Series review

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Black Mirror season two, episode one "Be Right Back"

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Black Mirror: Where science fiction becomes reality

By Charlie Brooker

Review by Daphnie Daras, Ecsite's Communications Intern from September to December 2016 and a Master student at ULB in Brussels (Master thesis title: The importance of technology in our everyday lives: case study Black Mirror)

We are the generation that has become dependent on new technologies as they have evolved at the same time as we did. We witnessed the evolution from Walkman to iPod, from VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray but most importantly we saw the shift from PC to laptop to tablet and from mobile phone to smartphone. But what does this actually mean? Is this a good thing or not?

The development of the Internet and its many applications (to which we have access from our smartphones) is the revolutionary technological creation that has had the biggest impact on us. It has deeply changed society and relationships and we still don’t know what this means for us in the future.

In the British series Black Mirror, a three-part series in the same vein as The Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected and Hammer House of Horror, Charlie Brooker, the creator and showrunner of the series, explores our relationship with new technologies can be worrying sometimes and proposes a more negative side on our dependence on them (in contrast to the general opinion which tends to praise technology’s evolution), putting a special focus on the bad use people can make of these technologies.

The title itself is a reference to all the black screens surrounding us: the TV, the computer, the smartphone and the tablet screens to name a few; which are also the screens on which we can watch Black Mirror. The title is also implying the existence of a darker side of the omnipresence of these screens on our daily lives: when looking at a screen, our reflection is not clear as it is on a standard mirror, it becomes bleak.

This dystopic drama series thus takes us to a near future where life is regulated by technology even more than it is today. Indeed, the television series shows a technology which takes an ever growing place in its characters everyday routine (as the technological device often becomes a physical part of these characters).

In this series of parables, Brooker therefore depicts a future where people are not the masters of technology anymore but are often the subjects of technological devices. Each of these stand-alone episodes shows insecure environments where characters often struggle to obtain what they want and are the pawns of the technological system which regulates a variety of sectors such as politics, law, relationships, the military and the entertainment industry.

By taking the technology we know today one step further, Brooker puts the emphasis on a worrying dystopic future where science fiction is not a fiction anymore.

The show is eye opening and forces us to think about our relationship with modern technology. Each episode is a surprise: we do not know what to expect because there is always a twist in the end, where we get the key elements to understand the whole episode. One thing is sure: you’ll spend the whole episode aware of new technologies’ possible dangers, watching curiously as characters enjoy their novelty and potential and simultaneously misuse them and suffer unpredictable consequences.

Black Mirror was created by Charlie Brooker in 2011 and was running on the British public-service Channel 4 from 2011 to 2014. It initially produced two series of three episodes each and a feature-length special for Christmas in 2014. Intriguing by its depiction of the addictive relationship people have with technology, the series became known and successful internationally and the third series were produced by Netflix and include six episodes. They were all released in October 2016.

Keywords

  • Black Mirror
  • television
  • science
  • technology