The short story ‘The Hood Maker’ by Philip K Dick is just that – short – spanning only 12 pages of Gollallacz’s Second Variety: Volume two of the Collected Short Stories which coincidentally also contains the stories ‘Human Is’, ‘The Impossible Planet’, ‘Second Variety’ (obviously) which may or may not have inspired – Cameron’s Terminator, and ‘Adjustment Team’ which was adapted into the film The Adjustment Bureau. 

The hour-long television adaptation of the ‘The Hood Maker’ was the first episode of the eagerly anticipated series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams on Channel Four in the UK. The series promises to include takes on ten short stories by PKD including ‘Human Is’ and ‘The Impossible Planet’. The cast is brilliant and with Sony and Amazon involved along the way I’m anticipating that the effects and sets will be top notch.

The written version of ‘The Hood Maker’ involves a plot among the telepaths a.k.a. ‘teeps’ to take over the Government of the Free Union by writing false reports implicating government officials in criminal activities and treason. The TV version doesn’t. In fact it features a genuine teep interrogation somewhat reminiscent of the interrogation of Leon in Bladerunner in which the teep uncovers the detainees inappropriate feelings for his mother.

The TV version looks at the relationship between a newly recruited teep and her police partner. It could be argued that this story is set before the written story, but as they both involve a hood maker it’s hard to pretend it’s not just a grungy retelling of a clunky short story for a modern audience with some subtle nods towards the most well-known Dick adaptation Bladerunner ahead of the new movie starring Ryan Gosling to ensure that the series gets off to a decent start and viewers new to PKD are eased in gently.

In fact as I understand it, various degrees of looseness will be involved in all the episodes’ adaptations of Dick’s short stories. That’s fine, it’s not like Blade Runner was anything like ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and it gives me, a nerdy PKD fanboy, something to blog about.

In the written version the hoods are being mass produced to try an ensure the teeps can’t falsely implicate government workers (there are 5,000 hoods already in circulation). In the TV version the hood maker is old scientist who did various experiments on teeps in the past and has decided to set up a cottage industry in an old book production plant to help the common people revolt against the impending rise of homo superior.

The book explains how the teeps came to be – in very much comic origin story style – as a result of waves of ‘hard radiation’ from an ominous sounding event called the Madagascar Blast messing with people’s reproductive bit-bobs and causing mutation in their progeny. This event occurred in the far-flung year of 2004.The TV episode doesn’t bother – best to just get on with the twisted love story and shots of people fishing. Who took the photo of the father and son fishing?

The written story is based in a future where doors ‘melt’ away at the push of a button and robot police are armed with ‘slem ray’ guns. In the TV version there’s no robot police, just guys in riot gear, and the police drive around in old Ford Cortinas on what looks like a set left over from Channel Four’s recent near-future sci-fi outing The Aliens.

Despite the long coat, the hero getting his leg over the ‘enemy’ and lots of running about, there’s no flying cars, in fact they’re probably lucky if they even start in the morning, and so it’s no Bladerunner.  Just a very good opening episode of what I hope will turn out to be the first season of a very memorable television series.

By the way The Handmaid’s Tale won a bunch of Emmys and Charlie Brooker got one for Black Mirror. So it really is a good time to be a science fiction fan!

Photo by Danir Yangirov on Unsplash