Right now Channel 4 in the U.K. is running Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams—U.S. viewers will be able to see it once it gets on Amazon Prime next year. To my eye the series appears to be an almost slavish attempt to recapitulate the magic of Charlie Brooker’s dazzling Black Mirror, but really, any excuse to adapt ten early-period Philip K. Dick short stories with movie stars and high production values is A-OK with me.
The series was developed by Michael Dinner (Chicago Hope) and Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) and features, in the various episodes, such familiar faces as Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Vera Farmiga, Terence Howard, and Greg Kinnear.
“The Hood Maker” (originally published in 1955)
“The Impossible Planet” (1953)
“The Commuter” (1953)
“Crazy Diamond” (“Sales Pitch,” 1954)
“Real Life” (“The Exhibit Piece,” 1954)
“Human Is” (1955)
“Kill All Others” (Published as “The Hanging Stranger,” 1953)
“Safe And Sound” (Published as “Foster, You’re Dead!” in 1955)
“Father Thing” (Published as “The Father-Thing,” 1954)
In connection with the visionary themes of solipsism, madness, and unhinged reality, the series’ makers recruited Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon of Blur, Kevin Armstrong, Johnny Daukes, and Jon Estes to collaborate on a cover of “Octopus,” by rock and roll’s most famous mental ward occupant, Syd Barrett. “Octopus” is the first song on the second side of Barrett’s first solo album, 1970’s The Madcap Laughs. One thing that sets “Octopus” apart is that this is the song in which the lyric “the madcap laughs” appears.
Be warned that the available video that features the song is quite bizarre. It’s a collection of slow-motion clips from the Channel 4 series, so get ready to see plenty of Buscemi, Cranston, et al, but the entire time the words “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” are weirdly superimposed over/behind the image. It’s kind of cool but it feels a bit unfinished.
The video became available yesterday when Johnny Daukes gratified a fan’s request of Hitchcock on Twitter where he could hear the track.
For comparison, here’s Barrett’s original version, which sounds remarkably “contemporary” to me: