Hello, PKD Fans! What would you do if you were presented with the opportunity to start a new life in an alternate reality? Would you abandon your responsibilities in your existing life to be free of those responsibilities? Find out what Ed chooses on this week’s Electric Dreams Podcast, where we discuss Electric Dreams Season 1 Episode 3, entitled The Commuter, which originally aired on October 1, 2017.
Ed Jacobson (played be the brilliant Timothy Spall) is trapped within his own life. His daily job as a train station employee finds him dealing with numerous confused customers, sorting out blocked toilets, and fishing the odd tea-bag out of the bin to satisfy the need for a brew.
Outside of his workplace we discover his home life isn’t any better. The street in which he lives upon is strewn with rubbish, muffled music echoes from random houses and run down cars are parked across pavements. Yet, things become even more difficult when Ed enters his family home, as we discover his son Sam (Anthony Boyle) has uncontrollable violent outbursts, and he releases his rage at his own mother Mary (Rebecca Manley).
During a standard day at the ticket office, Ed is asked for a ticket to Macon Heights, a town which to both his and his supervisor Bob’s (Rudi Dharmalingam) extensive knowledge doesn’t exist; however when this is explained to the woman behind the counter she vanishes.
The following day, with numerous stresses placed upon Ed, he follows some passengers aboard a train to see where they’re going. After about thirty minutes into the journey, a man opens the doors and leaps into a seemingly empty field. Ed quickly follows as well as several others. They cross the field and up a hill until eventually arriving at a small, newly built town – in the mist – called Macon Heights. Entering a cafe and being served cake and tea from the waitress (Hayley Squires), he soon meets up with Linda (Tuppence Middleton), the woman from the station, who appears to be some sort of guide to this town.
Eventually when it comes time to leave, Ed and the others get back on the train and return to the station. As Ed walks home from the train station, his street has changed to a quiet idyllic location and not only this it appears both he and his wife never had a child together. Reality has shifted somehow, though others are happy around them, Ed now has an itch he cannot scratch growing inside his head.
Once Ed returns home to finds that his son never existed, he becomes suspicious of the town and it’s potential impact on his life. There are lots of nifty little illustrations of the manipulation of reality, from the memories stored in the attic on VHS, to the flat house fronts – a toy town with toy people.
Ed contacts a journalist who had written a story about Macon Heights and discovers it’s a town that “almost existed” and that Linda is the daughter of the developer who committed suicide after losing the project. Linda disappeared shorty after her father’s death.
Ed’s determination to reject Macon Heights’ comforts and regain his lost son is a bucket of cold water thrown into the system. By the third visit, the pain that the town’s visitors are trying to escape follows them there, which starts to tear the utopia apart.
Ed’s wish is granted and in the final moments of the hour he returns home to find his son re-established. Ed smiles. He’s smiled throughout the episode, but this is the first one that really signifies happiness.