One of the best science fiction shows around is finally available in the United States. Black Mirror is now streaming on Netflix, and you should absolutely watch it.
Created by Charlie Brooker, the British miniseries is like a darker version of The Twilight Zone updated for the anxieties of modern technology. Each episode stands alone, but they all take place in a relatively near future where some element of the current technological landscape has been ratcheted up to an absurd but disconcertingly plausible degree. There are terrorists who use public humiliation, not bloodshed, to capitalize on social media virality. There’s a company that takes all the data that deceased loved ones created during their lives to build a sort of mourning-bot. And in one of the best episodes, optical recording implants enhance memory while becoming vectors for neuroses and jealousy.
The Twilight Zone updated for the anxieties of modern technology
This episode, "The Entire History of You," is a perfect example of what’s great about Black Mirror. Yes, there are memory chips and optical implants, but it’s really the story of a jealous husband. Black Mirror’s characters may live in dystopian worlds, but they’re still recognizable humans, acting out ordinary ambitions, vanities, and fears. As it does in real life, technology fades into the background even as it exerts a powerful influence on the way people live. Also like real life, the technology in Black Mirror is often as appealing as its effects are unsettling, which makes the show all the more disturbing.
Before you go off and watch it, I should say, Black Mirror is dark. Like, really dark. The first episode in particular is unlike anything I’ve seen on television. It’s satire, but the sort of satire that starts as a joke until you realize Brooker is prepared to mercilessly follow through on his premise.