Electric Dreams Episode Six “Human Is” review

Adam Mathew 8 November 2017

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Grab yourself a man and don't let go?

This British-American Sci-Fi series turns up the star-power once again in “Human Is”. As always, you're about to viddy a replicant of a Philip K. Dick original, though this time it's been adapted by Stranger Things writer Jessica Mecklenburg and stars Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Game of Thrones alumni Liam Cunningham and Essie Davis. All the pieces are in place for something special, but there is some slight diversion from what Dick dispensed in 1955.
What both versions do share is the awful, failing marriage of the Herricks (but in this TV adaptation the cold and indifferent husband (Bryan Cranston) is named Silas as opposed to Lester.) Also, instead of fighting with his wife, Vera (Essie Davis), over custody of their son, this 2017 refresh simply poses Silas as ...well, a prick who's all-consumed by his military career. The general idea is to hate Colonel Silas quick, I guess. Totally works. The guy is a warmonger and an irredeemable oxygen-thief.

And I do mean literally. Electric Dreams weaves in some interplanetary conflict: Earth (or “Terra”) in 2520 is in the need and habit of stealing its atmosphere from other worlds. It's a scam right up the alley of Skroob, corrupt President of planet Spaceball. Though, instead of sending in a giant spaceship that transforms into a Mega Maid with a vacuum cleaner, Terrans just invade with troops to secure the local element that produces O2. So, in that regard, our modus operandi is more like Republican Space Rangers.

Terra has been at this thievery for a while, and their latest target is the planet known as Rexor IV, a backwater that's not exactly devoid of life. Though Vera warns her husband that the Rexonians may be sentient (conveniently, she's on his Operations staff) Silas, being the utter bastard he is, doesn't care. The good Colonel will attempt just about any morally-questionable mission if it'll prevent General Olin (Liam Cunningham) from destroying his record and legacy. Silas won't even back down from a suicide mission, lest it makes him look cowardly.

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As you probably guessed, everything goes FUBAR when spaceboots hit the ground. Once the element is secured and stored, Silas is surrounded by hostile electron-looking Rexorians, With his men dying like flies, he informs the brass via vid-link to put the ship on an auto-piloted course home and to drop a timed nuke. Olin will get his O2 and lose a rival, so he's down with that plan. Before the ordinance turns everything into space-paste, grainy footage of Silas dragging a buddy on board can be seen, but, given the radiation levels, they're written off as KIA.

Vera, God bless her heart, goes through a mourning period, but her grief is shattered when the military identifies two life readings present on the returning craft. Silas and a shipmate, Matthews, are thoroughly discombobulated by their ordeal, but after some rehab they check out fine. Better than fine, in fact.

Silas is now the model husband. Respectful, attentive, and he always leaves the sci-fi toilet seat down and the three seashells stocked (this is pure presumption on my behalf). Also, in the bedroom, he goes off like a frog in a sock. This is welcome news to Vera, as it will mean fewer secret trips down to the Choose Your Own Adventure orgy bars that exist in lower Terra. Yep, he's that good, ladies and gents... but why? Was his life-affirming escape the catalyst, or has he been hijacked by a Rexorian?

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This is certainly the case with the other survivor, Matthews. His loved ones have caught him sleep-talking gobbledygook (in a very Sci-Fi tone, no less). He's quickly labelled as body-snatched and all eyes turn to Silas. He's court-martialled and the brass demand he prove his identity and the details of his miraculous escape. Herein lies the theme that's the nucleus of this tale: what constitutes a human, exactly? Of his story, Dick wrote: “It’s not what you look like, or what planet you were born on. It’s how kind you are. The quality of kindness, to me, distinguishes us from rocks and sticks and metal, and will forever, whatever shape we take, wherever we go, whatever we become.”

Accusations are thrown, though nothing can be made to stick. Silas even offers himself up to be punished, even executed, if the admission will save his wife from further prosecution. It's this selfless act of chivalry that wins Vera over (though the mind-blowing interspecies sex may have played a role, too). It also directly contradicts Olin's main argument – Rexorians have no moral code.

She informs the State that, as the person that knows him best, she has seen no change in Silas Herrick. Also, if a display of sacrifice, kindness and love isn't enough to prove one's human, what is? The court adjourns and case of The People versus The Maybe Not A Person is settled in favour of the Herricks. In a private moment, Vera asks her husband if he minds if she still calls him Silas. The jig is up. He acquiesced with a kiss.

VERDICT

This episode is the most faithful to the Dick originals yet. Cranston pulls off his Metamorph's emotional...well, metamorphosis, quite well. Hobart homegirl, Davis, convincingly got her 26th century groove back.


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