Channel 4’s Electric Dreams
Season 1, Episode 2: “Impossible Planet”
Directed & Written by David Farr
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Hood Maker” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Commuter” – click here
We see a group of people with visors on watching the “Hermagon aurora.” A man named Brian Norton (Jack Reynor) narrates, as everybody witnessing the spectacle oohs, aahs. We’re on a space ship, deep in the midst of space in some distant star system. There’s also Ed Andrews (Benedict Wong), who watches the “rats in a sewer” enjoying the trip. They’re space tourism agents, essentially, for Astral Dreams.
Someone shows up knocking incessantly on the door. An old deaf lady named Irma Louise Gordon (Geraldine Chaplin). She wants to go to Earth. She’s 342 years old, from a planet called Rega-2. And she has a lot of money to offer, a cash transaction. The reason the lads don’t initially want to go is because a while back a solar fire brutalised the planet, it’s said to no longer be inhabited.
So, why go, Irma Louise? Can Ed and Brian even get there safely?
Brian gets talking to Barbara (Georgina Campbell), she mentions a transfer. Then he gets a video message from Linus Primo (Justin Butcher), denying him a transfer. He’s applied fifth times. Rejected. Now, Barbara isn’t happy with being there so long. She’s disappointed in his lack of social status, it seems. Ah, though things change with technology, it’s all still the same. Money’s the bottom line.
This prompts Brian to consider the old lady’s offer more seriously, and they’re on the way now. Irma Louise has a drink, talks about her own grandmother, who lived to 279, whose own father lived in Carolina on Earth, a “logger.” She told Irma Louise about a place where her grandparents skinny dipped together, a place she always wanted to see – “Elk River Falls.” Where she wants to go.
Brian finds out from Ms. Gordon’s robotic friend RB29 (Malik Ibheis; voiced by Christopher Staines) that she is actually going to die in a couple months, a heart condition. Afterwards, they use a bit of technology to actually talk without RB29 communicating between them. He talks about Barbara a little, though he seems a bit apprehensive; he second guesses himself when his words are coming up Ms. Gordon’s little screen. He begins questioning the divergent desires between him and his girlfriend. Reoccurring is an image of the spokes of a red bicycle, spinning and spinning, he’s seen this a couple times now.
RB29 is sneaking around, too. I don’t trust him. Neither should you. Or Ed, or Brian. He’s up to something, I’m just not sure what as of yet. They’re getting closer to Earth, and the closer they get the less I trust the robot. Although I guess he’s only looking out for Ms. Gordon’s interests, worried that these guys are scamming.
Ed: “I mean, me, I‘m trash, got no illusions. You, you got class.”
Brian feels bad because he and Ed are con artists, that they sell “predigested happiness” to people. Now they’re ripping off an old woman so they can do what they want for the rest of their lives. This starts putting the two lads at odds, Ed certainly doesn’t like the way his friend is talking.
They’re supposedly about to orbit Earth. Brian gets closer with Irma Louise, who gives him a kiss for being so gentlemanly. She shows him a picture of her grandparents – he looks exactly like her grandfather, Bill Gordon. Eerie. Like fate, across space and time.
Later on Brian calls Barbara, wondering if she dreams of him. He says he doesn’t dream of her, not anymore. He’s beginning to reevaluate his life, and all due to meeting Ms. Gordon. Things start going awry for Astral Dreams when she knows Mars is red, not green like what they see outside the ship. RB29 steps in to let her know about an event that broke Saturn from its rings, turned Mars green. Then Brian tells her Earth isn’t the same as it was once. They can’t even get too close to the planet. Nothing’s the same, not like she’d imagined, anyway. Not from what she’d heard, the memories of her grandmother.
Brian decides they’ll land, they’ll try and take Ms. Gordon to Carolina.
But it’s a rough journey. They fly through a terrible storm, the ship rumbling as space debris flies past at ultra high speed. The old woman holds on for all her life is worth. Brian has flashes of the bike, a couple riding it together.
Then a crash landing. Everybody’s okay, but things are messed up.
At odds with Ed again, Brian agrees to take the old woman out onto Earth, so as to get her money’s worth, to fulfil her dream. One condition: under the suit he wears the clothes of her grandfather. While RB29 and Ed stay behind, the other two head into the “toxic, sterile” environment. Then Ed discovers the robot’s done some nasty business, shagging with the oxygen tanks, leaving Brian and Irma Louise out there to breathe in the atmosphere.
When they take their helmets off, they’re in another place. Back on Earth. There, with the red bicycle; it’s name, Dream Weaver. Irma Louise is young like her grandmother. Brian in the clothes of ole Bill Gordon. They skinny dip together below the falls in a paradise. Or is it merely illusion within death?
I enjoyed the first episode; this one was even better! Love these inspired episodes, love the themes. It’s so enjoyable to see Dick’s writing out there more, plus such great actors and actresses involved.
“The Commuter” is next.