December 22, 2011 by Nick
Black Mirror was a series of stand alone dramas screened on Channel 4 on consecutive Sundays with a thematic link of current and near future technology and the impact that it could possibly have. I watched them all, but I am unsure as to how much I actually enjoyed them.
The first of the three was the strongest, and arguably required the least suspension of disbelief in that everything presented was probably already possible and used. It harked back to the allegations made against John Leslie and Ryan Giggs and how this information was disseminated and leaked.
It’s a murky tale, where no one is particularly noble and the only character beyond criticism spends her time sedated and incapacitated. The public are ghouls who live vicariously by chasing spectacle. The prime minister is vain and too preoccupied with his own image to do the right thing. His aides are corrupt and preoccupied with the party and his electability over any greater morality. Those in the media want attention, regardless of the moral implications of what they report.
It’s all pretty believable and well done, but not as tense as I felt it could be and the ending seemed a little weak and unfocused. I am not sure if we were meant to feel sympathy or admiration for the kidnapper, if we were meant to view twitter with suspicion and distrust, if the prime minister was to be commended or mocked. It felt a little like old media attacking new media without understanding it and setting up its own scenario to bedevil it while echoing back to the recent past. It was also the best of the three dramas.
The second in the series was probably the weakest. In a dystopian future, workers are forced to peddle on generators (I think) all day and watching reality tv is pretty much mandatory. There was some sort of point about how people will do anything for fame and a slightly nicer gilded cage, and how counter culture is a packaged commodity, but there was precious little that felt insightful and the whole thing seemed woefully contrived and particularly obvious.
The third in the series was somewhere between the two extremes, it featured future technology but not a particularly contrived or unrecognisable society. It was subtler, and all driven by character interaction. Revolving around a love triangle and one character’s descent into paranoia, but his descent exacerbated and facilitated by the technology underpinning the whole story.
The problem with the series as a whole, but especially the last two episodes, is the nagging feeling that they are not the most interesting stories being told in the scenario that is presented. As a backdrop to a human story, rather than the logical extrapolation of the ramifications of the technology, these are adequately told and presented stories. But they’re slight. And they’re not as interesting as the possibilities they present. I felt like I was fiddling about in the margins of a great story, rather than engaged by the great story.