Review: Black Mirror – ‘USS Callister’

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A great opening to the fourth season, the classic Black Mirror satire is on point and Charlie Brooker gives us another scenario that we never could've expected.

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So it’s back. After Netflix released a stream of short trailers attached with no official release date, we were finally told that Black Mirror would return for its fourth season on December 29th. And now it’s actually here. With Season 3 managing to bank itself a couple of Emmys in September, I think it’s safe to say that expectations have been high for this coming season and this first episode only confirms them. Charlie Brooker continues to tap into our most subconscious fears in ‘USS Callister’ by delivering sci-fi satire which works alongside our growing fear of developing technologies.

The basic premise of’ ‘USS Callister’ is not all too suspicious. Our unfortunate protagonist, Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) comes across as the bumbling nice guy, put down by his womanizing boss Walton (Jimmi Simpson) who takes all of the credit for Daly’s creation of their hugely successful online gaming world. But it’s not all bad. He spends his nights fantasizing that he’s the great Captain Daly of his favourite show, Space Fleet, using his own invented technology to live in a virtual world and live out a fantasy where he’s the one calling the shots. So all’s fun and games? Of course not, this is Black Mirror.

Behind the ’60s-era knock-off Star Trek veneer lies a pretty gruesome truth in Daly’s created reality. After a friendly introduction with new employee Nanette (Cristin Milioti), we watch Daly steal her DNA from a used coffee cup and create a digital copy of her within his Space Fleet program. Donning the scantily-clad uniform of her female co-workers, Nanette’s copy is planted into Daly’s ensemble, who are required to conform to their expected performances or be turned into alien monsters. Daly plays out his childhood fantasies within this virtual universe and with total control over life and death, there seems to be no escape for his co-workers’ copies, who truly believe that they are within this reality. I don’t want to disclose too much of the episode’s obvious unexpected conclusion but look out for a rebellion resulting in an outside connection with Nanette’s true self.

At a hefty 75 minutes, ‘USS Callister’ is the longest episode of this new season, perhaps a little too long but if you’re sitting down to watch an episode of Black Mirror you’ll likely be in it for the long haul anyway. In true fashion, it manages to get you thinking about the way the world of technology might end up, with a combination of satirical humour and bleak drama. A great start to the new season, ‘USS Callister’ adds a new level to Black Mirror in a brilliantly delivered narrative – seriously, how do they come up with these ideas?

Series 4 of Black Mirror including ‘USS Callister’ is available to watch on Netflix now. 

 

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Records Editor at The Edge. Also a third year English and History student who has an unhealthy obsession with Foals.

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