From the mind of writer Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror first appeared on our TV screens in 2011. An anthology series which took a dark look into the the psyche of modern society in 3 stories, ‘The National Anthem’, ’15 Million Merits’ & ‘The Entire History Of You’ comprising the first series, ‘Be Right Back’, ‘White Bear’ & ‘The Waldo Moment’ comprising the second with Xmas special ‘White Christmas’ rounding up its original run.
The first series was a strong start from Brooker, ‘The National Anthem’, Set in a time not too dissimilar to our own ‘The National Anthem’ concerns a member of the British Royal family being kidnapped and held to random with a rather unsavoury request for the Prime Minister, full un-simulated sex with a pig on national television. It made some rather bold statements about our infatuation with the media, scandal and the misfortune of others. ’15 Million Merits’ with it’s very effective observation of the public preoccupation of the pursuit of celebrity and the mass consumption of manufactured reality for entertainment which made for a searing indictment of shows like The X Factor & Britain’s Got Talent. ‘The Entire History Of You’ is clearly the stand out story of the first season, so much so that it has been optioned for it’s own film adaptation by Robert Downey Jr no less. In a near future, people are fitted with optical prosthesis called Z-Eyes which enable everything the user see’s to be recorded and store to watch back or ‘redo’. What does this ability in the hands of a jealous man yield?
The second series was equally as strong. ‘Be Right Back’ and its examination of human grief alongside the advancement of technology is chilling and touching in equal measure. What if we could bring back a loved one after death? Starring a pre-Star Wars Domhnall Gleeson and pre-Agent Carter Hayley Atwell, it is a thought provoking and powerful start to the shows second run. ‘White Bear’, possibly the darkest tale from the second season looks at our reactions as a society to horrific crimes, just how far we’ll go to punish those that perpetrate them and our almost voyeristic obsession with that which disgusts us. Even in its weaker moments, Black Mirror is still cutting and on the ball, ‘The Waldo Moment’ is arguably the weakest story in Black Mirrors entire run but it is still a very effective story exploring our relationship to politicians and how through lack of belief in them we are more than capable of wasting our voting privileges, in the case of this story, on a blue cartoon bear. The second series was followed by a one off feature length Christmas special called ‘White Christmas’. It’s up there for me with The League Of Gentleman as possibly the most unseasonal Christmas special ever, in the best possible way, looking at how our relationship with technology may shape how we could approach correction for crimes and whether it is morally right to do so utilising cruel and unusual means of punishment.
In the space of two series and a special, Black Mirror succeed in giving us a 21st Century equivalent to Tales Of The Unexpected and other similar anthology shows. With the upcoming return to Netflix, hopefully it shall continue for many years to come.