Feeling like the world gets more unmoored from reality every day?
Philip K. Dick
has your back.
Mr. Dick, the science-fiction writer whose novels inspired the movie “Blade Runner” and the TV series “The Man in the High Castle,” was long obsessed with exploring the blurred lines defining what is real and what it means to be human—alternate worlds, drug-induced illusions, artificial people who seem more real than the real thing. And his obsessions are about to get another video outlet: “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” an anthology series based on his stories, premieres this Friday on Amazon Prime.
The new show underlines the staying power of Mr. Dick’s work, more than 35 years after his death. In a world where longstanding political and social norms are fragile and crumbling, and technology is altering our relationships with the world and each other, Mr. Dick’s often outrageous visions would seem to be a perfect fit.
“I wonder if we’re edging closer to a world created in a PKD novel,” said
Isa Dick Hackett,
Mr. Dick’s daughter and an executive producer of “Electric Dreams.” “I think his central themes are more relevant now than ever.”
Each of the 10 episodes of “Electric Dreams” is based on one of Mr. Dick’s short stories. In these stories, a troubled policewoman seeks refuge in virtual reality, only to find the VR world staring back at her. A boy fears his father has been replaced by an alien. In a far-off future, a dying woman wants to visit Earth, which has long since become a wasteland.
Actors in the series include
(who is also an executive producer),
“They’re kind of universal themes, aren’t they—to deal with subjects that are so close to us as flesh and blood,” said actor
who appears in the episode “Human Is,” which features Mr. Cranston as a man returning from battle who suddenly seems different.
Ms. Hackett says she is proud of all the “Electric Dreams” episodes, but she feels a particular connection to “The Commuter” (no relation to the new
movie). It is about a rail-station employee who finds commuters are traveling to a stop on the line that shouldn’t exist, and how the discovery affects his relationship with his family.
“I love ‘The Commuter’—I think it’s so moving. It drills down to the core of relationships,” Ms. Hackett said.
But “I think you won’t find people agreeing on which ones they love,” she said.
In some ways, “Electric Dreams” resembles “Black Mirror,” the
anthology series about the dark places technology is taking us. But Mr. Dick was writing stories of fractured realities and alterations to the human mind and body decades before “Black Mirror” came along, and Ms. Hackett says “it was not a reference for us.”
“The themes of modern man, who are we and where are we going—that’s what he was writing about starting in the 1950s, and those are still our existential themes,” said Michael Dinner, an executive producer, director and writer on “Electric Dreams.”
Mr. Dick’s work is enjoying another culturally prominent moment—besides “Electric Dreams,” “Blade Runner 2049,” a sequel to “Blade Runner,” was released last fall, and the Amazon adaptation of “The Man in the High Castle” will air its third season this year.
“High Castle” illustrates how Mr. Dick’s work continues to resonate—it deals with an alternate world in which the Nazis and Japanese won World War II and the U.S. is an occupied nation. Ms. Hackett, an executive producer of “High Castle,” acknowledges filming the latest season of that show felt different, in a time when Nazis are no longer strictly the stuff of history, and when those who oppose the policies of the U.S. administration think of themselves as “the resistance.”
“Maybe now is a more important time for the show than ever,” she said.
Write to Michael Rapoport at Michael.Rapoport@wsj.com