Electric Dreams – Episode 3: The Commuter – Review

The Commuter - train photoWritten by Jack Thorne

Directed by Tom Harper

Electric Dreams is a science fiction anthology of unrelated short stories based on the stories of renowned science fiction writer Philip K Dick, who is best known for his dystopian depictions of human life.

I’ll be reviewing some of these short stories to cover the themes that resonate in these inspiring episodes. Though an avid fan of Philip K Dick’s stories, I haven’t actually read some or all of the short stories that inspired the episodes in this adaptation.

‘BAFTA-winning actor Timothy Spall (Mr Turner) will star in “The Commuter.” He plays Ed Jacobson, an unassuming employee at a train station who is alarmed to discover that a number of daily commuters are taking the train to a town that shouldn’t exist.’

Ed Jacobson and his wife have a psychotic son. A therapist suggests that if he is not treated soon then he will get worse. Their son has gone now, and they both try to forget about him and live in a bubble of happiness that only includes the couple. It’s only later that we get a hint that Ed’s son, Sam, has been taken to Macon Heights, which is a mysterious place that according to travel routes doesn’t exist.

And that’s not all. Ed keeps seeing dark-haired Linda, an apparition, who first introduced him to Macon Heights. He wonders if she is real. Even his wife expresses the worry that she is more frightened of Ed’s insincere smile than she is of her psychotic son. It’s at this point we begin to wonder who the story is about; if not Sam, then maybe the person with the problem is actually Ed. After all, he is seeing people he isn’t sure are real.

Out of curiosity he visits Macon Heights, which is an ideal town where everybody appears happy. You’d expect to see something amiss sooner or later, but it’s not what you think. Ed keeps returning home and telling his wife not to worry about ‘what could have been’ regarding Sam’s notable absence from both Macon Heights and home.

*SOME SPOILERS BELOW*

Later we see that Macon Heights isn’t a real town, or even an illusion conjured by any other malevolent entity. It is a representation of Ed’s mind. He buried the truth about Sam’s past offences and wanted to live in an ideal marriage instead of a truthful one. At some point he realises why he got married in the first place: for love. Ed fights to get his son back from Macon heights (and the place he has put him in, in his mind).

Ed has to reconcile the parts of his mind that want a happy ideal reality and the actual reality where he makes the ‘right’ choices. Denying or removing Macon Heights, as he did with actual reality, may not solve the problem.

It is confusing at points whether the son he sees in his mind is Sam or whether it represents Ed’s inner child that he has been denying. To consolidate the fact that it is all in the dad’s head we see the son in the kitchen at the end, as if he had never been taken to Macon Heights or anywhere else and it makes sense, for though it is suggested Sam should go for treatment we never saw him admitted or taken to a particular place.

More information about Electric Dreams

Missed it? Watch it on Channel 4’s Catch Up

 

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