Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams: Safe and Sound
January 22, 2018 7:07 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

A small-town girl (Annalise Basso), already gripped with social anxiety, moves to a big city with her mother (Maura Tierney). For the first time she is exposed to urban society's emphasis on security and terrorist prevention. Her school days are soon consumed by fear and paranoia, but she finds guidance and companionship in the most unexpected of places. [Channel 4 summary]

Based on the short story "Foster, You're Dead" (story summary on PKD Review, with spoilers)
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total)
This is the real episode number; Amazon lists it as Ep. 6.

Robby Soave on Reason says that this episode "has a bunch of specifically libertarian axes to grind," but I disagree strongly. It's not that I don't want this future because I don't want government intrusion into my life, it's that I don't want anyone tracking me to this level, and I definitely don't want my kids to have ear pieces to provide them "tech support" to monitor their vitals and help them manage being a kid in an uncertain world. Also, did he not see that it's a company manipulating a child in order to increase their own product sales?

This was honestly the only episode that was unsettling, in that it felt like near-term sci-fi, something that could be brought into reality within the next 10 years if events lined up the right (or wrong) way. This is a perfect use of sci-fi - to critique creeping social norms, which works very well in this case where the anxiety of fitting in at high school is already a reality, and the added consumerist angle feels all too real.

On the other hand, I agree with film crit hulk calling this "sneakily offensive," in that it makes white people the oppressed minority, counter to the potential for sci-fi to address such real-world issues. Also, I can see how this episode tried to make Foster's malleability believable by layering on issues (country mouse in the big city, new kid at a school and she just wants to fit in, and a dash of "your father was schizophrenic" to make it seem like you might be, too) can make the whole thing feel like a mess, but perhaps because I'm often an easy sell, I believed it more than film crit hulk. Yes, the "look inside Simi Corporation manipulating Foster" was generally unnecessary, but it did cement the fact that she was used as a pawn after her weird ad lib at the end:
Safety and comfort might not be the same thing, but people do need both. Or they'll go really crazy. People need someone to trust even if they can't see them, even if their voice comes from, um a sunbeam or a or a tree.
But the fact that she made an impressive-looking bomb tipped the scales towards "she's being guided," given that she hadn't shown any particular mechanical or chemical proficiency elsewhere in the episode.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:27 AM on January 22, 2018

And in current news leaking into recent sci-fi, I saw this Wired story of Qualcomm moving beyond mobile and thought, "no thanks, I don't want my car to be linked to Netflix, or Yelp" -- and opening with a wireless biometric earpiece didn't help me separate near-term reality from near-term sci-fi like this episode.

Yes, I can see a myriad of benefits from connected technologies, but when they're all tied back to specific brands, it feels more like we're headed towards another PDK-related future: Minority Report.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2018

But the fact that she made an impressive-looking bomb tipped the scales towards "she's being guided," given that she hadn't shown any particular mechanical or chemical proficiency elsewhere in the episode.

To me, it was pretty clear Simi Helpdeskguy was manipulating and guiding Foster into doing stuff. The question was if she was manipulated into actually uncovering a terror cell that her mother was activating, or her paranoia was fed by a bunch of coincidences the Simi chairman or whatever exploited to turn her into a false sleeper agent so they could arrest her mother (and I suppose, pretext for something against "the others").
posted by lmfsilva at 6:44 AM on January 25, 2018

man... that was rough. and it's always so unsatisfied when the bad guys win.
posted by numaner at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2018

Normally when I read Film Crit Hulk I feel like I'm learning a lot from him, but in this case, I kind of disagree with everything he said?

First off, I don't buy the racial complaint. It's a story about a corporatist government manipulating the populace to its own ends. That's a valid description of what we're all experiencing now no matter our race (or political alignment), and this episode is dramatizing that situation. If Foster were a POC, would that point be better served? No, it would become a story of POC becoming complicit in their own oppression by white supremacists. That's a fine story hook, that's just not what this story was about. This episode was not trying to speak to the racial minority experience in any way at all, but FCH excoriates it for being too clumsy in expressing the racial minority experience and trying to erase it.

(I checked back to see whether FCH had commented on the racial overtones of "Autofac's" only black person being a robot slave, a choice which didn't sit well with me despite Janelle Monae's wonderful performance, but he did not mention it in his review.)

I won't try to rebut his whole review point by point, but I will add that the mental illness angle wasn't included to justify Foster's choice to fake an attack—real-life mentally stable teens do much stupider things with a little egging on—but to keep the viewer in that liminal state of not knowing what's real that is the hallmark of so many PKD stories. Besides, we know that Foster is indeed just on the edge of sanity, unless you believe Ethan actually got the planes above to skywrite "Thank you Foster" at that precise moment.

Anyway, I enjoyed this episode very much—the season's back half has been much stronger than its first half. It's interesting how the writers have been using Dick's stories as mere jumping-off points but generally write stories that incorporate Dick's favorite themes and motifs. The series deserves awards and accolades for its production design—the impossibly fast sky craft leaving a lattice of multicolored streaks in the sky was a genius visual, as were the candy-colored self-driving cars. (And the Lees' rusted-out jalopy Prius was hilarious.) Also, the casting throughout the series has been fantastic—it was great to see long-time faves Maura Tierney and Martin Donovan here, and Annalise Basso did a bang-up job as Foster.
posted by ejs at 6:53 PM on January 30, 2018

This was OK but a little obvious/didactic to be really great. The original story was the same, to be honest. I briefly considered whether it might all be in her head but not too seriously, especially after they showed her making the bomb. It was fine that it didn't have a dramatic twist ending, so why add the lat bit, which was screaming "Ha! Cool twist ending, right!?"
posted by nequalsone at 6:59 AM on May 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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