Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Episode 2: Impossible Planet (TV episode review).

I’ve seen the future and it looks like we’ve added a filter. Travel to the endless wonders of the universe, has been reduced to seedy starships that offer the ultimate experience, if you don’t mind that it’s faked.

Brian Norton (Jack Reynor) works the ship and spiels the spiel to the gawping public. He yearns for something just out of reach. His colleague, Andrews (Benedict Wong), watches space porn and wiles away his space life. When an extremely ancient woman Irma Gordon (Geraldine Chaplin) approaches the pair with a proposition and Norton is torn even though the sum offered is five times his annual salary. It offers freedom especially from his girl-friend’s expectations.

Just who is Irma? She claims to be from Riga 2 and is accompanied by an ancient looking android who has a permanently wistful expression affixed to him. When Brian Norton meets her, there is a stirring of a dream just out of his reach.

Irma wants to go to Earth but it no longer exists on any space charts. Money talks though, specifically cash, so Andrews picks a planet that suits the criteria and off they set. After all, with those very special effects loaded, they can create the earth for Irma when they get there.

Don’t expect any bangs and crashes. At least for a while. This is a love story that happens to be set in a spaceship. The android RB29 is the sentinel who knows both the truth and the lies surrounding Irma’s trip. We are invited to observe him to see what actions he might take and given our preconceptions about technology we expect the worst.

The ending will split the audience between the cynical science adherents and the romantics. The whimsy of the moment is underscored by the very real dilemma of the ship and its occupants. We are invited to believe in a kind of truth; if we want to.

‘Impossible Planet’ is written from the original story by David Farr who adapted the very successful ‘The Night Manager’ for the BBC. The screenplay is directly adapted from the Philip K. Dick story of the same name but diverges considerably from it. It looks very good and there are obviously high production values. The missing scene is the usual grubby tech we have become used to and is now the shortcut for the far future which is less likely to age as badly on the screen as the past-futures promised in the old movies.

It’s a thoughtful piece but, ultimately, I found it dissatisfying with the romance element making it to creepy for me. It didn’t go where I wanted it to and so I became disengaged with it. At one point, I was getting a Butch and Sundance vibe and it felt twee. In the original story, there was a moment similar and preceding the ‘Planet Of The Apes’ reveal. Nothing to see here though. Good for some not for the many I suspect.

Sue Davies

September 2017

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