“Black Mirror”: Feverish, Paranoid, and Angry

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Bryce Dallas Howard (center) in season three of “Black Mirror”

When the British television series “Black Mirror arrived on Netflix, the internet went wild — fitting for a show critics have called a “Twilight Zone” for the digital age. “Black Mirror” straddles sci-fi and realistic horror. Each stand-alone episode looks at how technology is warping our lives, and extrapolates it to fascinating extremes.

“I was always a fan of twist-in-the-tale, spooky, creepy, speculative fiction,” says Charlie Brooker, the show’s creator and main writer. Previously, Brooker was best known in the UK as a media critic and comedy writer. “And so the way that technology has marched in and upended everything over the last few years seemed like a good starting point for a bunch of what-if stories.”

As in: Could you replace your deceased spouse with an avatar using their social media data? If you could record every single thing you see and review it later, what would it do to your marriage? What if a terrorist’s ransom demand wasn’t money, but the televised humiliation of a world leader?

That last scenario started in Brooker’s mind as a comedic premise, but the longer he worked on it, the more it became tragic. “There’s a lack of control going on in this day and age. It’s not quite clear who’s in command,” he says. The technology in “Black Mirror” is at once terrifying and seductive — and exquisitely rendered on-screen. But Brooker insists tech is not the villain in these scenarios. Rather, “it’s weak people using powerful tools” that leads, perhaps inevitably, to chaos.

(Originally aired February 5, 2015)

Bonus Track: Kurt's extended conversation with Charlie Brooker

 

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