Dimension 404 on Hulu is a science fiction anthology show in the tradition of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. TV writer Andrea Kail loved the fifth episode, “Bob,” about a (literal) giant brain who works for the National Security Agency.
“I thought this was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time,” Kail says in Episode 347 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I thought it was incredibly good filmmaking, and incredibly great writing and acting. There was nothing about it I didn’t love.”
But perhaps the strongest episode of Dimension 404 is “Impulse,” about an aspiring pro gamer who experiences memory loss after taking a performance-enhancing drug. Science fiction author Tom Gerencer found the episode to be a powerful metaphor for growing up.
“My favorite stories are like this, basically hyperbole but meticulously imagined, and really funny and brutal,” he says. “You could actually make this the formula for any good science fiction story. Just take a real-life situation, look at the struggle that’s at the bottom of it, and then exaggerate it into an absurdist realm, but make the details and the story logic so vivid that it’s indistinguishable from reality. I thought it was absolutely brilliant.”
The show isn’t perfect, however, and often fails to create fictional worlds with a strong sense of reality. Science fiction author Anthony Ha notes that this is especially true of the third episode, “Chronos,” which presents a particularly goofy take on time travel. “In general this is a very hand-wavey show,” he says, “and ‘Chronos’ is the most hand-wavey of the episodes.”
But overall Dimension 404 is certainly strong enough to warrant a second season. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley loves the variety and constant surprises of a good anthology show, and is always on the lookout for more of them.
“I totally think they should do more anthology shows where they adapt classic science fiction stories by authors like Robert Sheckley,” he says. “In my ideal world, you would just turn on TV and it would be 80 percent science fiction anthology shows and then 20 percent The Expanse.”
Listen to the complete interview with Andrea Kail, Tom Gerencer, and Anthony Ha in Episode 347 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Tom Gerencer on Amazing Stories:
“My favorite episode of Amazing Stories was about a World War II belly gunner. They shoot the wheels off, and his belly gun turret gets jammed, and he can’t turn it and he can’t get out of it. And they’re going to have to land on the belly, with no wheels, and it’s going to kill him. … And he’s so passionate about his drawing. He just wants to get home and do cartoons. And he draws these cartoon wheels on the plane, and the plane lands, and you think he’s dead, but then you look and the plane has these giant cartoon wheels under it. When I tell it now it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s giving me chills remembering the actual visuals, and how they pulled it off.”
David Barr Kirtley on RocketJump:
“It’s a couple people who all met at USC film school, and I guess the message that you got at USC was that you should make an independent feature film and try to get it into Sundance, and then if it got picked up at Sundance, and you got distributors and stuff, then you would be rich and famous like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith. And so these people were all kind of like, ‘Hey, this doesn’t seem to be happening very often.’ And this was around the time that YouTube was getting going, so they just started making funny videos for YouTube instead. … They had been talking to people at Lionsgate, and the people at Lionsgate were like, ‘We like what you’re doing with YouTube, but we can’t really do anything with four-minute videos, but if you do something longer—as a proof of concept—then we might be interested in striking a deal with you down the road.’ So that was the genesis of Video Game High School, and then that went well enough that they actually struck a deal with them to do Dimension 404.”
Andrea Kail on “Cinethrax”:
“How could you possibly make this so bad? How could you get such good talent as Sarah Hyland and Patton Oswalt, and then completely blow it? … The scenes were 10 minutes long. It was like watching an old movie where the scenes were 10 minutes long and they never cut. With modern films—and because I’ve done this for a long time and I’ve written a bunch of screenplays—the longest a scene should be in a screenplay is like three minutes—three pages. These scenes were like five minutes, six minutes, seven minutes, and it was excruciating. And none of it really pertained to the plot. I’m just sitting there going, ‘Get on with it. Just get on with it for god’s sakes!’”
David Barr Kirtley on “Polybius”:
“There’s this urban legend about a game called Polybius, which people claim to have played but no one can find evidence of it, that drove people crazy and there were weird men in black sort of lurking around. If you want to know more, there’s actually a really good YouTube video called “Polybius: The Video Game that Doesn’t Exist” by Ahoy, and it goes through the whole thing, including what seems to be a pretty strong theory for who originated it as a hoax. … One thing I’ll say for this show is that it is plugged in to internet culture. It feels like it was written—not always in a good way—but it feels like it was written by people in their twenties and thirties.”
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