Electric Dreams Episode 8: Autofac (TV episode review).

March 8, 2018 | By | Reply More

A prescient story in its time, written in 1954, ‘Autofac’, refashioned in the age of instant gratification through Internet consumerism, is spot on with its observations.

Updated to give us a female protagonist, the plot builds up slowly doling out clues to the final act which we really should pick up. A couple of neat twists allow a satisfactory conclusion whilst leaving a couple of large uncertainties at the end.

Emily Zabriskie (Juno Temple) is a computer genius in a community of rag tag survivors of nuclear Armageddon. The small group is at the mercy of the Autofac, a giant factory supplying them with useless consumer items and ravaging the planet. Worried that it will never stop, a few of the group formulate a plan to interact with the automated customer service interface. They have two choices: talk the AI factory into stopping production or blowing it up. When the AI is personified as the Customer Interface (Janelle Monae), Emily sees her chance to make a difference.

Inevitably, the post-nuclear future has a touch of the ‘Mad Max’ about it. But, hey, it makes a change from the endless rain of ‘Blade Runner’. To be fair, it’s increasingly difficult to find anything new in the middle scene of the Science Fiction film. The only thing that changes is the use of computer rendered effects which continue to take their place almost unobtrusively in the background, making it quite impossible to ever know whether we can believe our eyes.

This is a clever reinterpretation of the original story and its quite the irony that we are already living virtually in this consumer hell. Forget nuclear Armageddon, its next-day delivery that will do for all of us. The story manages to include our current preoccupation with artificial intelligence and planet ecology in a well-wrapped and delivered parcel. We can find a use for this package, a little nudge to think more about how our consumerism is destroying the world.

Sue Davies

March 2018



Category: Scifi, TV

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