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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Do Opening Credits Have Electric Dreams?

Visually I thought the first episode of Electric Dreams (Channel Four) was excellent - not so much because the aesthetic was particularly original* (hints of Blade Runner with a fair dash of High Rise etc) but because the visual world told the background to the story.  Yes, there were the odd clunky lines about violence in the city kicking off sometime, but that happens when you're cramming so much information into a one off.  But they didn't need to say much more than the detail that was vital to the plot - the background of the world, the green rain, the general decay etc was a complete world and didn't need more words.  Good on them.
Money was spent, money was well spent, intelligently spent.
Until we come to the opening credits.
Money was spent.  But it's a bit of a mess.
I don't think it was ever going to be any other way, because this is an anthology series and anthology series have weird, largely unsatisfactory, opening credits - and so Electric Dreams is part of a long and noble tradition.
Take some of the earliest science fiction anthology series - Out of this World (ITV) and Out of the Unknown (BBC).  Credits were montages of science shots, faces looking strained, falling bodies, anything that looked odd - mixed together into a weird mush.  Electric Dreams had more to go on in terms of theme, so there was some unity to the images picked, but it might as well have been a deliberate homage to these earlier shows.  It probably wasn't, but it didn't half look it to me.  Except that the earlier shows (and there are countless other examples from other genres - Scorpion Tales is my personal favourite) were working on no money and spliced film, and so retain some inventive charm, the montages of Electric Dreams just bounce off one as another not quite good enough CGI blob.
I understand it's difficult to create a good credit sequence for a show that is different every week.  The best solution is the Inside No.9 or Black Mirror route - a brief ident, a sting, cut.  But I can bet the makers of Electric Dreams didn't want to look like they were influenced by Black Mirror at all.  Especially as they would argue, strongly, that Black Mirror was more influenced by PKD than the other way round.
One day I will write the definite guide to the art of the credits sequence in British science fiction - there will be an entire chapter on the effective use of tympani in theme tunes - but till then, let this serve as an introduction.

*As if being original really matter, execution people!

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