This was almost a feature just for being so friggin' creepy. :)
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The atmosphere in this one is very effective for three reasons:
- The music is very well done (and downright chilling at certain moments - it has this light, airy feel that manages to make scary moments seem insidious and project a feeling of insanity on the observer.
- It plays on a deep-seeded human fear that our most meaningful life experiences could somehow be erased. There is a fragile impermanence to our memories - they're contained in this fleshy, impossibly complex neural framework and the slightest tweak could make them simply cease to exist for us. Making this dramatically real - literally deleting people from existence (and from our memory) - is a painful reminder.
- It's topical. The internet already connects us and removes concrete, real possessions in favor of data stored on remote servers. If that system fails, much of our collective knowledge may be lost. There is a sense of loss in many despite the advantages electronic data storage offers. And...it's only a matter of time before we invent ways to connect human bodies directly to the web. Leaving us to wonder whether a failure of that system might someday lead to just this sort of apocalypse.
The episode itself falls short of feature status because the guest performances are on the weak side, so some of the most effective parts of the script that might have elicited a bigger emotional response from viewers fall flat - particularly after the net is taken down and people realize what's been lost. Otherwise, this would have been a marginal feature on the strength of a great "high concept" sci-fi plot executed well.
There are a few bits of the plot that don't seem strictly necessary - certain townspeople that get more screen time than their roles really warrant and the like - but on the whole this is an excellent script and the result is engaging and effective. The music and direction add still more to the quality of this offering.
The entire guest-cast list feels strained. This might mean it was a directorial problem - they seemed to overdo the "we're stepford people now because we are all linked to this computer" vibe and they didn't transition well out of that flatness when not linked in.
But...the point they're making here...that we can't afford to let computers dictate the functioning of our society...is spot on. It may not stand the test of time in the sense that a hundred years from now, it may seem silly that we ever worried about computers getting this much control over our lives, but it remains topical even now (almost a decade later) and that'll do for me.