Shine On [Review: Crazy Diamond]

Crazy Diamond, the fourth Electric Dream, takes us to a near-future of rising sea-levels, eco-homes perched on precarious, crumbling cliffs, and Jacks and Jills - synthetic humans grown from human and pig DNA and implanted with a QC - a quantum consciousness. Ed (Steve Buscemi) works in a facility that makes the QCs, but dreams of leaving his limited life behind and sailing away on a voyage of discovery, taking his wife Sally with him. He meets a Jill (Sidse Babett) who has a failing QC and a plan for something that could change both their lives, but is quite illegal.

Ed is the archetype PKD everyman - didn't I tell you to get used to this? - living day to day, holding down a job, dreaming of a voyage into the unknown but only half-believing that it's possible. He's capable of overlooking small illegalities such as the seeds home-grown by Sally (Julia Davis), but larger crimes as proposed by the Jill throw him into conflict between his dreams and his wish to do the right thing.

Some of the back story for this episode can be deduced from the setting - the eco-homes, wind turbines and electric Beetles all point to a post-oil world, with rising sea levels causing coastal erosion and destroying homes. However there are some gaps. It's not clear why food is decaying more quickly, or why the sell-by date is enforced so enthusiastically by the refuse collector. There's a sheet of metal under the ground to prevent people growing their own, apparently to protect the local economy - but why does this make sense?

More significantly, it's not clear why the synthetic humans and their QCs were created, or why they are needed in this society. They're not servants like the synths of Humans or indeed the replicants of Blade Runner. Or at least they're not all servants - the tour guide showing a group of visitors around the QC facility tells them that Jacks and Jills are living amongst us all, then reveals his own status as a Jack. It's possible that they are needed as a result of decreasing fertility hinted at by Ed and Sally's failure to conceive - and taking this along with the food issues I wonder if the writers aren't just thinking of a world that has run out of oil but one that has also been poisoned by pollution.

It's also unclear exactly what the synthetics are - more or less capable than humans? More or less intelligent? Do they actually share human emotions or are they something different? Jill turns out to be capable of some shocking acts, apparently driven by desperation due to her own short shelf-life.

Sally confides in a woman with a pig's head and trotters, Sue, who works as a security guard at the facility, but it isn't clear why this is - the other Jills all look human. She might be an earlier model Jill, or a different type of Jill created specifically for the work, or maybe a Jill from another facility. Sally and Sue's chats do reveal some anti-Jack and Jill snobbery and patronizing attitudes - in one scene Sally is overcome by some form of middle-class guilt while Sue's parting comment is "I'm bred not to take offense."

This episode owes a great debt to Blade Runner - in particular the central character who is a synthetic femme fatale reminds me a little of Rachel from the original film. However there are other influences here too, not least the air ducts and waste pipes in the eco-homes straight out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

This was another good episode, mainly down to excellent casting. The Electric Dreams series seems to have attracted some of the best actors, and the three leads here are no exception. However while there's some good worldbuilding, and it's OK to leave some mysteries for the viewer to think about, this time I feel the episode didn't quite provide enough hints.

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