While the new season of ‘Black Mirror‘ is another hit for Netflix, one of the true standouts of the season is the episode “USS Callister.” It is the combination of the acting, the writing, the ‘Star Trek’ theme, but most importantly how everything played out that made it a fan favorite. Now, showrunner Charlie Brooker is discussing what actually inspired the episode. Since this is obviously going to fly into spoiler controlled territory, if you haven’t had a chance to see the episode quite yet I’d turn back now, watch it, and come back to find out more!
If you’re still with me, you either have seen the episode or don’t care about the spoilers. Now, as anyone who has seen the episode knows the entire USS Callister is actually a modded version of the most popular online game known to mankind that the CTO has created on his home machine. Jesse Plemons’s character didn’t make this just for fun though. As an outsider in real life, he has taken biological samples of anyone who has belittled him and cloned them into his own little virtual world filled with memories of their lives up to that point.
For ‘Game of Thrones’ fans out there, this pretty much is akin to being placed into a world run by King Joffrey. As Brooker states, Plemons’s character isn’t the nicest of people when he is taking vengeance on those he can’t actually respond to in the real world.
The basis for all of this? A classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episode titled “It’s a Good Life”.
According to Brooker:
“We were on the set of an episode from last season, “Playtest,” and we were talking about virtual reality and video games, and the conversation went to, “Well, you could be the king of the castle in there, you could have an evil emperor or tyrant.” Which reminded me of that episode, a story they revisited again in The Twilight Zone movie. I watched the episode again not that long ago and it’s still utterly terrifying. It’s like a depiction of what it must be like living under King Joffrey. You’ve got to watch your step. That was the starting point. What if we do a story about an all-powerful tyrant who cast himself as the hero?”
Living in a world where you can’t actually die without the creator’s consent also means that you could be banished in pain and suffering or turned into a monster at any point.
The episode was penned “around the time of the inauguration” and there was a lot of feelings at that time which bled into the story:
“There was a certain mood among a lot of the cast that we were dealing with a new regime coming in. That’s an aspect of it. It’s not where the idea came from. But as soon as you get into the workplace stuff, forcing people [into the virtual prison] for what he perceives as slights in the workplace, that then gets to a whole other level of stuff. So often with our episodes, really, there’s not a central message or certain thing we’re trying to evoke, but it comes out alongside of that. Certainly, a lot of those things resonate in that episode, but it’s not directly about any one of those things. Really “USS Callister” is about someone who is wielding absolute power who shouldn’t be, and people overthrowing him.”
So it wasn’t meant to be political or aimed at anyone in particular, it just ended up seeming that way.
Did you enjoy “USS Callister” and the rest of the latest season of ‘Black Mirror’? Do you feel that it went overboard on any of these themes or were they subtle enough to focus just on the technological aspects of the episode? Share your thoughts below!
Source: Entertainment Weekly