A few years ago, when Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror debuted in the U.K. with three episodes, he wrote in The Guardian that the technology-driven anthology series is “all about the way we live now — and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”
Talking to Brooker recently about the new Black Mirror episodes debuting this month on Netflix, he agreed that even in the brief period since he offered that assessment of the show, “the pace of change feels like it’s accelerated. It feels like there are fewer certainties to cling to.”
That sort of unease over the rapid growth of technology, and just what the gadgets that simultaneously enthrall us, obsess us and worry us may be capable of, remains at the heart of the six new episodes of Brooker’s series.
Because of what has all changed since then, and because the original episodes have become such a cult hit, Brooker says that people regularly tweet him with headlines about new technology, telling him, “This is quite Black Mirror, isn’t it?” To a certain audience, Black Mirror seems to have quickly become a sort of shorthand for the potential paranoia arising from actual or envisioned unintentional side effects of technology.
Those tweets from fans “seem to be happening on a daily basis at the moment,” Brooker said. The latest came in the wake of the huge success of the Pokémon Go augmented reality (AR) game. AR does feature in the new Black Mirror season, Brooker says, but not in the form of Pokémon.
Brooker does agree that Pokémon is “like being in an immersive Black Mirror episode, because suddenly there were all these people walking around doing this. It’s kind of eerie.”
The new episodes are outstanding, and are, indeed, “quite Black Mirror.” Some are actually touching, others rather horrific, but all containing at least a slight edge of the mistrust that a part of our brains seems to have toward even the most benevolent-seeming technology.
But Brooker doesn’t want the series to necessarily foster a distrust of tech. “I’m a fan of technology,” he said. “I used to be a video games journalist back in the ’90s. I find technology generally seductive and interesting and fun. I love it. I’m not kind of waving my fist at progress, but I’m also neurotic and a worrier.”
Referencing his Guardian quote about humanity’s tendency to get “clumsy,” Brooker reflected that that does not only apply today.
“We’ve always been clumsy as a species,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that when speech was invented it was a wonderful thing, and then you can bet within 20 minutes one caveman insulted another caveman, and they bludgeoned each other to death. Progress has its side effects.”
And the side effects speculated over in Black Mirror are enthralling, and definitely worth watching, even if they might make you want to put down your phone once in a while.
Black Mirror is available on Netflix starting Oct. 21.