×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How the 2016 Election Influenced ‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’ Adaptation

Long before Amazon explored the world of Philip K. Dick with the anthology series “Electric Dreams,” writer-director Dee Rees found herself enamored with his work. In addition to counting a number of films adapted from his writing amongst her favorites (including “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall”), Dees attempted to turn Dick’s short story, “The Martian Time-Slip,” into a feature. Though it didn’t work out, she had a fan in the late author’s daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, who brought Rees aboard “Electric Dreams.”

Rees had a number of Dick’s short stories to choose from, but she says she “gravitated” toward adapting the 1953 tale, “The Hanging Stranger.” In it, an unassuming man, Ed, spots a mysterious hanging body on a lamppost, but no one else in his small town seems to be bothered by its appearance.

Physical Metaphor

For her episode, “Kill All Others,” Rees opted to transform the story rather than do a beat-by-beat retelling. “The challenge is, how do you take something physical, like the body, and make it an idea?” Rees says.

Her solution was to have Philbert (Mel Rodriguez) hear and see the message “kill all others” while The Candidate (Vera Farmiga) — the only person running to rule the entirety of North America — gave a speech on television. Philbert, a simple man in an age of advancing technology, freaks out and can’t figure out why no one else is talking about the controversial statement.

“Writing [the episode] during the 2016 [presidential] campaign, it’s what was happening, in a way,” Rees says. “It was the not-so-distant future, because a lot of ideas were going unchallenged, and it felt like they were going unchallenged because they were unheard.”

Final Confrontation

In the climax of the short story, Ed (Glenn Morshower) escapes his town and tries to warn others — only to realize the body was bait to try and lure out people who weren’t under mind control. With his cover blown, Ed becomes the next hanging stranger.

“Kill All Others” pushes Philbert to a similar breaking point as he tries to tell everyone what’s going on. He gravitates toward an enormous electrical sign that proclaims “KILL ALL OTHERS” — and the police plan to subdue him thanks to his smart watch. “The attack on your freedom is not going to come in a physical way. You’re going to give it to them,” Rees says. “You’re going to tell them where you are, what you like, because you’ll get your stuff delivered sooner. People are blinded by the convenience of it; we give up our privacies bit by bit.”

Philbert’s resistence to technology “makes him even more isolated because everyone is plugged in,” Rees says. “For us as the audience, I want us to question, ‘Is he crazy, is he overreacting?’ It all starts to blur, and we feel his anxiety. And this is how the culture works: the police aren’t going to take you by force. They’re going to take you by chemicals [in the smartwatch controls]. It brought the culmination of the idea together: unconscious control by the state.“

But Rees did make sure there was a hanging stranger present for the final confrontation, and Philbert himself became an anonymous body, as the “KAO” protocol expanded into more of North America after its successful testing.

“That body was the nod to the story,” Rees says. “I thought it was important. But the more scary thing was this idea that hangs for a long time, and no one reacts to it, and then it becomes a literal, physical body — and still nobody reacts to it.”

More TV

  • Joanna Klein Jennie Urman

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Joanna Klein Launch Prodco at CBS Television Studios

    “Jane The Virgin” creator Jennie Snyder Urman and development executive Joanna Klein have partnered to launch their own production company, Sutton St. Productions, Variety has learned. The duo has multiple projects in development under their new production banner, including the comedies “You’re Killing Me” for streaming service CBS All Access and “Riches to Rags,” which is in [...]

  • 'Power' Shuts Down Production After Crew

    'Power' Shuts Down Production After Crew Member Killed

    The Starz series “Power” has shut down production after an on-set accident led to the death of a production assistant early Monday morning. Pedro Jimenez, 63, was setting up traffic cones for a shoot in Brooklyn at approximately 4:20 AM ET when he was struck by a 2006 Ford Explorer, with the driver remaining at [...]

  • Fyre Festival

    Netflix to Release Fyre Festival Documentary Next Month - Watch Teaser Video

    The Fyre Festival is a gift that keeps on giving for video streaming services, as Netflix today announced a documentary about the disastrous 2017 festival, which collapsed before it even started and landed its organizer, Billy McFarland, a six-year prison sentence. “Fyre” will be directed by Chris Smith, who helmed last year’s documentary “Jim & Andy: [...]

  • Tom DeLonge

    Tom DeLonge Paranormal Series 'Strange Times' in Development at TBS (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge left the hugely successful band in 2015 in part to explore other opportunities, including his interest in aliens and the paranormal. His passion resulted in the acclaimed graphic novel, “Strange Times,” which is now being turned into a series for TBS. The series, which Variety can exclusively announce is being [...]

  • Jodie Whittaker Back as 'Doctor Who'

    Jodie Whittaker to Return as 'Doctor Who' in 2020 Amid Strong U.S. Ratings

    “Doctor Who” will be back on global screens in early 2020, with Jodie Whittaker returning in her groundbreaking role as the show’s first regular female timelord. The show was renewed by the BBC amid mixed overnight but strong consolidated numbers in the U.K., and strong ratings in the U.S. British viewers tuned in in droves to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content