Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: “The Father Thing”

Aaaaand, we’re back!


Following a mysterious meteoroid shower near Illinois, young Charlie Cottrell (Jack Gore) starts to suspect that his once loving father (Greg Kinnear) has been replaced by a hostile alien being and that other people around town are being replaced as well. Teaming up with his friends, Charlie battles to get to the bottom of this mystery and to expose the invaders to the rest of the world.

This episode is quite rocky to begin with as it struggles a bit in getting into the meat of the story, dedicating a certain amount of time in developing the central father/son relationship and also focusing on Charlie’s school life, spending a bit of time with his friends, one of whom has a bully of a brother who wants to beat him up for no apparent reason (even though that same bully conveniently becomes an ally later on with no questions asked). To writer/director Michael Dinner, this is an important part of the story as we are seeing the events unfold through a child’s eyes and the question of “what if a loved one was replaced” is the key element of the story, but the opening section is a little laboured as the central theme doesn’t hit hard enough and the acting from the children isn’t that good, although they do improve later on in the episode. There’s also a whole load of baseball talk, but it can get quite bamboozling to us Brits!

But things definitely pick up as we delve into the main part of the story and “The Father Thing” soon proves itself to be something of a homage to classic alien invasion films such as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and the like (I’m guessing. Never saw it). As well as the familiar story beats and tropes, with its central “conspiracy” and that question of “who’s real and who’s not?”, this is also achieved through its overall style, using particular camera angles and colour palettes to create that horror/thriller ambiance – the whole thing even culminates with a showdown set in a foggy, misty forest with glowing alien pods! Harry Gregson Williams’ music also helps out quite a lot since it is occasionally rather menacing and he also uses the main series theme at a pivotal moment, to a very satisfying extent. Additionally, this episode is also especially similar to the previous episode “Human Is“, since that also explored the possibility of a loved one being replaced by an alien impostor, and this episode also has those unmistakable similarities to Stranger Things.

There aren’t many performances to speak of but Greg Kinnear is both believably caring and affable as the father and also very creepy and unsettling as the The Father Thing. And as mentioned before, the child acting is a little patchy but it does slightly improve as the story moves towards its endgame.

So overall, “The Father Thing” works best as a decent homage to classic alien invasion films, though it does make certain parts slightly predictable, and it is quite stylish and intriguing. But the deeper meaning doesn’t quite work out as the central father/son theme doesn’t hit as hard as it could have.

And minus points for including a character called “Philip Dick”. Lazy!

B –

Next week: Juno Temple and Janelle Monae rebel against an oppressive automatic factory!


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