Do Androids Dream of the Key to the Executive Washroom?

Spent much of yesterday re-reading Philip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — though I was re-reading it in this groovy mass-market edition with the fabulous movie tie-in cover art, which is so thoroughly tied into the movie that the title has in fact been changed to Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick). Love those parentheses.

There’s been all kinds of analysis done on the film’s melding of past and future — a post-apocalyptic L.A. dressed up in 1940s clothing, a sort of noir-punk aesthetic. But the passage of time has done something weirdly similar to the book, I think, which is set in what is now our too-near future (2021, to be exact) but deeply trapped in the ethos of the 1950s. Much of this time-disjuncture revolves around the workings of the offices of the future. One can hardly fault Dick for having failed to imagine the ways that the computer would transform the workplace of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, but for a moment so filled with revolutionary possibilities as the late 1960s were, Dick betrays a surprising lack of imagination about the office politics of the future. Sure, Deckard getting his predecessor’s notes on the andys he’s hunting on “carbon flimsies” surprised me for a moment, but I was even more taken aback to rediscover that the San Francisco police department’s second-string bounty hunter has his own secretary. Who’s an incorrigible gossip. Who refers to him as “Mr. Deckard.” Who places his vidphone calls for him. I kept half-expecting him to take a client out for a three-martini lunch and then phone to let the wife know he’d be bringing the chief home for dinner.

The whole weird office-politics thing began to make a little more sense for me, though, when I found this audiobook version, read by Matthew Modine and Calista Flockhart. What makes that make sense, I’m not sure. But a universe that contains both Dick and Ally McBeal seems at least internally coherent.

5 thoughts on “Do Androids Dream of the Key to the Executive Washroom?

  1. I haven’t read the book myself, but have seen the film(s) a number of times. I fear we’ve discussed this before, but I’ll go ahead and ask again: which version do you prefer? I’m always interested to hear where people stand on the varying cuts.

  2. Me? Director’s cut. Most definitely. Something about Deckard and Rachel driving off into that glorious airbrushed future in the original release gives me hives. Or maybe it’s the voiceover, relentlessly explaining everything to its idiot audience. Give me puzzling and dark any day.

    And you?

  3. I thought the director’s cut removed the voiceover and ended before the “ride to freedom” – as they were still exiting the apartment. In this one, of course, the notion that Deckard is also a replicant is raised rather clearly and I like that element. Plus the “dream” stuff seems to me to make more sense. I find this one more dark, more compelling in its fuzziness, and somehow better acted. When the same scenes play with the voiceover, it’s overkill somehow.

    At the same time, I like the voiceover with its explicit ties to the genre on one hand and laugh at it on the other. Nonetheless, isn’t the voiceover the one that was originally released, with the voiceover there at the studio’s insistence? I thought he removed it for the director’s cut. Or am I getting it backward?

  4. No, you’re absolutely right. And that’s what I meant, though I apparently left out the key bits of logical connection: I prefer the director’s cut, precisely because I hated the voiceover and the artificially-added happy ending of the original release. The director’s cut also adds the great bit of weirdness with the unicorn — that one dream-like memory and then the origami unicorn Edward James Olmos leaves him near the end of the film — both just cryptic and lovely.

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