Does Electric Dreams stay loyal to the author's oft-kilter sensibility? Yes and no. The show -- which, unlike Black Mirror, features different writers on each episode -- presents a problem to anyone attempting to write about it or describe it to a friend. Part of the joy of an episodic anthology series is watching the first 15 minutes or so and trying to figure out if it's a "good" or "bad" episode. Even a classic like The Twilight Zone had a few lackluster entries, but half the fun is in the sense of discovery. Finding your footing in each richly imagined world, attempting to make sense of all the narrative scaffolding laid out before you, can be invigorating.
It can also be a drag. There are more than a few Electric Dreams episodes that peter out like a flying car that runs out of gas right when it pulls out of a space garage. "Impossible Planet," an interstellar tourism romance featuring Sing Street's enormously charming Jack Reynor, overwhelms you with ancillary details without making an emotional connection. The same thing goes for "Safe and Sound," an awkward attempt to map Cold War anxieties about comfort and security onto a modern teen drama.
Others, like "Human Is," which stars executive producer Bryan Cranston as a dick-ish military commander who returns from a deadly mission as a newly sensitive loverboy, might work as short stories, but crack under the weight of a 50-minute runtime. All the major beats are telegraphed from the beginning, and there's not enough going on in the margins -- even a steamy Bryan Cranston sex scene -- to keep you distracted.
With some of the less compelling entries, there's still pleasure to be found in the ways the writers have tweaked Dick's many anxieties, which grew out of his skepticism of consumer culture, his fear of nuclear annihilation, and his experimental drug use, to match modern terrors. For example, a by-the-numbers Invasion of the Body Snatchers riff with Greg Kinnear as an alien-controlled father isn't exactly gripping -- the story feels like it could've been on the Outer Limits reboot from the '90s -- but the attempts to reckon with video chat and millennial slang make it more entertaining than it should be. "The Hood Maker" takes one of Dick's telepathic premises and drags it into a semi-modern war zone. It's decent schlock.