03rd Oct2017

‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams 1×03: The Commuter’ Review

by Paul Metcalf


With the episodes of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams we’ve seen so far there is a certain message being given to the audience, and they have to interpret it and understand what they are seeing. This week’s episode The Commuter makes an interesting of seemingly being set in modern-day times, but of course with a twist.

Ed Jacobson (Timothy Spall) works in a train station, finding his job a good way to escape troubles from home with his son. When Linda (Tuppence Middleton) tries to buy a ticket to a town that shouldn’t exist, it leads to Ed visiting a town that changes his life for the better, though it may not be what he wanted.

When we have things in our lives we would like to escape, in reality we know that we can’t do that. In The Commuter, that thing for Ed is his son who has behavioural problems which cause him to be aggressive. Ed of course loves his son, so he can’t exactly just remove him from his life? …Can he?

The idea of a village that doesn’t exist is a strange one, but that is key to the story of The Commuter. The investigations reveal that it almost existed, but the plans were cancelled. What it became was an alternative reality where everything seems to be better.

What The Commuter does is to take a wish that Ed has (to give his son a better life) and give it to him, without really asking for permission. The fact that Ed can’t forget his son says a lot about the problem with these realities. Yes, you can alter the reality you are in, but don’t expect that alteration to truly give you what you want.

This is visible not only in Ed’s life, but also various other people he meets in the village. Hayley Squires plays a waitress who seemingly seems happy there, but has moments where she tries to warn Ed about how perfect the place is. Her confession at the end helps the audience understand just what is going on. I’m sure many people will have questions about the episode, as there is an ambiguous nature to the story, like the earlier episodes.

While I did enjoy Impossible Planet more, this is still a very good episode. Timothy Spall is an actor who can be relied on to make his characters human, and with The Commuter being dependant on his humanity, he really delivers the performance needed. Tuppence Middleton and Hayley Squires are also good in the parts they play, holding together that feel of unreality that The Commuter relies on.

Looking at Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams so far, we have had a good balance of stories, and The Commuter shows that not every story is going to be set in a far-off planet of future. The elements of sci-fi though are still strong, and that is what is important. Electric Dreams so far has been about analysing human nature, and surprisingly finding a positive result. Now to see if things can stay positive in future episodes.

***** 5/5

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams airs in the UK on Channel 4, 9pm on Sundays.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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