Electric Dreams Episode 3: The Commuter (TV episode review).

With the exotic location of Woking as an opener it is quite surprising how this story gets so dark so quickly. Based on the Philip K. Dick story of the same name, ‘The Commuter’, we meet Ed Jacobson. His life is part-routine on the platform and ticket office of a suburban station and part-nightmare. His home life is a fire-fighting exercise with a son who appears to have psychological problems leading to potential violence. Ed’s fake smile is the only thing that keeps his fear of the world collapsing around him at bay.

One day, a woman commuter asks him for a five -day ticket to a place that doesn’t exist and when he tells her this, she vanishes. He is confused and intrigued, sharing his concerns with his colleague Bob, about the enigmatic Macon Heights. While Ed becomes more involved with solving the mystery of the town that isn’t there, subtle and not so subtle changes appear in his life. From dedicating his working day to the smooth running of the station he starts behaving more randomly until he boards the train that will change his life.

If you like your Science Fiction full-on with superb acting and a point to make, then this is for you. Timothy Spall is heart-breaking in his portrayal of the beleaguered Ed who tries to solve everyone else’s problems while sinking further into the vortex created by his disturbed son. He carries this piece as he discovers along with us, that there are no simple solutions to a complex life.

An excellent cast do the adaptation full justice. Rebecca Manley as Ed’s wife, Mary, and Anthony Boyle as his son, Sam, share moments that are intensely felt. Tuppence Middleton is the commuter, Linda, the woman who shows him a different life and Rudi Dharmalingham as colleague Bob who shares his forthright views on Basingstoke (sorry Basingstoke).

Adapted by the rather talented Jack Thorne who came to my notice with ‘The Fades’ and to everyone else’s with the stage play of ‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’, this is a very personal and emotional response to the original story which really touched me. Again, it is a quality production with some excellent visuals. The town of Poundbury in Dorset doubles for the weirdly, pure Macon Heights. Poundbury was a project by HRH the Prince of Wales in a bid to create a perfect town. I’m sure it looks better with real people in it but it is a direct descendant of Stepford and Portmeirion when it comes to creepy environments.

Contrasted with the very ordinary Woking, there is a sensitive point about looking below the surface of what you are apparently seeing. This is a very moving and involving drama and seriously outweighs the fluff and nonsense currently being touted on other channels. Sadly, because it is so definitely Science Fiction it will be dismissed by those who consider a genre that does not appeal to them. They are missing a treat.

Sue Davies

October 2017


One thought on “Electric Dreams Episode 3: The Commuter (TV episode review).

  • ‘Exotic’ Woking is, of course, the opening location for ‘The War of the Worlds’. I’ve actually been there. It closes early on Saturdays.


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