Sci-fi series Black Mirror is a nightmare you have to experience

Sci-fi series Black Mirror is a nightmare you have to experience

British TV series Black Mirror, created for Channel 4, can at times be almost unwatchable. If you’re not unsettled while viewing what might best be called tech-gone-wrong, an ugly yet fascinating exposé on technological immersion – the downside of omnipresent cameras – a nightmarish trip through social media – then it’s likely you are one of the very few TV-watching people in this world that has not let computer technology into his life. For the rest of us, Black Mirror will leave you feeling ashamed, impressed and unwilling to check your Facebook status for a couple of hours.

The New Yorker called it, “The Twilight Zone for the digital age”, with the reviewer adding that after she had attained it “through occult means” – prior to the series showing on Netflix – she felt, “disoriented, dropped on a new planet.” The Verge even left a caveat at the end of its review, saying, “Before you go off and watch it, I should say, Black Mirror is dark. Like, really dark.”

The series was created by acerbic British satirist, Charlie Brooker, a onetime game reviewer who became well known, at least in Britain, for trampling all over the news in his NewsWipe series, and later sardonically skewing the idiot box in the brilliant How TV Ruined Your Life. Brooker has made a living by mocking the medium in which he works, much like a Luddite working on the inside, deliriously vacillating between love and hate towards the objects at his disposal.

It seems with Black Mirror Brooker sees technology as the cross to bear we can’t live without, a seductive yoke as wonderful and ominous as sugar. On the miracle of technology and his awkward embrace with it Brooker told The Guardian in 2011, “I relish this stuff. I coo over gadgets, take delight in each new miracle app. Like an addict, I check my Twitter timeline the moment I wake up. And often I wonder: is all this really good for me? For us? None of these things have been foisted upon humankind – we’ve merrily embraced them. But where is it all leading? If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects?”

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If a side-effect of technology is Brooker’s imagining of the possible side-effects of technology then we can be glad in some ways that it has a tarnished underside. Misery and art make great bedfellows, and Brooker has made a career out of being, or acting, miserable. Is so much time online good for us; does the internet provide us with more freedom of access to knowledge, or are we becoming outstanding proponents of modern self-immurement? The answer of course is nuanced, and like all compelling science fiction Black Mirror messes with our insecurities, the parts of us that are unsure about our ever-changing proclivities and where we might be heading as a society. Black Mirror might at times be a massive exaggeration of a proposed future, but not many people will deny it a possible place in time if we don’t temper our progress with social harmony in mind. That’s why the series is outstanding, because it’s both outlandish and believable.

Black Mirror US Version

Early last year it was rumored that a U.S. version of Black Mirror would be made by production company Endemol Shine North. Whether this rumored version would be remakes of the original episodes or new tales exploring the dark side of tech has not been confirmed. In fact, not much has been confirmed at all, and Endemol Shine has not replied to our emails. In Variety last year the production company only went as far as to say, “there is a plan” to make a new USA-based series.

It has been confirmed that Netflix, a platform described by Brooker as, “the most fitting platform imaginable,” has commissioned another 12 episodes of the series, possibly to come out in the fall of 2016. This was confirmed in the Guardian when Cindy Holland, Netflix vice president of original content said, “Charlie has created a one-of-a-kind series with an uncanny voice and prescient, darkly comedic vision. We’re tremendously proud to bring Black Mirror to our members as a Netflix original series.”

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As well as that a U.S. version of Black Mirror’s third episode, The Entire History of You, an entirely uncomfortable hour’s viewing that explores the pitfalls of electronically saved memories with heightened technology, could be made into a feature film produced by  Robert Downey Jr and his production company Team Downey. Apparently George Clooney was also in the running for the rights to the film.

Watch the last episode made, the Christmas special White Christmas, starring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and Ralph Spall, and you’ll very quickly agree with the critics’ strong language in the opening paragraphs of this story. The episode only became available to Netflix last month and has since been favorably reviewed. What starts as a parable to the misuse of social media, augmented reality and live video feeds – not too much of a distance to our present misuse use of such technology – turns into something more monstrous than you definitely won’t have imagined.

Photo credit: Channel 4

James Farrell

James Farrell is the former editor-in-chief of Chiang Mai CityNews, where he wrote and managed daily news, features, op-eds and blogs on a diverse range of topics. Prior to this, in the same city of Northern Thailand where he lives, he was the longstanding deputy editor of the monthly magazine Citylife. He has written on culture, politics, travel, tech, business, human rights, for local, national, and international news services and magazines. He has a keen interest in the role technology is playing in the transformation of society, culture and politics, especially in developing nations. This is reflected in his not-so-successful first novel.

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