Channel 4’s new sci-fi anthology Electric Dreams kicks off with an adaptation of Philip K Dick’s short story The Hood Maker.
The Hood Maker was originally published in a collection of short stories in 1955, and it only runs to 18 pages.
In this Channel 4 adaptation, the TV writer and producer Matthew Graham – known for his series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes – has stretched the story out to an hour and given it a few twists, fleshing out the story in brand new ways.
But what have the programme makers kept the same in the opening episode – and what has changed?
We should say that this article contains SPOILERS for both the TV show and Philip K Dick’s short story. But it also contains interesting info, so if you want to know how the book and the TV versions of The Hood Maker compare and contrast – and don’t mind finding out what happens at the end – read on.
Does the TV show follow the same plot as Philip K Dick’s original story?
The central premise remains the same: a mysterious figure known as the Hood Maker is secretly distributing telepathy-blocking hoods, frustrating the “Free Union” regime’s attempts to root out disloyal citizens using “Teeps” – mutant mind-reading humans – and the new powers of the Anti-Immunity Bill, which will give the state free reign to root around in people’s private thoughts.
But in the original, things go off in a very different direction.
In the book, we follow the journey of Walter Franklin, a respectable member of the establishment and a Director of the Federal Resources Commission, who is sent a hood – and decides to wear it. But he has his hood snatched by the Free Union’s Teep Ernest Abbud, who takes matters into his own hands by probing Franklin’s thoughts to find traces of deviation. Clearance Director Ross, a Normal, is alarmed that the Teeps have overstepped the boundary – but that’s the way the world is going. (Ross doesn’t appear again until the end. He’s a bit clueless.)
As he runs from arrest for deviation, Franklin is rescued by a woman who gives him a hood to shield his thoughts (so he can’t be traced) and then rushes him to meet the Hood Maker, James Cutter. Once there, he finds out the Teeps have tried to frame him – and many others. They’re trying to take over the state.
Cutter takes him off to meet Senator Waldo to try to persuade him to withdraw his Anti-Immunity Bill from Congress. But Teep Abbud shows up, and – surprise – Senator Waldo turns out to be a Teep himself. Abbud kills Franklin, and it looks like Cutter (and the human race) is doomed, too.
But Cutter knows a devastating secret about the Teeps: he knows where they come from. Far from being a superior race of mutants, they’re actually infertile “freaks”, their genes damaged by a nuclear explosion. Once he removes his hood and lets Abbud read his thoughts, every single Teep knows this truth, too, through the power of telepathy. Abbud shoots himself to death.
The implication is that this devastates their campaign for world domination – so have the Normals won after all?
How is Channel 4’s Electric Dreams version different?
The entire perspective is different.
Instead of following the story of Franklin, we instead follow the journey of Agent Ross (Richard Madden). And where we had Abbud the evil Teep, we now have Holliday Grainger as Honor – a far more sympathetic character who has suffered her whole life, been rejected by society and is now forced to put her gift to the use of the state.
They have been paired up to find (and destroy) the enemies of the Free Union.
In Electric Dreams, the fight against the Hood Maker begins when a man uses a hood in a protest against the Anti-Immunity Bill. Honor tries to read him, but she can’t. As events unfold, Ross and Honor are increasingly alarmed that these hoods will bring down the government.
And while initially mistrustful, they soon fall for each other, breaking a Normal/Teep taboo and having sex.
Ross and Honor do finally track down the Hood Maker in his workshop. But there’s a twist. As the Hood Maker reveals, Ross himself has special abilities: his whole brain is like a hood, and his thoughts are unreadable to Teeps – something Honor hasn’t realised until now, as she’s been barred from reading any agents’ thoughts.
In the background, revolution has been brewing: just as we saw in the short story, Teeps want to take over. But while the original story casts Teeps as the enemy, here things are much more nuanced. In the TV show, we see the Teeps as outcasts in society, identified by the birth marks over their eyes. Honor’s friend Mary is assaulted as a sex worker, and because of the Teeps’ telepathic abilities, her pain radiates out across the minds of the rest of her kind. These hoods are an affront to them, another way for society to reject them. So, led by Mary, they set the workshop on fire.
As the workshop burns, Honor feels betrayed by Ross’s revelation, refusing to let him escape. So he forces himself to let down the barrier – and Honor finally gets a chance to read him.
But there’s another twist: it turns out Ross was originally assigned to Honor not just to find the Hood Maker, but to win her trust – by any means necessary, even seduction – and find out about the Teep underground.
Did Ross ever really fall for her? Or was he just another Normal, exploiting another Teep? Ross pleads with Honor as the flames creep closer, and she stares out at the chaos of the Teep revolution. The city burns.
Are the hoods really “hoods” in the original?
No. In the first few paragraphs of the story, we see a man have his hood snatched off his head, even though he’s been keeping it hidden beneath a hat: “Eager hands groped for the thin metal band around his head”.
As writer Graham explains in the introduction to the new edition of Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams which accompanies the series, his interpretation springs from a childhood misreading: “When I read The Hood Maker, I missed the point made on the first page that the ‘hood’ in question, worn by a man named Franklin and designed to protect him from mind-reading, was not in fact an actual hood but a concealed metal headband.”
Having already created his own mental image, he decided to go ahead and keep his version of the hood: “The image of a man walking through a crowded city street wearing a hood over his head was burnt into my mind. It seemed to ethereal and so disturbing.”