Is Black Mirror for Star Trek fans?

Star Trek and The Twilight Zone fed off each other as groundbreaking science fiction storytelling in the 1960s. But how accessible is the (mostly) dystopian Black Mirror, “The Twilight Zone for the digital age,” for Star Trek fans? 

One of the purposes of science fiction is to help people wrap their heads around new technologies. When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, what many regard as the first science fiction novel, she was responding to scientific ideas introduced in the Enlightenment (notably “galvanism”). When the Japanese film industry started producing kaiju films, they were dealing with the traumas of the atomic bomb.

In the 1960s, Star Trek was part of America’s way of capturing the spirit of the space race: if we could get go to the moon by 1969, think of how far we could go in a couple hundred years. Indeed, as William Shatner frequently points out, the success of Star Trek and funding for space travel were interconnected. (One of my personal theories is that Gene based Kirk at least in part on an idealized version of JFK.)

Black Mirror, a dystopian sci-fi anthology series, aims to help people wrap their heads around what the Internet could become: “Twilight Zone meets the digital age.” And recently Netflix dropped the third season.

Hallmark installments of the first two seasons, which appeared on British TV’s channel 4, basically take one aspect of current technology – smart phones, social media – and crank them up to their illogical, but plausible, extreme. One episode, “15 Million Credits,” is a horrific future where everyone is trapped inside the cross between a smart phone game and a reality TV talent show.

One of the new episodes, “Nosedive,” takes the Instagram-ification of life past the point of living. Star Trek alum Alice Eve co-stars as the queen of this world of anti-social social media.


Another episode, “San Junipero,” features a cameo by another Star Trek star: Ricardo Montalban in the form of one of his 1980s Chrysler commercials.


I don’t want to spoil anything more about the new season, for those who may be interested but haven’t seen it yet, but most of the episodes don’t have particularly happy endings. Many have said they make you want to throw your phone out the window – and I must admit the more times I check my phone a day the more I feel “assimilated.”

Now with terms like “horrific future” and “dystopian,” the series doesn’t sound particularly Star Trek-y. But advancement in computer technology in the last 50 years has vastly outstripped that of transportation: since we haven’t even sent a person past the moon, who’s to say when we’ll get to the stars? Meanwhile, you can do more with the phone in your pocket (or in your hand while you’re reading this) than Spock ever could with his tricorder. So the stories we tell now need to reflect this reality.

For fans of science fiction, Black Mirror is worth checking out – certainly at least the episodes I’ve listed in this article.

And let’s use all this new computer power on space travel. F’crying out loud. First Contact Day is less than 37 years away.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The first episode was about a British PM forced to… um, well… have relations with a pig on live TV.

Whatever this show is trying to say is completely lost on me. I’ll never watch again.

It’s been some time since I saw that episode. As far as I remember it was about the power of public opinion and how easily it can shift these days. It was also about voyeurism – people in the episode knew that the pig action was completely wrong (and gross) but still they demanded it and everybody watched it.
I found Black Mirror a very interesting show. Of course, they exagerate stuff, and some of it seems outrageous, but the show raises some valid points if you’re willing to think about it. I haven’t seen the third season, yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it.

I warn people to possibly skip the pilot. It’s by far the weakest. The show has some great aspects to it. It is not, however, Trek. Many of the episodes lack a moral center, boiling down only to “be afraid of technology; it will steal your life.” There are some wonderful eps, though. White Christmas, 15 Million Credits, and San Junipero (the feel good one) are stand-outs. The casting and production values are also excellent, although I must say that if the future is going to be this beige, I’ll have to pack some reds and deep blues. Give it a serious try and I think any Trek fan will find something to enjoy/think about.

I started watching the pilot. When they were about to start the broadcast I turned it off because I didn’t want to see that. I read the rest of the plot online. Do they actually show the “act?” Or is it safe to watch? I don’t want to have to scrub my eyeballs.

Of course they don’t show anything. It’s all implied. I actually found that episode on of the strongest because of the message it had to convey.

@ Ciarán: I wonder if some people don’t like this episode because it is probably closest to reality. In a sense, it forces the viewers to ask themselves how they would react in such a situation much more than the other episodes which are more sci-fi.

Thorny, the show has a lot to say. If you don’t understand its message, I’m sorry, but the problem lies within you.

Not seen the show, but I imagine that had to do with the rumours that David Cameron did something similar back in his college days. Go Google Piggate for more info on Wikipedia.

Really good show but too few per season. Hard to understand the dialog at times because of the English accents.

Yeah, it seems that quite a few British TV shows do very few episodes per season. Sherlock definitely comes to mind with only 3 episodes per season and breaks of several years between seasons.

:-) How hard is our accent to understand? UK shows are generally shorter, but this should mean that they are of a higher quality throughout, but it isn’t always the case.

UK accents are fine. Your ears are probz the problem, Minnie.

Is there a reason you posted the same commercial twice?

I heard of this show just very recently. It does sound interesting and probably will watch the first episode at least.

If you’re only going to watch one episode, skip the pilot. It doesn’t accurately represent the series as a whole. Plus every episode is completely stand alone so it doesn’t matter what order you watch them in.

Good to know thanks! Will check it out on Netflix. :)

I also enjoy Dark Matter. Two seasons are now on Netflix.

I really like Dark Matter too. There’s a “family feeling” to the characters, and when the occasional science fiction is introduced into the plots it’s fun to think about. There’s a little too much violence for my taste, but otherwise, I like it. Remember: you can solve anything with guns and teamwork! The mixture of futuristic and present-day technology is a little weird. Projectile weapons but blink drive. Uhh ….

Still, I look forward to Season 3.

“Black Mirror” sounds like kind of another story. A very dark dystopian sense of humor [as in “House of Cards”] with invasive technology — not so sure about watching it. Perhaps I’ll check it out.

Dark Matter….a worthy successor to “Blake’s 7” but without the transmat system on-board.

Three, actually, in the United States with more episodes coming in January. I absolutely agree that the first episode, “The National Anthem,” is the weakest of the entire show. However, the one to follow it, “Fifteen Million Merits,” is one of the best.

It’s an incredible look into a notional near-future and how technology impacts society.

lots of ‘trek’ episodes have involved the use and abuse of technology so there is a line to be drawn to ‘black mirror’.

OS, TNG, Voy, ds9 or Ent crewmembers dropped into a dystopian world and luckily finding a way out.

“First Contact Day is less than 37 years away.”
No, it’s 47 years away. :-)

First Contact day is in about 46 years.

“Arrival” is the second major motion picture to have First Contact occur in Montana.

@ Thorny: Maybe the writer is a Star Trek fan.

Not so keen on this Americanised version Netflix are churning out.


While Black Mirror is a superb (IMHO) and is some amazing thought provoking narratives that are generally driven to cause one to think about the unintended consequences of otherwise great ideas, like Technology couple with deep human natures or (sins) such as pursuit of power, the needs of feeling a part of something, loneliness, the protection of deep personal secrets, etc etc.

I’m not really sure it has a lot in common with Trek except that when Trek does explore these deeper inner issues I think we often get the best Trek. Aren’t these kinds of self analysis quests often times the best places for a story to live?

Watched two episodes. Cant remember their names. First one was two guys in a cabin at Christmas and I kept falling asleep it was so boring. Never finished it.

Second was better. The one where everyone grades each other on their phones like “likes” on FB and people are slotted into classes based on their rating. It was pretty good. Still a bit longer than it needed to be.

So in two episodes my opinion is that its a show with some cool ideas but they hired writers without the talent to pull them off.

The idea that cell phones are evil or whatever is silly. Sure, there is always a fear of new technology and it takes time for people to adjust (just look at the US election to see how one guy speaking in 140 character sound bytes won). But 100 years from now…?

It’s fallacy to think 100 years makes any difference. People have always been the same, the medium is the only thing that’s changed.
50 years ago it was hateful chain letters. Today, twitter. Tomorrow VR or whatever, but messages have been consistent. Humanity, by and large, won’t change.


Re: It’s fallacy to think 100 years makes any difference

You got that right but then you overstate the proposition by declaring “People have always been the same… .” Well, the evolutionary record begs to differ, but your overarching premise is correct: that people don’t significantly change as rapidly over the short spans of time that most consider.

Yes my point was the same, that today the idea that cell phones are evil or ruining us as a species is idiotic.

Sort of like the idea we need specific laws against cell phone use while driving which is a big deal in my city. When the in-car radio was invented, everyone thought the streets would be littered with bodies and wrecks. Its a fear and lack of understanding of technology.


Re: will ‘discovery’ work on tv?-

Moot point as Les Moonves has already said that, due to outside the US syndicated television sales, STAR TREK DISCOVERY has already made a profit, i.e. it is already a tv success on pre-sales alone. In other words, Joe Anderton writes with great ignorance, perhaps exemplified by his calling it “Star Trek: Discover [ sic ]” as it has to succeed on television in the rest of the world for it to succeed at all as it has currently been sold.

but he is right that a show like ‘trek’ would not thrive on network tv.
OS was lucky to make it to 3 seasons in the 60s.
most successful US sf and fantasy network tv is largely earthbound.


Re: show like ‘trek’ would not thrive on network tv.

My point is that it ALREADY has thrived outside the US on presales alone to TV networks there, i.e. the contention is moot.

“And let’s use all this new computer power on space travel. F’crying out loud. First Contact Day is less than 37 years away.”

May I direct your attention to SpaceX?

Jared Whitley,

Re: you can do more with the phone in your pocket (or in your hand while you’re reading this) than Spock ever could with his tricorder.

In some ways, yes, but I still can’t get my phone to give the age of an artifact or the composition of rocks and lifeforms through 100 miles of strata.