Review of 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams' 1.3 Human Is

Compassionate or Alien?

Review of 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams' 1.3 Human Is

Humans in outer space has been adapted to the screen less frequently than other themes of Philip K. Dick. But his work in that area is equally brilliant and sometimes better than his better-known themes - I've thought that ever since I read his "Beyond Lies the Wub" first published in 1952 - and in the case of Bladerunner ("Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"), the two motifs (outer space and robots) are in effect combined.

Human Is, the third standalone episode in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams 10-episode anthology now streaming on Amazon Prime, and which I'm reviewing one episode at at a time, is just about outer space, and is science fiction at its very zenith. Though, if we're dealing with Philip K. Dick, nothing he writes is ever just about that, whatever that is, because it's always imbued with the question that haunts and animates just about everything he wrote: is it real or dream, human or android, this dimension or another one?

In Human Is, the question is whether Silas (powerfully played, of course, by Bryan Cranston) is human or Rexorian, a dangerous species from another planet that likes to inhabit its human hosts. Silas left on the mission cold and distant to his wife Vera (played with sensitivity by Essie Davis, last seen - by me - in The White Princess and Game of Thrones) and returns full of tenderness, consideration, and lovemaking that Vera tells him she never experienced like that from him before. Silas nearly died on this mission. So is his new, much better behavior the result of that experience changing him, making him more human, or because he is no longer just Silas but a meld of Rexorian and human?

I'm not going to tell you ending. What I will say is that this is one beautiful piece of work, down to the cinematography by David Katznelson, the directing by Francesca Gregorini, and the writing for television by Jessica Mecklenburg. And the acting not only sails with Cranston and Davis, but strong supporting performances by Ruth Bradley (last seen in Humans - an android series about as Dickian as it gets) and Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham.

Having now seen three episodes of Electric Dreams, I'd say it's right up there with The Twilight Zone, and better (from what I've seen) than Black Mirror.

science fiction
Paul Levinson
Paul Levinson
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Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code (winner Locus Award, Best 1st Science Fiction Novel of 1999) & The Plot To Save Socrates. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context has been translated into 15 languages. 

See all posts by Paul Levinson