Buscemi, Now Streaming Free on Amazon Prime

Do I like Philip K. Dick? Do androids dream of elec­tric sheep? Hon­est­ly, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to answer such ques­tions about the sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence of arti­fi­cial beings. But I know for cer­tain that I like Philip K. Dick. Deeply admire, respect, fear, even… there are many words I could use to describe the way I feel about his imag­i­na­tion and vision. And I could say much the same about the film adap­ta­tions of Dick’s work, up to and includ­ing Blade Run­ner 2049, which wasn’t as visu­al­ly over­whelm­ing on the small screen after its release on stream­ing video but still as emo­tion­al­ly cap­ti­vat­ing in its nar­ra­tive, pac­ing, score, and direc­tor Denis Villeneuve’s fideli­ty to, and expan­sion of, the orig­i­nal film’s use of col­or and mon­u­men­tal, future-bru­tal­ist archi­tec­ture to tell a sto­ry.

Though he very much want­ed to break out of sci­ence fic­tion and achieve the sta­tus of a “lit­er­ary” writer—the dis­tinc­tions in his day being much hard­er and faster—Dick’s fic­tion has pro­vid­ed the ulti­mate source for the cin­e­mat­ic sci-fi epic for sev­er­al decades now, and shows lit­tle sign of falling out of favor. The com­mer­cial and cre­ative ques­tion seems to be not whether Dick’s sto­ries still res­onate, but whether they trans­late to tele­vi­sion as bril­liant­ly as they do to film. Crit­i­cal opin­ion can sharply divide on Amazon’s adap­ta­tion of Dick’s alter­na­tive his­to­ry nov­el The Man in the High Cas­tle (about a world in which the Axis pow­ers tri­umphed), which might be “pon­der­ous,” “bor­ing,” and—in its sec­ond season—“the worst TV show of the year,” or “the sec­ond best show Ama­zon has ever made.”

How much this lat­ter judg­ment con­veys depends upon how high­ly, on the whole, one rates the qual­i­ty of pro­gram­ming from that cor­po­rate mega-jug­ger­naut threat­en­ing to over­take near­ly every aspect of con­sumer cul­ture. To say that I find it iron­ic that such an enti­ty pos­sess­es not only one Philip K. Dick prop­er­ty, but now two, with its lat­est Dick-inspired anthol­o­gy show Philip K. Dick­’s Elec­tric Dreams, would be to gross­ly under­state the case. The author who imag­ined an intru­sive inter­net of things and a dystopi­an world where adver­tise­ments appear in our minds might also find this sit­u­a­tion some­what… Dick-ian (Dick-like? Dick-ish?). But such is the world we live in. Putting these ironies aside, let’s revis­it the ques­tion: do Dick­’s sto­ries work as well on TV as they do on film?

Find out for your­self. The first sea­son of Philip K. Dick­’s Elec­tric Dreams is now stream­ing on Ama­zon (see the trail­er above), and you can either pur­chase it by episode, or binge-stream the whole thing gratis with a 30-day free tri­al of Ama­zon Prime. Giv­en that the series, which adapts sto­ries from a col­lec­tion of the same title, is not the prod­uct of one sin­gu­lar vision but a dif­fer­ent cre­ative team each time, you may agree with Evan Nar­cisse at Giz­mo­do, who writes that the episodes “don’t just vary in aes­thet­ics; they vary wide­ly in qual­i­ty.” It has a star-stud­ded cast—including Anna Paquin, Janelle Mon­ae, Ter­rance Howard, Steve Busce­mi, and Bryan Cranston (who co-produced)—and some impres­sive pro­duc­tion val­ues.

But Elec­tric Dreams also has a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge set before it: “to show both new view­ers and con­ver­sant fans why Dick’s oeu­vre mat­ters, which is hard in a world where we’re eeri­ly close to some of his fic­tion­al real­i­ties.” Indeed—as we pon­der whether we might be char­ac­ters in a sim­u­lat­ed real­i­ty, our thoughts and beliefs manip­u­lat­ed by pow­er­ful com­pa­nies like those in Dick’s unset­tling Ubik—watch­ing the show might add yet anoth­er lay­er of bewil­der­ment to the already very strange expe­ri­ence of every­day life these days. But then again, “if you feel weird­ed out while watch­ing, that just means the show is doing its job.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A New 2‑In‑1 Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep? & A Scan­ner Dark­ly

Free Philip K. Dick: Down­load 13 Great Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries

33 Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Philip K. Dick as Free Audio Books & Free eBooks

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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