- 09 October 2010
- By John Howell
Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner and Alien, is working with the BBC to adapt Philip K. Dick's iconic novel The Man in the High Castle for television. The Man in the High Castle is Philip K. Dick's most critically acclaimed work, a complex alternate history tale set in a totalitarian America in the 1960s, where the Axis powers, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, defeated the Allies in World War II and went on to divide up the world. North America is under Axis control after they conquered Eurasia and laid waste to Africa.
The Guardian reports that Scott will executive produce. Howard Brenton, a playwright and writer for the BBC's spy thriller Spooks, is adapting the novel into a four-part BBC1 mini-series.
"I've been a lifelong fan of Philip K. Dick," said Scott. "He is the master of creating worlds which not only spark the imagination but offer deeper commentary on the human condition".
It's easy to see why Scott and the BBC would choose a mini-series over a film. The Man in the High Castle is a dense and complex work, with multiple plot threads and a variety of distinct and disparate characters. Spreading it out over a longer length will give Scott and the BBC a greater opportunity to do justice to arguably Dick's most outstanding tale.
The most fascinating element of the novel for me was the story of Juliana and her relationship with a truck driver, Joe, who wants to meet Hawthorne Abendsen, a writer whose banned novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy depicts a world (in some ways like our own) in which the Allies not the Axis won the war. Descriptions of the growing cold war between Japan and Nazi Germany are also deftly handled, as Goebbels's Operation Dandelion plots to launch a nuclear attack upon the Japanese Archipelago Home Islands. The cultural interplay between Robert Childan, an antiques dealer desperately trying to appear honourable in front of his Japanese rulers, and the Buddhist and existential musings of Mr Tagomi (and a possible alternate reality hopping incident in the park) are also compelling.
This is a hard novel to summarise adequately and I imagine a very difficult novel to film, but I couldn't think of a better combination: the BBC, Ridley Scott, and Spooks writer Howard Brenton could very well be the perfect mix to pull it off. There's no word yet on when they'll start filming, but we'll write more as soon as anything comes to hand.
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