Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams “Autofac”: Everything Is Replaceable
The post-war dystopian future setting is a well-used device to demonstrate humanity’s sense of survival and innovation. Typically, our intrepid collection of hopeful scavengers are pitted against each other (ala Lord of the Flies), or a non-human adversary, or an environmental obstacle.
In “Autofac”, the peril they face is the automated factory (hence the “AutoFac”) which has trapped them in their settlement and threatens to literally bury them in product, pollution, and packaging.
We begin in a dream, or a memory, where the community “tinkerer” Emily Zabriskie (Juno Temple, Vinyl) is driving away from the city just as a missile destroys it. Waking in her current situation, we see how the Autofac sends unwanted goods by drone and how Zabriskie shoots one down in order to hack in and figure out a way to get the Autofac’s attention.
Ironically, considering Electric Dreams is being shown on the Amazon Prime service, it feels like a veiled dig at Amazon’s own proposed drone delivery system. The fully automated factory is everything a consumerist culture could want.
Once Zabriskie launches the Customer Complaint command, she and her buddies, Conrad (David Lyons, The Cape) and Rev (Jay Paulson, Mad Men) let the rest of their community know to expect the Autofac to reach out in the next twenty-four hours. Of course, they have no idea what that’ll look like.
It ends up looking remarkably likeÂ Janelle MonÃ¡eÂ (Hidden Figures). She plays a customer service simulacrum named Alice sent to resolve the alleged complaint of “pizzled” merchandise.
Conrad and Rev try to explain to Alice that they want the Autofac to stop operations so that they can rebuild their society without the constant stream of instant trash being delivered and the pollution the Autofac puts into the air and water. Alice is polite, engaged, and doggedly immovable on the topic.
So, Plan B kicks in. Nuke the Autofac with warheads that Conrad has been holding onto for just this occasion. Zabriskie zaps her to knock her out and hacks into system to attempt to reprogram her to make her assist in their plan.
The script is well-paced and cleverly foreshadows the ultimate reveal of the story – that Zabriskie and everyone that she knows are all simulacrum just like Alice. The war destroyed all of humanity and the Autofac had no function because it had no consumers until it realized that it could produce its own consumers.
The fascinating tidbit for me is that Autofac had a finite number of simulacrum designs so it created many individual communities, each composed of the exact same collection of people. Thus, every community has its own Zabriskie, its own Conrad, etc.
Of course, they are sophisticated enough that they would form their own attachments so not every Avishai (Nick Eversman, Once Upon A Time) will have wooed and won his respective Zabriskie. But, in our specific community, it makes all the difference that he did.
Delightfully, it’s a double twist because once Alice has reversed the situation on our Zabriskie and has her strapped down for “reprogramming”, the “anomaly” that she tries to remove turns out to be malware that Zabriskie had planted within herself, having realized years ago what she actually was.
The malware shuts Autofac down, which is Zabriskie’s way of righting the wrong the original Emily Zabriskie committed by inventing Autofac in the first place (another powerful reveal that built on the mysterious issue of Wired Magazine that Zabriskie was so protective of) and she returns to her community and Avi, presumably to live out their mechanical lives in an idealized sort of Westworld.
Although Temple and Eversman effectively convey the awkwardness of their relationship and Conrad and Rev are believably cautious about poking the Autofac bear while still committed to its take down, it wasÂ MonÃ¡e’s performance as Alice that really impressed me. Acting the part of a machine programmed to act like a person is no mean feat and she perfectly personifies that infuriating auto-voice we all know so well from telephone routing systems.
I appreciated the intricacy of this story which was elegantly explained through select details and exposition. It’s ambitious to try to explain how a situation arises and even more ambitious to present a final solution to it that makes sense.
Of course, it left a lot open for discussion, despite its “happy” ending. The simulacrums will never procreate which could be explained by Autofac’s pollution but what about when they realize they don’t age? Is there a programmed reset or filter? Is there a randomized auto shut-down to simulate death?
The biggest question I was left with was,”What about the other communities Alice mentioned?” She indicated that they were consuming according to Autofac’s plan. If Autofac is no longer producing anything, how do they survive? Do they start pushing out past the previously-armed no-go zones? What happens when they find their doppelgÃ¤nger communities?
I feel like it’s a good sign that this one sticks with me the way it does – for good thought-provoking reasons rather than petty continuity issues.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From on EPIX Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks EPIX’s From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People, which US audiences still have not been able…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
Avery Konrad Talks About Sara’s Struggle in From “Silhouettes”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Over the course of the season so far on From, we’ve witnessed Sara’s battle against the voices telling her to to do terrible things, and tonight we saw her unravel further, threatening the Matthews and lashing out in a moment of terror with horrifying results….
Hannah Cheramy Talks From “Choosing Day”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight, on EPIX’s From, the Matthews participate in the show’s version of the sorting hat, choosing where to call home–the town or Colony House. At the end of the episode, Julie makes the decision to split from her family and instead settle in with Fatima…
Ricky He Talks From “The Way Things Are Now”
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.] Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when…
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…