Bring Me the Head of Philip K.Dick by Gregory Whitehead

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BBC Radio 3, 8 March 2009
Philip K.Dock, the science fiction writer best known for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Minority Report, has inspired a cult following - not only among devotees of science fiction but also film buffs, who have readily responded to his bleak vision of the future as mediated through Ridley Scott's memorable set-designs in Blade Runner (1982). Dick paints a pessimistic picture of the future in Do Androids ... in which human beings have been replaced by androids and logical thought takes second place to logical action. Humanity no longer occupies a central position in the universe; robots can do the work instead.
Described on the Radio 3 website as an imaginative fantasy inspired by Dick's oeuvre, Bring Me the Head of Philip K.Dick showed the world being terrorized by Dick's android head which threatened to take over human life. Writer-producer-director Gregory Whitehead used the central premise to comment on contemporary paranoia, as expressed through American policy which identifies enemies where none exist, and fights spurious battles to maintain its position as the world's only superpower. Written as a series of monologues spoken by characters from all walks of life, the play offers a nighmare vision of society controlled by a Quizmaster posing unanswerable questions and ordering invasions if anyone gets the answers wrong.
The idea was certainly plausible, but the play lacked dramatic tension. As one monologue dissolved into another, with the speakers disclosing their feelings, I began to feel that Bring Me the Head ... was the aural equivalent of the emperor's new clothes; while appearing elaborate and rich in its use of terminology and consciously intertextual references to Dick's oeuvre, it really did not have much to say about the present or the future, except, perhaps, to warn us to be aware of American imperialism.
The cast did what they could with the intractable material, but perhaps the play would have worked better as a series of monologues broadcast during the intervals of some of Radio 3's weekday concerts.