“The slow black dog bows before the regal fox.”
I’ll be watching each episode of the series and comparing them to the short story they are based on. Number one, ‘The Hood Maker’ based on a short story from 1955.
So first things first. Obviously this show will be compared to the excellent Black Mirror as they are both serious sci-fi anthology series. But I want to start by saying, who cares? I think I speak for a lot of science fiction fans when I say there is room in the world for more clever, hard sci-fi. And ‘The Hood Maker’ suggests this series has a hell of a lot of potential.
The episode hits the ground running, and a lot of the background and exposition is inferred or hinted at. It’s made clear that this world no longer has the technology that they once had, but we don’t need to know any more. The old battered projectors and flickering lights tell us that electricity and power is not the commodity it used to be. The design on the world is excellent. From the dirty streets, to the noir-y detectives, to the creepy hoods themselves it feels like a labour of love from everyone involved.
Writer Matthew Graham (a sci-fi expert with Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, and Doctor Who all on his CV) changes the original short story, with good reason too – the original doesn’t even reach 20 pages. The original focuses more on the Teeps being used to prove your loyalty to the state. It was written at the height of McCarthyism and it shows. The Teeps are clearly the villain in the original story but it’s not so black and white here. The state here could very easily be the snoopy British government, checking all of our internet histories, or installing more CCTV cameras. No one wants to have their most secret thoughts exposed, just like no one wants Theresa May knowing what kinky porn they watch.
But at the same time The Teeps are not so good themselves. They are violent and aggressive, but haven’t they earned that? After the degrading living conditions, and the abuse they suffer at the hands of ‘Normals’, they have a good reason to rise up. My absolute favourite thing about the episode is that it doesn’t answer the questions. A few reviews I’ve read said that they feel it could be longer. But I disagree. It is a short story in cinematic form. It drops you into the middle of the action, in media res. And it ends before the story comes to its full conclusion. It’s this that makes it feel most like a short story by Philip K. Dick.
Another difference from the book is that the episode is a lot more personal. As I said above, the Teeps are a lot more nuanced here. There is a lot of time spent on the relationship between Ross and Honor. The original didn’t even follow Ross, he was a side character. And also the hoods of the title aren’t hoods in the original, they’re metal circlets. The new designs were born from a misinterpretation Graham had when reading the original story. The hoods look awesome and work much more visually than strips of metal would. They make a striking image. But these are all natural steps into making what is a small story into a more developed world.
It might annoy some people. The lack of a definitive fate for Game of Thrones heartthrob Richard Madden will irritate the more casual watcher. But the episode contained some classic science fiction ideas and allegories and was bolstered by two excellent central performances from Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger.
‘The Hood Maker’ was an exciting watch, and I am very optimistic for the next episodes. I will be attempting to watch the episodes and read the short stories each week, and then review/compare the two.
Reviewed by Jack