Human Is

The written version of ‘Human Is’ by Philip K Dick can be found in Gollallacz’s Second Variety: Volume Two of the Collected Short Stories alongside other stories that have been adapted for television such as ‘The Hoodmaker’ , ‘The Commuter‘ and ‘The Impossible Planet’ and covers around twelve pages.

The short story is a simple tale of a rather unlikeable inventor of toxins who goes on a trip to a planet and comes back changed. When he comes back he’s kind to his wife and the child she is looking after. He goes so far as suggesting that they adopt the boy.

The authorities recognise that the man’s psyche has been replaced by that of one of the planet’s inhabitants and indeed this is how the inhabitants plan to get off their decaying planet and colonise other planets.

Because Terran law applies to the termination of the man, they need the wife to testify that her husband’s personality has complete changed. The twist is that she decides she likes this new version of her husband a whole lot more than the original and so pretends that he hasn’t changed. It ends with him thanking her, them kissing and him telling her he’ll do whatever she wants.

It’s fun to read about some of Dick’s rather Jetsons style future predictions such as an automatic cooker, a robant servant (like in Impossible Planet), and more tape technology.

The on-screen version of ‘Human Is’ was episode six of the television anthology series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams shown yesterday in the UK on Channel 4. It looks like they spent a lot more money on this episode than others, perhaps because it starred one of the executive producers – Bryan Cranston.

Cranston plays Silas Herrick a courageous leader awarded for military bravery but a real arrogant arsehole to his wife Vera played by Matrix veteran Essie Davis. Ruth Bradley out of Channel 4’s Humans plays Vera’s colleague Yaro Peterson. Liam Cunningham from Game of Thrones plays General Oled who might as well be Lord Davos for all the difference he makes to the show. Typecast much?

Terra 2520 is in a state of emergency. They have less Less than 5 month’s of air reserves. People resort to breathing masks to get some quality air into their lungs. The other planet, Rexel 4, is being stripped of resources (‘hydran’ to clean the air) despite it being inhabited. Sounds a lot like unobtainium in Avatar.

Silas sleeps in a separate room from Vera, with whom he was paired to by the state, in a kind of post apocalyptic cliff side block of apartments and offices in a canyon. While he’s busy ignoring her, Vera goes to a basement sex club and has a threesome without taking her clothes off. The next day Silas goes off on his mission to bring back some resources from the dangerous planet.

His crew comes under attack. The ship is full of hydran, a warhead is detonated and the ship autopilots back to Terra. Silas has managed to get aboard with a crewmate Matthews. Unfortunately footage recovered from the ship shows that two of the inhabitants – balls of energy a.k.a. Rexorians – also get inside the craft before takeoff. This is contrary to Silas’s report that they got away without any of the naughty aliens getting aboard.

The story then pretty much follows the written version, although there’s no child involved. Silas is changed. he is more loving and attentive to his wife. The TV show makers have sexed the story up and after he makes her breakfast, including hard to find strawberries, (the automatic oven is nowhere to be seen) they end up shagging quite vigorously. Something they both enjoy a lot.

A Brazil style night raid by police then occurs. Silas is arrested because Matthews is revealed to be a metamorph. Because he’s ‘level 1’ they can’t terminate without a trial and they’ll be relying on Vera’s testimony – this makes more sense than the excuse given for a need for a trial in the short story.

Silas makes a good speech about how he’ll give them a confession if they don’t punish Vera. She then points out that lord Davos said that a Rexorian metamorph would never accept to be sentenced to death to save another, so that proves Silas is human.

If that’s not human then what is? Vera asks.

Back at home Vera asks Silas his real name. He says that he can’t form the sounds so she says she’ll just continue to call him Silas. The show ends with a nice cover version of Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’ which is a good choice as it contains the line ‘I don’t believe that anyone feels the way I do about you now’.

It was a very good episode and I was only disappointed by the continuity announcing telling that “Electric Dreams returns in the new year…” WTF! There’s four more episodes yet. First the Grand Prix, now this, curse you schedulers!

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

 

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