“Black Mirror” co-creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones never thought their show would be this prescient
Science fiction can be eery for a number of reasons. For one, sci-fi is typically a dark and twisted reimagination of our universe, wherein everything is on the verge of self-destruction. Secondly, the plots and characterizations are typically reliant on the idea that man has drastically faltered and is on a broken path. It is a genre that is heavily built on man’s quest for dominance, idolatry, social milieus and much more. It is strikingly disturbing genre that is often more unnerving than other genres like horror or even reality-based documentary.
But what makes Black Mirror so terrifying to viewers is its spooky manner of predicting future events. Few other shows have been so adept at foreshadowing world happenings that disturb, cajole or surprise. Whether it’s mechanized bees or fucking a pig, it appears that many of the stories that co-creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones concocted have begun coming true in one way or another. It’s a quality that the writers realize they’re show is doing, saying “looking at the next season we’re doing, I really hope that things don’t continue to come true.” Talking about this and more, The Knockturnal had the opportunity to sit in on discussion between Brooker and Jones as they discuss the show, being bought out by Netflix and the influence of “The Twilight Zone” with moderator and New York Magazine writer-at-large Andrew Sullivan.
“The Twilight Zone” and “Black Mirror” are Two Sides of the Same Coin
“The Twilight Zone” has long been considered the grandfather of science fiction. It was one of the first television shows that dealt with the racial and social issues plaguing America by using allegories. That way, creator Rod Serling was able to sell his TV show to networks and circumvent censorship issues. It made way for creative television that was constantly on the forefront of sociocultural dialogue.
It’s a quality that Brooker and Jones seem adamant about recreating and one that the creators recognize is thanks to the precedent set by “The Twilight Zone.” The creator explains, ‘when I’m writing the stories, it’s easier if I can relate the story to the main character. It has to be something that I can relate to.” That populist relatability is something that Brooker strives to create in his show as a means of making it more terrifying. “Technology in our show fulfills the same role that the supernatural did in shows like “The Twilight Zone.” In “The Twilight Zone” someone would find a magic whistle or something like that and then that way, magic would be the thing that propels the character. But in our world it’s technology that fulfills that same duty.”
The creator added, “And we’re in a point in time where technology perform miracles on a daily basis. But what that means is that we’re doing something far-fetched so to keep it relatable, it’s important to make sure that the characters and situations feel as grounded and real as possible.” Jones jumped in to say, “it tends to be a conceptual idea. And then everything else is put in after.”
Coming Over to Netflix
Before being picked up by Netflix and becoming the runaway hit that it is, “Black Mirror” was a little known dystopian science fiction show on Britain’s Channel Four. It was eventually picked up by Netflix for syndication before being bought outright for season three. It was a bold move, one that was lauded by many as a way of ensuring that the commentative show would stay on the air. But to Brooker, it was a moment that led to a creatively existential reawakening.
“The first episode I had written for season three was San Junipero, which was partly to reinvent what the show was for me” said Brooker who was beginning to feel as though the feeling of the show was turning stale. But it appears that Brooker wrote many of the more americanized episodes for hilariously spiteful reasons. The writer explains, “I read someone online saying, ‘oh they’ve sold it to Netflix. Now it’s going to be all American.’ So I said, ‘Fuck you! California.’ It was a bold move, one that many critics call not only the best episode of the new season, and not even the series, but for all of television in 2016.
A Very Hush-Hush New Season
Whenever a TV show is a huge hit, everyone begins clamoring to hear more. That is especially evident in the binge-fueled world of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and other original works on the streaming platforms. Consumers are ready to voraciously eat up any and all content within the matter of hours, lending to an insatiable appetite for more, more, more. But when you have such a wildly successful TV show like “Black Mirror,” it’s understandable that you’d want to keep everything under wraps so as to drum up as much hype and anticipation as possible.
“Most films have a shit bit, don’t they? They get boring. We’re playing with duration more in the upcoming season where we have longer and shorter episodes than we’ve ever done. Brooker turned to his co-creator to sheepishly ask, “I think I can say that, can’t I?” before reaffirming what he had revealed by saying, “I can’t say anything about the new season, but I think I can say that.” The light and charming creator joked about how little the reveal is, saying, “different lengths! that’s exciting isn’t it?!”
But the creator was quick to add some small tidbits of information, placating fears that this season will be as depressing and downtrodden as the previous ones. “There’s a variety of tone in the new season” said Brooker, to which Sullivan asked, “will there be any happy endings? It’s vague enough.” Brooker went on the defensive, replying in a high-pitched voice, “well that would be telling!” Jones subsided Brooker’s fears, saying, “I think they need to hear ‘yes'” to which Brooker funnily explained, “there are some momentary absences of despair,” to which the quick-witted Jones added, “that’ll be the tagline to the new season [laughs].”
“Black Mirror” is set to have its fourth season released on Netflix sometime this year. The date is yet to be revealed.