Last Train To Transcentral [Review: The Commuter]

This review may contain some spoilers: please ensure your swibbles are fully functional.

The third Electric Dream is a slice of coffee-and-walnut flavoured insanity served with hot chocolate and marshmallows. Ed (Timothy Spall) is a station manager living and working in drab and dreary Woking. An encounter with a passenger (Tuppence Middleton) trying to buy a ticket to a station that doesn't exist leads Ed on a journey to a town unlike any other. Heaven? A quantum leap into an alternate reality, or back in time? An escapist fantasy?

I am enjoying the strong sense of location in these adaptations - not least the fact that of the first three, two have been set in the UK. Superficially Electric Dreams is an anthology of stand-alone stories. However three episodes in I'm starting to think about the connections and trends in this series.

Thoughts so far: There's a trend of increasing dreams and visions. The Hood Maker has Ross's vision of the river, The Impossible Planet has the visions of the bicycle and the lake that run through the story and foreshadow the ending, and The Commuter is full of dream-like events. The Commuter also has a further layer of unreality - from both Macon Heights and the reality of his own attic, Ed finds his way into a strange, light-filled dimension that seems to lie beneath both realities.

Along with the increasing visions, there's a trend of decreasing logic. The Hood Maker has a story that makes pretty sound logical sense if you start from the existence of the telepaths. This first episode may however be an exception. The Impossible Planet makes sense to start with, but the visions and ultimately the ending defy logic. Macon Heights is a place of dream-logic - repeated events, idealized people, sudden transitions and so on. It also leaves too many questions if you try to think about it logically - for example, why does the passenger ask Ed for a ticket in the first place? And who are the people who help the returning commuters get back on the train in the evening?

The Impossible Planet and The Commuter both pose the Matrix dilemma in different ways. Which would you prefer to live in - an unsatisfactory real world, or a better fantasy?

In another respect, though, The Commuter is the most real of the three. It's set in the present day, more or less, and in a recognizable, everyday world at least for those of us who live in the UK and use the rail network. There's a family struggling with mental illness, and later with sadness and loss.

All three episodes so far have been of outstanding quality, and I'm particularly impressed by the visuals which once again are stylish and unique - due to the uniqueness it's hard to put any of these episodes into context, but the sense of a perfect, fantasy town that's just a little sinister is right out of The Truman Show.

Overall: yes. I think definitely yes.

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