Channel 4’s Electric Dreams
Season 1, Episode 10: “Father Thing”
Directed & Written
by Michael Dinner
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Safe & Sound” – click here
A boy named Charlie Cotrell (Jack Gore) talks fondly of his father (Greg Kinnear), a good man, “not a dick.” Just the type of dad any young boy would want in his life. They’d go on camping trips together, dad always made sure to be at his baseball games; all kinds of fun things. What we’d consider a ‘normal’ father-son relationship.
But see, now the world is different, after one night there appears “lights in the sky.”
The changes aren’t entirely drastic. They’re gradual. First, nothing’s too noticeable, only slight changes, as if suddenly things don’t exactly feel quite right.
Dad and son get back to mom (Mireille Enos) at home after a camping trip. It’s evident there’s something the two of them aren’t telling their boy. At night, Charlie has trouble sleeping, so he gets up and chats to his buddy Dylan (Jack Lewis) online; they make some plans for tomorrow. In their room, the parents discuss their relationship, its obvious disintegration, where things go from there.
Outside there’s noise. Dad goes to check it out, finding a dog rattling around in the trash cans by the alleyway. And again, lights drop from the sky towards Earth, rain begins pouring.
The next day, Charlie rushes to meet Dylan, then they head over to school. A typical day in the life of a few young boys, such as a discussion about the “Land of Boobs.” Funny, though, how they talk about it doesn’t sound perverted like if it were older dudes, it’s more so the hilarious curiosity of kids. In class, their teacher Mr. Dick (Terry Kinney) turns towards the whiteboard, giving his lecture, only turning around to ask a few questions when the boys are chatting too much. We also get the sense young Charlie’s a pretty smart lad.
Sucks when he gets home, tries to call Dylan, getting older brother Henry (Zakk Paradise); seems he’s going to get an ass kicking soon. Gets shittier once dad is home. Charlie watches something in the garage open its mouth, a ray of blue light emanating from it engulfing his father. Whoa. Inside, dad goes to the dinner table with Charlie and mom like nothing happened. The boy’s terrified. Suddenly, dad’s talking of a trip to the Galapagos Islands for Christmas, there’s a weird worm-like thing running underneath the skin across his face. This sends the kid to his room. Dad goes to check on him, Charlie doesn’t want to let him in, so mom calls her husband off.
The young lad heads out the window, going to check on the garage. Dad spies him, so this drive him further away, running to talk to Dylan at his place. He winds up telling the two brothers about what’s going on, though shortly his dad is there to find him. They head off for home. There, Charlie starts looking online only to see many others are experiencing the exact same thing. The internet connection goes out, then he looks through the window to see dad and a bunch of other random people from the neighbourhood talking, before they all go somewhere together. Really eerie moment.
Charlie tries telling his mom about what’s going on, he can’t exactly explain things well enough. She tries assuring him things will be fine. But he’s rightfully freaked out. People at school already think his dad’s a “mutant zombie.” Word gets around.
Then, when class is supposed to start, Mr. Dick is found out on the top of the school ready to commit suicide. Police, the fire department arrive. Seems the teacher’s worried about his wife, he wants her back; except she never left. She’s not herself, he says. Instead of being talked down, the teacher takes a step off, hurtling towards the pavement as everyone watches. School’s dismissed, so that just means Charlie’s gotta go home with the father thing.
The kid says fuck that. He goes home, while the dad-alien is at school to pick him up, and heads inside the garage. He looks into a trash can finding a hideous suit of skin underneath some old leaves. Dad finds him, asking to play a bit of ball together. They go to the field, hitting balls. The alien talks about a dwindling planet, about becoming a “more perfect version of yourself.” The alien’s scary, in a subtle way.
After Charlie gets away from the field, the father thing, he wanders into a diner looking for some cops. Two officers take him to see a Detective Fernandez (Alana Arenas). The young boy tells her that his father’s “been replaced” by a monster, that others in the neighbourhood have been replaced, as well. He gets spooked when the detective seems to know too much about him. So, again, he’s on the run.
I know it’s not meant in this way, but the plot is a great metaphor for how we listen to and trust kids, whether that be about small things, or much bigger, uglier things. It’s just an interesting way to see the perspective of children, by placing their predicaments into a science fiction setting. People don’t believe children enough, in a sense they’re marginalised.
Charlie and the two brothers try springing a trap on the alien-dad. Things don’t go as planned, not at all. It’s a bad fuck up. This sends Charlie on the run all over, with the father thing in pursuit. They wind up out in the woods, sort of like when we first saw them at the beginning.
Spookier now, there are gelatinous pods in the forest containing Others. Such as one that looks like his mother. The father thing explains he should “stop fighting,” things will be easier. He tries shooting out some light from his mouth, and the two brothers arrive, running him down with a car. From the dad’s mouth comes a nasty creature, a bug-like thing that Dylan crushes with his foot. Afterwards, they light the whole place up, burning the pods, the father thing’s corpse, watching everything go up in a blaze.
Can they get rid of the “dickheads from space“? Or, is it too late? Have too many people been replaced? Either way, Charlie tells others online that they will never stop fighting these Others from space, coming to invade their planet and replace their loved ones. Interesting he uses the hashtag #resist, though I’m not sure if there’s any commentary there. Doesn’t need to be, because it’s just a great episode.
Loved this one. Turned out to be way better than I’d anticipated at the start. So much fun, eerie, too. Kinnear was particularly unsettling after the alien took hold. All around a weird and wild little episode. This whole series was fun. Crossing my fingers we’ll get Electric Dreams Season 2, sooner rather than later. The world needs more relevant science fiction.