Due to the bizarre decision to air the series in uneven chunks (and also air the series in its ENTIRETY in the US during this break) we are back for the final four episodes Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. Based on the 1954 short story, ‘The Father-Thing”, this episode sees us venture into familiar extraterrestrial territory with the always wonderful Greg Kinnear.
Like the story it is based on, the episode is told from the perspective of a child. He discovers that his dad is not his dad, he’s an imposter. Now the great thing about the original story is that it gets straight to the point. It starts after he has seen his dad talking to something in the garage. I’m not saying the episode should have jumped straight in, but perhaps it took a little too long getting to the really interesting stuff. There’s a lot of set up with the father and son bond about baseball. But I struggled to connect with it.
The child the action revolves around is Charlie, played by Jack Gore. He does a really good job of playing a young character who is both savvy but not annoying. It never feels like he’s an adult. He’s a kid. His friends are like simplified versions of 80’s movie kids you’ve seen, in The Goonies and more recently in Stranger Things. There’s not a whole lot of time to develop them, but it’s cool how the douchebag bully turns out not to be such a bad guy.
Greg Kinnear is fantastic as the father/the father-thing. He really does seem like a great guy from the word go. That’s one genius casting decision, in my opinion. Having Greg Kinnear, to me, is like a shorthand way of saying “here’s a nice guy, an everyman”. Which helps with an anthology series like this. It has to convey these messages quickly and subtly.
This episode follows the story perhaps more than any other so far. Apart from a few small details, everything in the story has been transported to the small screen. But that’s also the problem. The story was bare-bones admittedly, but this episode tries to pad it out too much. The story mainly focuses on the son being chased by his father, and I feel that this element should have been worked on more. There didn’t really need to be a global, world-ending threat. It should have stayed on the small scale from the book and been a pulpy hour of sci-fi horror.
There are some excellent visuals in this episode, however. The meteor shower, the two dads in the garage, and the fire in the forest. It looks amazing. The direction is really great.But like the visuals, the episode is all surface, no real meat. It doesn’t put one foot wrong in my opinion, but sadly it also doesn’t take enough risks.
It’s competent, it’s well shot, well acted, it’s just very well put together. But it won’t stay with you. It kinda fails at the one key task we expect of good science fiction (especially by PKD). It doesn’t make you think. But for an hour of well-made TV, you could do a hell of a lot worse than spending it with Greg Kinnear.
Reviewed by Jack