Black Mirror – The Collection
Back in 2008 Charlie Booker’s mini-series DEAD SET attempted to do what all good (and most of the bad) zombie stories do: Wrap some social commentary in a tale full of blood and guts and undead shenanigans. For the most part Dead Set succeeded. It’s an extremely enjoyable zombie series with the added bonus of visualising the dismemberment of Big Brother contestants. As far as the social commentary aspect… well, that seemed to get lost along the way, only to be remembered with some heavy handed imagery towards the end. It’s forgivable though, nobody watching a six part zombie series wants to feel bludgeoned around the head with high-brow social blah blah blah as much as they want to see the zombies themselves get bludgeoned around the bonce for that same period.
With BLACK MIRROR Charlie Booker once again attempts this social commentary malarkey, but this time he’s created not a single story, but a series of stand alone episodes each with a take on our dependance, and indeed our addiction, to technology.
“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”
Where Dead Set wavered Black Mirror’s anthology format allows Booker to focus on a single idea. Each of the six episodes examines how some aspect technology is changing our lives, the way we interact with people, the way we remember our experiences, what we share of ourselves, how we consume news, the value we place on entertainment. Some are set in a parallel present, however most are set in a near future – which also manages to eerily still represent our present in some way or another. With a single focus for each episode the message stays loud and clear without the club-like lack of subtly of Dead Set. What’s more, these are each enjoyable tales, wonderfully shot, engaging and emotional, in their own right.
Moral lessons and social thinkery stuff aside Black Mirror has a wonderful all-bets-are-off feel to it. Nothing is certain, because there’s no need to have any character — or indeed the world itself — return for the next episode. It reminds me very much of classic Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes in this way. A happy ending is not necessarily in the card for the people who exist in Charlie Bookers’ mind… and if there’s accuracy to it, perhaps not in our future either.