Electric Dreams: “Impossible Planet” (David Farr, 2017)
One thing that struck me about the anthology series opener, “The Hood Maker”, was the openness of its ending — not in a Tales of the Unexpected twist way, but a leaving it open way. This week’s adaptation has another ambiguous ending, but in a more PhilDickian way and so inevitably, spoilers ahoy.
The story, “The Impossible Planet”, appeared in Imagination in October 1953 and so was part of that white heat of creativity of Dick’s short fiction. The basic premise is carried through: Ed Andrews (Benedict Wong) and Brian Norton (Jack Reynor) run a tourist business taking people around bits of the galaxy and showing them nebulae and pretty suns and odd planets. They are cutting the odd corner here and there, especially with health and safety, and are not above enhancing the view. Norton is after moving to what I take to be head office — under the impetus of his fiancé Barbara (a literal phoned in performance from Georgina Campbell), a PhilDickian bitch character if ever I saw one. Just after they close for the weekend (because what struggling tourism business would work on a Saturday?), a robot (Malike Ibheis/Christopher Staines) brings them a rich little old lady client, Irma Louise Gordon (Geraldine Chaplin) who wants to see Earth before she dies.
Given Earth has been lost, they are going to have to pull the wool over her eyes, and the glowing red eyes of the robot.
The robot is a red herring, so to speak, as it sees through the charade almost immediately. As the character design is part Bicentennial Man, partly “Robots of Death”, I was looking forward to some comeuppance, especially for the lovable gosh and begorrah gift of the gab Oirish Norton, who I was convinced was a former singer with Westlife. Perhaps the robot simply believes that a consoling lie is better than a brutal truth — and in Dick, the truth is to be preferred.
Meanwhile, there’s some uncanny business of Norton looking like Gordon’s grandfather that is never adequately explained. Is there some timey wimey nonsense à la Moffat, or is none of this real? For that matter, the Twilight Zone ending of the planet beginning to look like Earth doesn’t feel satisfactorily explained by the hallucinations of dying characters. Farr hasn’t really thought it through as script writer or director, and the design is pretty but pretty vacant.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of random prostitutes, who have wandered off Blade Runner 2049, to be slut shamed by Andrews.
Whilst Farr’s The Night Manager lingers as TV of the year in memory, this is all too forgettable.