About a year ago, American nerds on Twitter started raving about a television series called Black Mirror. I was rather surprised to discover it was an obscure British show from 2011, but found it had grown in popularity through 2013-14 whereupon Netflix picked it up, ploughed in some money, and released another two seasons. This explains how American audiences suddenly got interested.
I started watching it when I first heard about it, but gave up after the first two episodes which I thought were vaguely interesting but nothing special. Then about a month ago I’d watched everything else on my list so gave it another go, and was hooked. The series consists of stand-alone stories of between 45 and 90 minutes all set in the reasonably near future where different technologies are deployed in everyday life. Society looks pretty much as it does now, only augmented by new technologies, and although some feature in multiple stories, you generally get a different one each episode. Almost always, the storyline revolves around some ethical problem the technology throws up, and how it can be harnessed for the good, create moral dilemmas, or abused for nefarious ends. The mood is generally dark, but occasionally one is positively uplifted, for instance in the episode San Junipero.
While most people rate Black Mirror highly overall, there is little agreement over which episodes are the best and worst. I didn’t find any of them terrible, and most were very good with one or two being brilliant. My favourite was White Christmas, with an ending so horrific it gave me nightmares that evening. White Bear, San Junipero, Shut Up and Dance, and USS Callister were probably the next best, in no particular order. I think it speaks to the strength and depth of each storyline that there is little consensus on which episodes are the best, and it really comes down to what aspect strikes a chord with you. Aside from the intriguing technology, the acting is superb with many a famous face popping up, and the series being split between America and the UK keeps things fresh.
Black Mirror was probably the best television series I’ve watched in a long time, and shows the exceptional talent of Charlie Brooker, who wrote most of the storylines. I don’t mind admitting there were two or three episodes which made me wish I’d written something half as good. If you’re into sci-fi, I highly recommend it.