'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams' 1.9 The Commuter
Submitted for Your Approval
I said somewhere in my ongoing one-by-one reviews of Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams 10-episode standalone anthology on Amazon Prime that I thought the series was "right up there with The Twilight Zone." I just checked—that was in my review of the third episode. I make quick judgments—but I still feel that way. I even entitled my review of Electric Dreams 1.8 Impossible Planet "Eye of the Beholder," which was the title of one of the best Twilight Zone episodes. Of course, there were 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone, in contrast to only ten so far of Electric Dreams, so when I say "right up there" I mean only that the episodes I've seen in Electric Dreams rank with any random fraction of a season of The Twilight Zone. If and when Electric Dreams gets to exceed 150 episodes—which it actually could, given that Dick wrote 44 novels and 121 short stories—I'll get back to you with a more definitive comparison.
In the meantime, episode 1.9, "The Commuter," feels so much like a Twilight Zone episode that I half expected Rod Serling to appear and say "submitted for your approval" (though he actually said that only three times in the entire series). But "The Commuter" easily could have been a companion to "A Stop at Willoughby," the 30th episode of The Twilight Zone from 1960, which has also always been one of my favorites. Indeed, since Philip K. Dick's original "The Commuter" story was published in 1953 (in Amazing Stories—where, by the way, one of my first stories, "Albert's Cradle," was published in 1993), Rod Serling may well have read Dick's story and had it in mind when he wrote "Willoughby."
Jack Thorne does a fine job bringing it to the screen in 2018, greatly assisted by Timothy Spall whose Ed has one of those quintessentially British faces. His "Willoughby" is "Macon Heights," a stop on a train line that doesn't quite exist—literally. So here the "real or not real" thread is woven around a town, replete with a diner that serves great pie, which, when you add in the attractive, talkative waitress, also resonates with another real-or-not multiple-reality classic, Twin Peaks. David Lynch, Rod Serling, and Philip K. Dick do have a lot of uncommon in common.
About the author
Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; his LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan have been translated into 15 languages.