When ever Phillip K. Dick’s name is mentioned a cyberpunk’s ears perk up. Dick was the most prolific of the proto-cyberpunk writers and many of the best cyberpunk movies, such as Blade Runner, have been based on his works. The Man In The High Castle doesn’t fit this bill, but those who enjoy the cyberpunk genre may find a few ideas presented here to be of interest.
The show (and the 1962 book) are set in an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II and the US has been cut up between Japan and Germany. The basic plot of the pilot is that Joe Blake is recruited by the resistance to take a truck to a small town, called Canon City, in the neutral zone between the Japanese and German-controlled territory. Concurrently, a young woman named Juliana Crain meets her sister again, after a long absence, and she gives her a film reel. Juliana’s sister is then gunned down in front of her, and then she finds information that draws her to Canon City, where she meets Joe in her sister’s stead.
The plot devices that generated the most cyberpunk thought from me were the resistance movement and the film reel. Resistance against oppressive regimes is a very common theme in the cyberpunk genre, and so I immediately rooted for those who were working for the resistance. The film reel really got me thinking though. The film contains an alternate version of history where the Allies won the war. It is hinted at that this film is pivotal in an effort to undermine the powers that be. So even though we don’t get to see where this goes beyond the pilot, I suspect that the film represents the power that media has in inciting change. When people can imagine a world where the allies won and they aren’t oppressed, they can imagine that happening in reality. That is the power of story and the meme that plants itself in the mind.
Another minor point that may be of interest to the cyberpunk crowd is that one of the German officers is played by Rufus Sewell, who played the protagonist of Dark City.
I recommend The Man In The High Castle to anyone who enjoys the works of Phillip K. Dick, and is interested in watching a show that has cyberpunk themes, albeit no cyberpunk visuals. It is available through Amazon Prime Instant Video.