George Orr, played by Bruce Davison, is the lathe of heaven, his reality changing dreams are repeatedly guided and manipulated by Dr. William Haber, played by Kevin Conway, in this near future vision of the United States. The only problems are George feels reluctant to pre-imagine or try to edit his dreams and Dr. Haber has no doubt in his ability to mold them successfully.
So herein we have the dilemma in PBS’ critically acclaimed 1980 adaptation of the award winning 1971 book, by master storyteller, Ursula K. Le Guin. Dr. Haber’s active guidance of George’s dreams take place during mandatory therapy sessions that he is forced to attend after an apparent overdose of drugs.
George uses the drugs to repress his dreams while the State deems it as a suicide attempt. At first Dr. Haber refutes George’s insistence that his dreams change reality and George initially believes him because it seems to him that no one has ever noticed that their reality has changed, outside of himself. However, after several sessions, drastic changes to the world happen and Dr. Haber’s power in it begins to increase, causing George to seek the assistance of a lawyer, Heather LeLache played by Margaret Avery, to help him have his legal obligation to therapy withdrawn.
This strategy does not work and in the process Dr. Haber instigates a world wide plague that kills 6 billion people when he suggests that George dream of a solution to overpopulation, he then goes on to cause the entire world’s population to turn grey as a solution to racism and lastly he brings a powerful alien species to the Earth’s moon colony when he suggests that there be peace on Earth. It is only after these drastic changes and his growing affection for Heather and eventual marriage to her that George gathers together the will to stand up to Dr. Haber, who by the film’s end has become a powerful, megalomaniac who believes it is his right to use George’s power for the “benefit” of humankind. One last note, be wary of anyone saying “Antwerp” anywhere near you.
Watch the entire film here.