For years, Hollywood has mined Philip K. Dick’s prophetic science-fiction stories to produce films like Blade Runner, its excellent sequel Blade Runner: 2049, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. In the streaming TV era, it’s Amazon that’s giving Dick’s stories new life, first with The Man in the High Castle and now through the anthology series Electric Dreams.
The streaming content wars are all about finding the next big hit. Between Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and a now a wide-ranging Disney portfolio—including FX, Hulu, and an upcoming standalone service—the pressure to churn out binge-worthy shows is at an all-time high.
Just look at the cash Amazon forked over for the rights to The Lord of the Rings in a bid to match the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones. HBO, meanwhile, tried to copy the alternate history success of The Man in the High Castle with Confederate. It did not go well.
Electric Dreams was created and produced by Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ron Moore and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, among others. The series adapts 10 of Philip K. Dick’s lesser known sci-fi works into star-studded hour-long anthology episodes that explore themes favored by Dick, including AI, consumerism, tech addiction, and the perception of reality.
Electric Dreams is a direct response to another sci-fi anthology series, Black Mirror. Both debuted on the UK’s Channel 4 and were subsequently bought by streaming giants, so they’ll be compared to each another until the end of time. Them’s the breaks.
Ranking ‘Electric Dreams’
Now when it comes to ranking individual episodes of Electric Dreams, there are two ways to do it: evaluating each adaptation as part of Dick’s larger sci-fi canon, or judging each episode’s standalone premise and execution on its own merit.
If you’re more concerned about each adaptation’s faithfulness to Dick’s original stories, this is not the list for you. Adi Robertson over at The Verge wrote a great piece comparing each episode to its source material.
Using the same rubric as our Black Mirror rankings, we rank each Electric Dreams episode according to a few key factors: its conceptual audacity and originality, immersive world-building, intelligent storytelling, and the all-important execution needed to tie an ambitious sci-fi premise together and make it feel real and relatable to the viewer.
It’s also worth noting the importance of character development and the exceptional acting and directing throughout, which isn’t surprising considering the star power involved. The series cast includes Cranston, Terrance Howard, Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin, Greg Kinnear, Timothy Spall, Vera Farmiga, Richard Madden, Maura Tierney, and Janelle Monáe.
Overall, the anthology series has a few exceptional highs, several mediocre entries, and quite a few duds. Season one of Electric Dreams is not nearly as consistent as the early seasons of Black Mirror, but there some gems to be found. Dive into our rankings below, sorted from best to worst.