Episode Name: Dream Thieves
Premise: Edison Carter meets a former colleague, Paddy Ashton, who introduces him to a business in which people are paid for their dreams. The next day, Carter learns that Ashton has died and pursues an investigation.
Themes explored: The episode centers around Dream Vu, a subscriber-based channel in which people pay to watch the recordings of other people's dreams. The business is run out of an old movie theater (in this world, movies are a thing of the past, replaced by other forms of visual entertainment) and people are paid to have their dreams recorded while they sleep. But the process can be lethal when someone has a nightmare and suffer from brain trauma when those nightmares are pulled from the subconscious.
It begs the question about what price are people willing to pay for entertainment -- especially in an environment in which traditional forms of entertainment that involve originality and creativity (movies, books, episodic TV) and are replaced with another form. Though in today's society, we aren't taking other people's dreams and passing them off as entertainment, there are other variants of entertainment that replace original ideas and sell them to the public as a replacement. We just call them by different names. On this episode, games shows and chat shows are mentioned -- we'd refer to the latter as debate shows. And then there's the obvious example: reality TV. How far are we willing to go to seek out entertainment, especially if we are replacing people's original ideas (which may cost more) with cheaper programming?
There's also the previous friendship between Carter and Ashton -- the two both worked at Network 23 together, but each had different principles when it came to pursuing a story, with said principles influencing Murray's decisions. Carter's aggressive drive to get the story got him a promotion -- with Murray choosing to promote him -- while Ashton was passed over. Carter's aggressiveness to get the story comes to a head here, when he gets too personally involved in his investigation because he's upset about Ashton's death, while Murray realizes that his choice to promote Carter because of Carter's drive had its downside and that he perhaps shouldn't have pushed Ashton to the side because he thought Ashton was willing to meet his full potential.
Max Headroom quotes:
"But if dreaming is all your subconscious desires coming out, why do people wait until they're asleep to do it?"
"I don't mind being the projectionist, but don't forget that no one's paying me to be the censor."
"Looking at other people's dreams is as bad as reading their diaries."
Personal observations: Though the technology to record people's dreams hasn't been developed, it would raise ethical questions if it were to become reality. But it's worth raising those same ethical questions regarding entertainment that isn't based on an original concept, but merely following the trials and tribulations of everyday people as they happen. It may seem trivial on the surface, but if everything that's produced is merely based on real-life developments, we can lose something when it comes to the original ideas we imagine.