Mr Charlie Brooker Talks Black Mirror Season Three
Mr Charlie Brooker. Photograph by Mr Andy Parsons/Time Out/Camera Press, London
The director of the uncomfortable yet compulsive TV series talks technology in an exclusive Q&A ahead of the new season on Netflix.
“This has all started to feel like one, long, extended episode of Black Mirror,” a friend in the US texted the other Sunday night during the second Presidential debate. The critically acclaimed television show, which examines the darker side of contemporary society and the questionable outcomes of new technologies, has – in just six subversive stand-alone episodes (plus a feature-length seasonal special) on Channel 4 – entered our lexicon as a shorthand for surreality, a Twilight Zone for our Snapchatting times.
“I think some people look at the show and believe it’s an angry person shaking his fist at the App Store,” says Mr Charlie Brooker, the former TV critic and gaming journalist who created the series, which has a new home on Netflix, where six further episodes will be available to download from Friday. “But technology is never the villain in our stories – it’s used in place of magic. And our stories are about human dramas, and interesting and weird dilemmas.
“I really love technology and gizmos and gaming,” he continues. “When I finish writing a scene, I reward myself with 15 minutes of playing Doom.” Worrying, however, is his “other hobby”, he admits. “I'm always worrying about the consequences of something.”
Black Mirror has proven particularly and bizarrely prophetic when it comes to the dirty business of politics. The very first episode, The National Anthem, featured a prime minister coerced into sexual congress – live on television – with a pig, while the extraordinary campaign run by Mr Donald Trump to become the US president has been compared to The Waldo Moment, an episode in which a by-election is hijacked by a fictitious television character.
Ms Bryce Dallas Howard in Black Mirror, season three. Photograph by Mr David Dettmann/Netflix
The show is also much admired by those within the industry, with actors and directors clamouring to be involved. Previous stories have featured Mr Jon Hamm and Ms Hayley Atwell, while this season’s cast list includes Ms Bryce Dallas Howard, Ms Kelly McDonald and Mr James Norton, with an episode directed by Mr Joe Wright, best known for his big-screen successes Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.
Thanks to the creative freedoms bestowed by a streaming service, the new episodes vary in length, as well as in tone and topic. “We’ve got a police procedural story, we’ve got a romance, we’ve got a thriller, we’ve got a horror romp episode, and a military story,” says Mr Brooker. “One episode is a period piece, set in California in 1987.”
Victorian gothic horror was, in part, influenced by the Industrial Revolution, and fears about the dramatic societal changes it wrought. So are we all being overly paranoid about the impact of iPhones and the internet?
Mr Malachi Kirby in Black Mirror, season three. Photograph by Mr Laurie Sparham/Netflix
“Possibly, but when you’re spending more time staring at a screen than you are talking to your children, you wonder, are we shifting as a society?” says Mr Brooker, a father of two. “How we interact is changing. We were promised that the internet would bring everyone together, but we seem to be separating ourselves into little cliques and clubs, dividing and separating out into the corners.”
But we may also, he believes, simply be in the teething stage. “Once the technology we have in our phones goes straight into a chip in our brain, things will feel smoother. We’ll be able to look at our children, and a list of their failings will come up beside them,” he predicts. “It’s just a bit clunky at the moment.”
Season three of Black Mirror will be available to stream on Netflix tomorrow