The Peripheral – Season 1
It has taken a while, but I have finally got around to watching Amazon’s adaptation of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. Those folks who insist that a TV version should never deviate in any way from the original book are doubtless furious about it, but it makes very good TV.
The core of the setting remains the same. We still have folks in future London dragging Flynne Fisher into their time to inhabit a peripheral. The Jackpot is still a thing. The likes of Wilf Netherton, Conner Penske, Tommy Constantine, and Lev Zubov are still major characters. Janice has had her name changed to Billy Ann. But there’s a whole lot more.
If you have only seen the TV series, you may be surprised to learn that the Research Institute, Cherise Nuland, and the whole plot about the bacteria are not in the novel. So while the setting might be the same, the plot is very different.
Gibson, very wisely, seems to have just taken the money and left the TV folks to get on with whatever they wanted to do.
There are, I think, two reasons why the TV script writers have done this. The first is that, even with 8 episodes to play with, The Peripheral is just too complicated a novel to be adapted as is. They needed something simpler and more focused. The other is that they have plans for at least one more season. That’s not plans to adapt Agency, it is plans for a direct sequel to The Peripheral. That would not be so easy with the way the book ends. They needed loose threads.
Having said all that, this is a fine piece of television. Of course it is very easy to make pretty pictures when you have Chloë Grace Moretz to photograph, but the series is visually arresting, well-plotted, and makes good use of the setting of the novel to tell a very different story. The science fictional aspects of Netherton’s world are well visualized.
The casting is particularly good. All of the characters taken from the novel come across very well. I was particularly concerned about Inspector Lowbeer, partly because she’s a fairly eccentric character, and partly because she’s canonically trans in the novel. The TV crew picked Alexandra Billings, an experienced trans actress, and she does a magnificent job.
Incidentally, the character of Beatrice, Lowbeer’s robot assistant, is not in the book, but she’s a superb addition.
Talking of things in the book, I had entirely forgotten that Corbell Pickett owns a Tesla dealership. I’ll bet that Gibson is very proud of that particular piece of prescience.
I am slightly worried about Season 2, which I understand has now been greenlit. The TV crew have set up what seems to be a sensible sequel that is all about Flynne and Lowbeer versus the Klept. But these are the people responsible for Westworld. While I’ve not seen that series, I understand that each new season took the story in a radically different direction. Here’s hoping they don’t go off the rails.