“I’m sorry, viewer. The TV show you’re searching for cannot be streamed in your reality…We have reconnected to DIMENSION 404.”

So goes the opening of DIMENSION 404, an immediate reference to the show’s influences, series like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS. A sci-fi anthology series from RocketJump, the team behind VIDEO GAME HIGH SCHOOL, DIMENSION 404 aims to give viewers the late-night feeling of surfing the net and finding stories they can’t explain. This is obvious from the title of the series, which refers to the “404” error code for a web page that can’t be found. In the words of head writer Will Campos, it’s “a door to nowhere.”

Since Hulu began streaming the series on April 4, DIMENSION 404 has covered topics as varied as cloning and time travel. And the show’s season finale, set to be released on April 25 (tomorrow), will tackle an energy drink that gives the drinker “bullet time.” ComicsVerse spoke with DIMENSION 404 showrunner Desmond “Dez” Dolly about the show’s origins, comparisons to BLACK MIRROR, and how they nabbed Mark Hamill as their narrator.

Dimension 404 - Patton Oswalt as Uncle Dusty

DIMENSION 404’s Origins

ComicsVerse: In the “Enter Dimension 404” video on RocketJump’s YouTube channel, you mentioned that the show was similar to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS, and CREEPSHOW — influences the series wears on its sleeve. What made you want to do something in the style of those series?

Dez Dolly: As a fan of the format, I had a real appetite to see more of it on TV. When we first began developing the series, the closet thing to standalone anthology on television was AMERICAN HORROR STORY. The emergence of streaming platforms gave birth to binge-watching serialized stories, of which I too am a fan, but wanting to create self-contained standalone stories for weekly “event TV” fans was certainly a reactionary measure to the changing TV landscape. The very honest and selfish answer is that I wanted to be a part of creating sci-fi as significant to the current generation as those aforementioned shows were to me. I was also trying to impress my girlfriend.

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CV: Your executive producer Matthew Arnold said in the same video that you had been teasing the show for three years (the video was posted last summer). How long have you wanted to do DIMENSION 404?  

DD: We had our first conversation about DIMENSION 404 sometime back in 2014, and I believe some of the original loglines date as far back as 2011, but in a way it’s a show we’ve wanted to do our entire lives. Quite honestly, I think I’ve always wanted to be associated with an anthology series after seeing CREEPSHOW, sometime back in the early 80s. I read a ton of short horror and science fiction when I was a child, and of course [I digested] the occasional TWILIGHT ZONE rerun… it’s a format I’ve always had an attraction to, with its mixed bag of pulpy surprises and poignant moral quandaries.

My partners and I moved to LA and went to film school so we could become Hollywood filmmakers, and DIMENSION 404 allowed us to do just that, with each episode essentially being it’s own mini-movie. The anthology format allowed us to play in a pretty big sandbox full of ideas, experiment with a lot of differing subgenres, and exercise a multitude of film techniques. It’s the perfect proving ground for up-and-coming filmmakers.

Dimension 404 - Malcolm Barrett as Chris and BOB (voiced by Tom Noonan)

Before BLACK MIRROR

CV: BLACK MIRROR is such a prominent figure in the “unsettling anthology series” space currently, and that overlap with DIMENSION 404 is something many outlets have noted. However, your series seems more fun even when things get a little bleak. Were comparisons something you had in the back of your mind as you were developing the series?

DD: Originally, no. We first began developing the show years prior to BLACK MIRROR’s explosive emergence on the scene. At the time, we were most worried about comparisons to TWILIGHT ZONE. When BLACK MIRROR hit, and caught on like wild fire, we knew avoiding the comparisons would be impossible.

Frankly, BLACK MIRROR is a wonderful show but tonally it couldn’t be more different than what we’re doing. I frankly don’t mind DIMENSION 404 being THE OUTER LIMITS to BLACK MIRROR’s TWILIGHT ZONE. These are strange days we live in, and exploring the moral ambiguities presented by the rapidly changing technological landscape is something you’re going to see a lot more of, the way you saw an explosion of speculative fiction explore the existential crisis of the nuclear era. It’s what keeps us all up at night, though unlike BLACK MIRROR, we’re trying to shine a hopeful lens on what’s to come. Personally, with things growing increasingly bleaker, I think we could all use a bit more escapism.

Dimension 404 - Ryan Lee as Andrew Meyers

The Cast

CV: DIMENSION 404 features actors like Patton Oswalt, Constance Wu, and Utkarsh Ambudkar — performers mostly known for their comedic roles. From the episodes that have been released, though, they feel very at home in the sci-fi genre. How did you and the team go about deciding who to cast?

DD: Next to having a great story, casting is perhaps the most crucial aspect of production. Those choices can literally make or break an episode. There’s a lot that goes into making those decisions, and thankfully both the studio and network worked with our casting director, Angela Demo, to offer expertise and negotiate with talent. It always comes down to two simple questions: One, of the actors on our shortlist, who most embodies the character? And two, are they available?

Dimension 404 was always intended as a weird and funny show, so reaching out to comedic actors was just a given. Very early in the casting process I’d float out an idea, “let’s find a Patton Oswalt type,” and to reach out to the folks we’d imagined in these roles was exciting enough, but to have them respond to the material the way that they did… that’s when we knew we were onto something. Saying I’m ecstatic with the cast we were able to put together for this first season is a bit of an understatement. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing who boards this crazy train in the future.

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CV: How did Mark Hamill become part of the project?

DD: There was a years-long debate over what the voice of the show should sound like. We certainly didn’t want our episodes to feel like disparate short films so we decided on a “saga sell,” a point of stasis from which all the stories are spawned, that also serves as conceptual and thematic table setting. As crazy as it sounds, we knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Mark Hamill. When it appeared getting in touch may be a possibility we leapt at the opportunity. Mark had always wanted to be part of a cool sci-fi anthology show, being a big fan of TWILIGHT ZONE, and by the power of Zeus’ beard he decided to give us knuckleheads a chance. Working with him was a dream come true, to say the least. I’m pretty sure that when he spoke those first lines as the narrator I passed out from severe shock due to extreme elation. I don’t think I’ll ever recover.

Dimension 404 - Ashley Rickards as Susan Hirsch and Utkarsh Ambudkar as Alex Kapour

The Difficulties of Time Travel

CV: Sci-fi elements are so often used in a way that feels cheap, time travel perhaps most of all. However, the episode “Chronos” managed to utilize it in a way that was incredibly fun. Did you encounter any challenges while trying to work out your approach to time travel for the episode?

DD: The funny thing about time travel is that it’s absolutely impossible! “Chronos” was no exception to that rule. Breaking that story was certainly one of the most mind-numbing challenges I’ve ever undertaken. Thank god for our head writer, Will Campos, who underwent serious mental gymnastics to ensure the time travel aspects made sense in the context of the story. He did a ton of research on theoretical physics to make it as sound as possible. That said, there were obvious liberties taken. For the writers and I, we always kept our eye on the characters’ emotional continuity. As long as we stayed true to the characters, and allowed them to make honest decisions, people would forgive the inevitable plot holes. We avoided the trappings of cool time travel plot twists for the sheer sake of spectacle. For us, time travel was a structural tool through which we explored themes of nostalgia and security. I think that’s what makes it feel most real.

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An Understanding Partner

CV: This is RocketJump’s second series with Hulu (the first being ROCKETJUMP: THE SHOW). What made the streaming site a good fit for the series?

DD: RocketJump, and by nature DIMENSION 404, are a specific brand of weird. Luckily for us, Hulu understood the comedic tone we were targeting. They are also very understanding of our roots as DIY filmmakers, coming up in the digital space, and were willing to allow us the creative freedom to do our thing. It also helped that they were willing to cut us a fat check.

Dimension 404 - Lea Michele as Amanda and Robert Buckley as Adam

Moving Forward

CV: In terms of scale and content, DIMENSION 404 seems like a big step forward for the company. How did you and the team decide that this was going to be RocketJump’s next project?

DD: Timing is everything. DIMENSION 404 had been in development for some years, and it honestly had a lot to do with the network being ready to get in the anthology game. It was not an easy show to produce, but for RocketJump, it’s just something we were insanely passionate about. The desire to will these insane stories into existence became our driving force. It was almost a dare to ourselves… can we pull this madness off?

CV: If the show is well received, do you see yourselves coming back for a second season? [Note: questions were asked before RocketJump posted their “Dimension 404 – First Look” video, in which Dolly said that this was “not the end of the DIMENSION 404 journey.”]

DD: I would love to do another season of DIMENSION 404! If the network wants to do more they know where to find me. We already have a slate of second season stories we’re excited about. One of the benefits of sci-fi anthology is there’s no shortage of territory to explore. We’ve got an episode about sex robots we’re just dying to tackle!

This interview has been edited, with some questions being updated for clarity and to reflect new information. Some of the interview has also been cut down for your enjoyment. All images used in the article were screenshotted from Hulu.

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