Black Mirror (C4 TV series)

Anthony G Williams

Black Mirror (C4 TV series)

A series of three TV dramas on UK Channel 4 "that taps into collective unease about our modern world". Each takes a look at some aspects of modern society by imagining what the future might hold if current trends continue.

The National Anthem

The nation's favourite princess has been captured and is being held to ransom. The kidnapper's demand? That the Prime Minister should have sex with a pig - live on TV - that day; otherwise she dies. This is the premise for an hilarious but very dark comedy as the PM struggles to find a way out of the situation, with spin doctors, special forces, TV reporters and his wife all getting involved, and many twists and turns before the final sting in the tail. Painfully real - the PM's agonised dilemma is all too convincing.

15 Million Merits

Some time in the future, the lot of most citizens is to spend their days on exercise bikes, generating power for some unknown purpose. The harder they pedal, the more Merits they earn to spend on food, consumer goods and popular entertainment. The only way out is to earn the 15 million Merits needed to get a ticket onto a talent show, where their performances are judged by a panel plus the reaction of a virtual audience. One man hears a new neighbour singing, an innocent girl only just old enough to have started pedalling, and is so moved that he sponsors her for the talent show. But the outcome is entirely unexpected, and drives him into making a dramatic intervention - with an equally unexpected consequence. No humour in this one apart from the satirical portrayal of the judging panel, but it's a bitter, thought-provoking take on some trends in modern society.

The Entire History of You

The time is the near future, when almost everyone is implanted with a Grain in their heads: a small memory chip which permanently records everything a person sees or hears. It can be played back in their heads or sent to a TV screen, as often as they want. This is remarkably convenient but the drama reveals the social and psychological dangers of a memory which is not only perfect, but can be replayed to anyone else. The plot follows the gradual disintegration of one man who obsessively replays his memories to look for clues about the relationship between his wife and an old flame of hers they'd recently met, zooming in on details, using lipreading programmes to decipher distant conversations, and so on. Not for those who prefer their entertainment to be light-hearted.

These programmes make compelling viewing and, unlike other TV dramas, have stuck firmly in my mind. The first is more of a political satire but the others are adult SF, and all of them were written to make people think rather than be passively entertained. They make the usual TV SFF hokum look ridiculously juvenile. If you missed them, try to see them. They are not always easy to watch but are exemplars of what modern adult SF programmes should really be like.

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)


Creative Writer
I watched the first, and it was a bit scandalous really. I was torn between liking it for the whole Banksy/Anonymous style thing, and condemning it for the moral issues.

But the second episode I thought was absolutely brilliant and I watched it twice and could watch it again.

The third had a star I wanted to watch it for, the lead from Rock n Rolla. But it turned out to be less about the scifi and more about jealousy/relationships and filmed in a dark, gritty manner that didn't appeal.

If they had all been like the second, it'd sit far better with me.