REVIEW: DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? / AUTHOR: PHILIP K. DICK, JONATHAN HOLLOWAY / PUBLISHER: BBC RADIO 4 / STARRING: JAMES PUREFOY, JESSICA RAINE, NICKY HENSON, ANTON LESSER, HEATHER CRANEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
For all those who know that the excellent 1982 film Blade Runner was based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, many will have never read the original story. As part of their Dangerous Visions season BBB Radio 4 has dramatized the book into two one-hour episodes with James Purefoy as bounty hunter and android (or replicant) retirer Rick Deckard, with beautiful replicant Rachael Rosen played by Jessica Raine.
The core story is Rick Deckard’s pursuit of six replicants who have escaped from Mars and their disposal. As the story progresses, the philosophical idea (this being Philip K. Dick) is that at some point replicants will essentially become human to all intents and purposes. Deckard carries with him the books equivalent of a mobile Turing Test – a device that monitors physiological reaction to questioning to allow replicants to be spotted without detailed scanning of their bone marrow post mortem.
Deckard is as tortured as he ever is but where Blade Runner stylised the future in all its beautiful grimness with unforgettable visual style, the story is constructed differently. In some regards it is a classic noirish pulp story of the detective doing his best but pursued by his own demons. We get a lot more of the future history of the world, a stronger sense of what drives society and, of course, some electric sheep. We explore this future world in relation to its treatment of scarce animals, replicants and each other. The pivotal sequence crosses the two episodes – this is where Deckard is arrested as a replicant and taken to a police station that shouldn’t exist and told all his memories are implanted.
In contrast to the adaptation of The Martian Chronicles, this retains its San Francisco setting and Purefoy conjures up Deckard accent and all. Raine stands out less, given that her task is to play the mostly unemotional replicant Rachael, though she shines through at the end as Deckard loses his faith in the black and white distinction between man and machine. If you didn’t hear this when it was broadcast on Radio 4, it’s worth getting via iPlayer, particularly if you’ve only ever seen Blade Runner.