Dangerous Visions: Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (part 1)

Do Androids dreamby Philip K. Dick, adapted by Jonathan Holloway

BBC Radio 4, June 15 (repeated June 21)

Rick Deckard, bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, is put on the trail of Nexus-6 androids who have come to Earth illegally…

They may both be based on the same source text, but Jonathan Holloway’s two-part adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel makes clear how different it is from Blade Runner right from the outset. This isn’t a Los Angeles pelted with rain, and hovercars flying past huge moving billboards – this is San Francisco, Christmas 1992, some twenty years after a terrible war which has left virtually no animals left alive. (It’s not a slavish following of Dick’s text though: for a start, the original story is set in January, not December!) Rick Deckard has a sheep, but it’s an electric one and he longs for the day when he has the money to buy a real animal… and that’s what ‘retiring’ the Nexus 6 androids will hopefully allow him to do.

Purefoy makes a good world-weary Deckard with Jessica Raine equally strong as Rachel Rosen, the Nexus 6 who nearly – but not quite – can pass as human. Nicky Henson gets an interesting double role (a nice added twist by Holloway to the paranoia already present in the scene in which this appears), with Anton Lesser suitably creepy as Rosen.

Voight-Kampff v3Unfortunately, Stuart McLoughlin doesn’t get as much to do as J.R. Isidore in this version: unless the second part backtracks, then Dick’s secondary thread, which follows Isidore, has been lost. That’s a bit of a shame, since it counterpoints the humanity that the genetically-damaged J.R. shows to the androids with the lack of it Deckard displays, something on which he is called during the story, in one of the many portions of dialogue lifted directly from the original.

Holloway has made various changes and excisions to Dick’s original (from quite major ones such as this Deckard not having to cope with a wife who can’t self-medicate properly, to minor ones, like Luba Loft being a nightclub singer rather than an opera star) but this streamlining has brought Deckard’s pursuit front and centre, and although Dick’s story isn’t first-person narrated, there are plenty of moments from Deckard’s point of view from which to extrapolate.

Verdict: A strong adaptation which brings out many of the themes in Dick’s work. 8/10

Paul Simpson

 

DV_brand_image_1920x1080Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is available now on iPlayer and repeated on June 21.

The next Dangerous Vision is The Bee Maker on June 16 at 2.15 pm.

Click here for our review of The Illustrated Man

here for our review of The Problem with Talitha

and here for our interview with Commissioning Editor Jeremy Howe discussing the whole season

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  1. Pingback: Radio 4 reveals new Dangerous Visions (updated) | Sci-Fi Bulletin - June 15, 2014

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