REVIEW: Black Mirror’s “USS Callister” Ain’t No ‘Galaxy Quest’

Black Mirror's homage to Trek picked up seven nominations

When Netflix released a trailer for the fourth season of Black Mirror in August, Star Trek fans were thrilled to see that the series — known for very down-to-earth science fiction — would feature a space-based adventure very clearly emulating a voyage into the final frontier. 

Fans were not sure what to expect with the impossible-to-mistake title “USS Callister“– would the adventure be set in the distant future or would it be an in-universe episode of the show-within-a-show “Sea of Tranquility”? The answer we got, when the new season dropped at midnight this morning, was something different. 

SPOILERS AHEAD

The starship from hell

The Callister’s Captain Daley, played by Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights), is in fact the Chief Technology Officer officer of a company called Callister, which makes a successful online virtual reality game called Infinity. Daley named the company the ship from his favorite classic TV show Space Fleet, a thinly veiled analog for Star Trek. While the episode introduces him as a pitiable schlub, we quickly see that he hides a very dark side that he takes out within the VR universe he’s created. He might struggle to talk to girls and still drinks chocolate milk, but this man-child is far more beast than man. 

How bad could he be?

Through some contrivance, Daley has managed to trap perfect copies of some coworkers who have crossed him within his personal USS Callister, running in a standalone version of his game. Unable to die or leave, they are his playthings who must act as his Space Fleet crew, or be tortured. Daley may first come off as Reg Barclay in “Hollow Pursuits,” is actually Trelane in “Squire of Gothos,” or even the evil kid from The Twilight Zone‘s “It’s a Good Life.”

When new employee Nanette, terrifically played by Cristin Milioti, best known to the 30 Rock fans from the episode “TGS Hates Women“, finds herself drawn into Daley’s starship-from-hell, she mounts a mutiny to free herself and her crew mates. 

Cristin Milioti would make a great Vulcan.

Trek tropes with a dark twist

There are a variety of Star Trek references peppered throughout the episode, but not so many that it feels like a Star Wars movie hitting you over the head with a 2 gallon jug of blue milk. The helmsman has VISOR-like implants. There’s an interracial kiss right at the beginning. A computer screen reads “assimilating” when it probably should have just read “uploading.” The in-universe bad guy looks a lot like Khan. There’s even a bit where they impatiently race through some technobabble because they know we’ve all probably heard enough at this point.

The finale includes some fitting Star Trek/sci-fi tropes like a race through an asteroid belt and a noble self-sacrifice to save the crew. Because Black Mirror’s hallmark is dystopic tragedy, you don’t know what kind of ending to expect. 

Callister has all the Star Trek tech, even a transporter

Attack of the nerd

Despite some clever writing and great production values, I can’t give “USS Callister” a positive review — which I had desperately wanted to. While it provides some interesting commentary on the dangers of immersion into digital fantasy, the episode is too lopsided. It descends into cartoonish nerd-bashing. Beyond the great production values, there is very little love on display for Star Trek in “Callister.” While there are great production values, don’t expect the kind of loving homage of Star Trek in “Callister” that you’d find in Galaxy Quest or Futurama.

Whereas Trelane tortures the crew in “Gothos,” we see eventually that he’s just a kid who we can assume will grow up to learn his lesson. But the villain here has no opportunity “to relent or repent or confess or abstain.” The one opportunity the selfish CEO of the company has to make reconciliation with Daley turns out to just be a ruse. Beyond Star Trek fandom, the episode is critical of online gamers, and while that community has had some problems, it feels very unfair to paint them with the brush that’s used here. 

Pictured: Black Mirror’s view of a Star Trek fan.

While James Doohan used to glowingly tell stories of fans he’d inspired to become actual engineers, the fan-turned-engineer in this dark fable is a developmentally stunted tyrant beyond redemption. And the world he created for everyone to enjoy is amazing, but only once they have eliminated him from it — and that is the painfully clear message for the awkward young men who cultivated sci-fi and fan culture before it went mainstream. 

Certainly Daley, as written, deserves to die, but it would have been more Star Trek for him to find rehabilitation, not oblivion. Kirk kicked Kruge off the cliff in Star Trek III only after the Klingon had rejected an effort to save him and make peace.

Black Mirror’s utopian version of the future is one without Star Trek fans. Still lens flares, though!

Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker told Den of Geek:

…the world he has created is a throwback and a simplistic interpretation of shows like that. It’s his interpretation of that show, rather than what that show would have actually been, it’s his simplistic fable version of it and it’s quite reductive and out of date. We’re not saying that shows of that nature are reductive and out of date, because they were actually very progressive at the time. His warped version of it.

While many will enjoy “USS Callister,” it came off to me as a cruel parody and even a misandrous attack on male science-fiction fans. If the group on the receiving end of Charlie Brooker’s “satire” were anything but nerdy beta males, the Internet would be up in arms over it.

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Dandru

In other words, the writer of this article doesn’t understand BLACK MIRROR.

Seb

Exactly. The last thing I expect from BM is a “loving homage to Star Trek”. It’s basically the opposite of Star Trek.

Dandru

Right. I think it should be a prerequisite for a reviewer to understand the material he or she is reviewing. This review isn’t worth anything because it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what BLACK MIRROR is about as a series.

Jason

It’s about black people being racist about white people.

Holden

In other words, Dandru, you should take the time to explain to us what the correct interpretation of this episode should be, instead of repeatedly taking cheap shots at an author whose taken more time to clearly articulate his thoughts than you have.

Your vague “his review is worthless because he just doesn’t get BM” (or calling him “a massive ass” with “a very narrow mind”) is neither insightful nor interesting nor worth much discussion (though, ironically, they are all a very BM thing to write!).

James

Black Mirror is all about how technology can have a less than desirable effect on people. Then there’s the obvious parallel with real-world dictators: in essence, the bridge of the Callister is Daley’s own island nation, its residents slaves to his sadism and vanity.

The author seems to expect a happy Galaxy Quest type homage that celebrates geek culture. Black Mirror is far more challenging and shows how technology can subvert humanity. In a world where Facebook has been shown to be bad for psychological health, Black Mirror seems prescient.

Jack

Yep. It was actually one of my favourite Black Mirror episodes (definitely one of the best of this season). The semi-forced happy ending is a) Weird for Black Mirror and b) kind of Star Trekky.

“While many will enjoy “USS Callister,” it came off to me as a cruel parody and even a misandrous attack on male science-fiction fans.” Oh, brother. A nerve has been hit.

Chris Bahn

I felt the same thing. I LOVED this episode. Author should watch it again…and this time, pay a bit closer attention.

TokyoGaijin

Nor, I’m wagering to guess, has the writer of this article, ever seen a single episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits,” which this series is a huge homage to.

CmdrR

BM is none of the series you compare it to. This is a good entry in a series that struggles mightily to find new flavor while rehashing stories about evil cell phones/social media. The whole series lacks morality play messages, chucking them in favor of plot twists. The pilot ep is gawdawful, focusing on pork-porking. Tadaaaa! Other eps — the Christmas Special with Jon Hamm and the one where the women go clubbing in 1985 — are wonderful. They do the premise proud, but still lack a deeper meaning. You have to take BM for what it is… a scary iphone show. Or… delete.

Jack

“The whole series lacks morality play messages.” Well, if you mean force-fed “this is the moral of the story,” then maybe some episodes don’t. Although some clearly lean toward clunky. But they definitely tend to make you think. More than Trek, which isn’t as intellectual as most think.

Anthony

It’s not supposed to be Star Trek, in any way, so why interpret it like that? It was a fantastic episode because it was purely Black Mirror- dark and twisted. And they did pull off a cool TOS aesthetic with the Callister- and a cool JJPrise look for it once it escaped. I loved the episode- great start to season 4!

dnwilliams

I was so impressed by the sets for the ship, great design aesthetic. It’s a shame they won’t be revisited in any way.

kmart

I read this morning that the director says he’d love to do a whole series with this ship & crew – I guess it is up to TPTB as to whether that will happen or not.

Jack

It also shows how some fans refuse to let something grow, change or evolve — “this is not the Space Fleet way.”

James

Oh dear. The reviewer here clearly doesn’t get Black Mirror. Black Mirror is not Star Trek. It’s the antithesis of Trek, hence the title.

dnwilliams

Right? It’s like reading a review of ‘Mirror, Mirror’ complaining abut Spock having a goatee.

Marja

And eyeliner. Don’t forget the eyeliner ;^)

Jack

Wait, didn’t Spock (and everyone else) always wear eyeliner? Or was that an evil thing? I clearly need to get a 4k TV and some reading glasses and watch again.

Jack

This site really needs that like button back.

Amulius Victor

I think Jared has been watching too much Orville lol. Touchy feely Braga Trek this is not

SanFranDisco

If it’s the opposite of Orville you know it’ll be good! From his description it sounds like it’s a critique on the current movement that is poisoning fandom, the kind of toxic masculinity that attacks things like Discovery’s diversity and female leads in Trek, Doctor Who, and Star Wars. The kind that says a female doctor and a different design of Klingons are destroying their childhoods.

I’ll have to check it out and see for myself.

dnwilliams

It’s all that and more, definitely worth watching.

Marja

Me too!

Adama

WoW, that review was super narrowminded, that kind of thinking does not represent a Trek fan neither

Scott Gammans

Wow, I had a completely different reaction to this episode. I thought it was terrific, with fantastic production values, perfectly realized portrayals, and a most satisfying conclusion. I guess it comes down to where you land on gamer culture, and as far as I’m concerned, a good portion of that community deserves to be taken down a peg or 3 million. Definitely the season highlight for me.

Kev-1

I haven’t seen Black Mirror, but I’m assuming it’s deconstructive of Star Trek. This review is helpful for people who might have been expecting lighter fare. And sci fi fans have taken a big hit in plenty of shows. Lots of folks you wouldn’t suspect are fans — they don’t buy collectibles, but they watch.

James

Black Mirror is like The Outer Limits or the Twilight Zone. Challenging and complex, with often uncomfortable truths. A fun pastiche of Trek this is not.

Richard Blanchard

Space Fleet, the in-universe show the CTO was using for a basis of the modded Infinity, was a show about the wholesomeness of Space dramas. Star Trek had its messages, but sexuality was prevalent. “USS Callister” gave us a glimpse of a repressed man whose only outlet (as he had his chocolate milk or strawberry milk (my fav) and pizza), was to be able to dominate those in VR that he is too sheepish to be assertive with in real life. The villain terrorized and tortured these virtual copies to the point where they wanted to escape him. They were unaware of the overall consequences to him because they wanted to be free. Welcome to Black Mirror everyone.

kmart

Sounds like a malevolent Barclay … sounds like a fun show, will have to watch it!

Penguin44

Um the helmsman you speak of in the photo is in fact the science officer. The helmsman was a gold shirt and he was normal. Did you watch the show?

Burdy

They created the sets for one episode and it still looks better than the Orville. Not bad.

Marc Henson

I thought it was interesting.

And actually I feel that many Star Trek fans and Fandom geeks of anything can be crazy at times.

One thing that the Internet has proven especially since Star Trek: Discovery came out is that not every Star Trek fan understands the concept of the IDIC.

All the racism and general hatred that the new show has gotten is proof to me that in the real world, the Federation is a LONG way off, as many of them would never be able to build a world like that…sad but true.

Star Trek has to move on and to do so it must be different. It’s not so different than it was because Star Trek has always been bold in its use of characters and stories. To me, this episode was all about the fanatics within the Star Trek fandom…and they definitely do exist.

AdAstraPerAspera

Spot on!

smike

“To me, this episode was all about the fanatics within the Star Trek fandom…and they definitely do exist.”

You are so right. They do exist and now I see that I had been one of them in many ways. Daley was a mirror for Smike and I apologize for having trapped lots of you within this everlasting nightmare of self-absorbed and close-minded posts.
The 60s are over, so are the 90s, and yes, Star Trek characters are supposed to have genitals. The whole new era of genre entertainment is upon us and I must find peace in those changes.
I wish all of you are happy transition to 2018, the year I have to finally come of age, with a 20-year delay that is…
Smike signing off…

Jack

Wow, @smike. Yeah, this one got me thinking too (along with a story about the Call of Duty guy who got someone killed by a swat team over like a $2 wager). I get all worked up about this stuff — and it really doesn’t matter.

I’d reported some anti-gay, anti-Muslim, pro-Trump tweet, it apparently was found in violation of the Twitter rules and got deleted — and today I see the tweet’s writer’s unhinged rants about how he’s being silenced by socialists… and how he’s vowing revenge.

And now a black mirror episode is being called man-hating (not by you) on a Trek site.

Make Trek Great Again is about moving backward.

2omega

Moving forward isn’t necessarily a good thing, you know. Sometimes you have to make a few steps back – for example, when you find yourself running head-first into a wall, or when you are about to walk off a ledge. No, of course a show can’t be “man-hating”. And it can’t be “woman-hating” or “gay-hating”, either. It’s just a work of someone who’s exercising their freedom of expression. Juuust like the guy you reported, by the way. When you find yourself going out of your way to silence someone you disagree with, maybe it is the right moment to take a few steps back and check where you’re headed. Freedom of expression is undivided: it either is there for everybody, or it is not there at all. Once you start taking it away from others, you have already lost it yourself. In fact, we all did lose it. Every time someone like you uses a report button to silence somebody, we all lose a part of our freedoms. It’s only a matter of time before you yourself write something “in violation of the rules” and be deleted. The “rules” are only going to become more and more strict, and eventually, they WILL reach you. That’s how this works, you know. “With the first link, the chain is forged.” Does it ring a bell? It should. Also this: “In our century, we’ve learned not to fear words.” We’ve never been farther from that than we are today. We are not just… Read more »

marpscoot

Sorry – what are you even on about? You speak in generalized exaggerations over your fears of a police state because there’s a movement to combat longtime racist and sexist attitudes in the world.

Shitting down a racist or sexist spew on Twitter isn’t all of us losing a part of of our freedoms – that’s you being told to sod off and take your garbage somewhere else.

“We’re already putting people into jail, for words” – can you cite a relevant example, please?

“Isn’t it about time to make a few steps back?” – Yes, I think that’s basically all you want.

Marja

All the racism and general hatred that the new show

Yeah, MarkH, Except that crap has been happening since JJ’s Trek debut which featured Uhura in a larger role than on most episodes of TOS.

I remember a remark about “they should have kept her answering the telephone” or some such. Criminy.

Marc Henson

Oh yeah, I know, the fanboy rants go back to then and really even farther. And I wasn’t just talking about racism, but just some fans’ inability to let Trek move on.

Like I can talk, because I really find myself disappointed in a lot of movies in general these days, but I seriously try not to shove my opinion down people’s throats.

Not saying I never have, but sometimes I’m under attack!

2omega

I was one of those who complained. It was not about Uhura getting “a larger role”, it was about Uhura replacing McCoy in the big three. He wasn’t even on the posters for the first movie, how ridiculous is that? He IS Star Trek. Kirk is the enterprising spirit, Spock is the rationality and McCoy is the compassion, and together, they make Star Trek what it is. Put those three into a dark room and it would still be Star Trek, because that’s what Star Trek is: Kirk, Spock and McCoy (or, adventure, logic and compassion) interacting with each other.

No, I have no problem with Uhura having a larger role, but not at the expense of McCoy. That’s like giving Sulu a larger role at the expense of Spock. :-P

Sure. If I don’t love Discovery, it makes me a racist or a hater, and a worthwhile target for nerdbashing anyway. Only that now a certain brand of nerds have sided with the mainstream, to eliminate the rest of what was special and endearing about Star Trek.

Jack

@bernd You really need to watch this episode. The new stuff isn’t eliminating anything. We’re not going to #MakeTrekGreatAgain.

And some people here were definitely focused pretty much only on things like gender and race when complaining about the new Trek. And the word hater doesn’t exactly bolster an argument.

smike

Just watched it on Netflix. Truly amazing. And it came out at exactly the right point in my life. The Daley guy in a way summarized most of my own shortcomings, minus his lust for turning people into bloody monsters of course. Those of you who have followed my insane ramblings about DSC or the upcoming QT movie… rest assured, I got the gist. Daley wanted to play it save. He trapped himself (and others) in 1960s aesthetics, perceived “Star Trek”, or rather “Space Fleet”, as a close-minded “belief system”, an shallow, empty ideology that didn’t approve of change and natural growth. He was a control freak who just wasn’t open to new contemporary developments and ideas. And last but not least, at the very heart of his issues, he was sexually repressed, denying his favourite universe any full-on sexuality but tongue-less kissing… No genitals, please… All too familiar, isn’t it? THIS is exactly what I had gone through over the last couple of months and I hope I’m finally able to exit that place I trapped myself within. When Nanette called him a sick person who needs help, that very much reminded me of some of you guys, trying to reach out to me. I hope this episode provides me with enough sustainable insight to put an end to all of this rambling madness, that had me trying to prevent change from happening, fighting IDIC and the unknown. I was so wrong about a great deal of things at… Read more »

SanFranDisco

Sounds like this episode had the kind of effect that every creator dreams of: a message that resonates with a viewer and makes them reevaluate their thoughts and beliefs. Kudos to you to being open to hearing that message.

Marja

Smike, I second SanFranDisco.

Props to you for openness and sharing.

Jack

Agreed. And Smike’s not alone. In the times where something has really been out of balance in my life, I find myself on this site (and others) outraged about something. Especially when Bob Orci used to come here, I felt like I had to be the protector of Trek — and that what was said here would make some sort of difference in the world.

At the end of the day, it’s just an old TV show (that sometimes had good messages that we lose sight of).

And I need to watch this episode (and maybe a good Trek episode) again.

Marc Henson

Wow, that is the most incredible thing I’ve heard in a while. It’s always nice to hear someones reaction to a story and how it affects them.

Even though this isn’t Star Trek technically, it may have been the only place such a message could have came through.

Truly inspuring.

Marja

Marc, “…inspiring”
Like Trek! :^)

SanFranDisco

@Marc

Agreed I think if Trek proper had tried to peddle this message it would have come off as condescending self-aggrandisement at best, awkward defensiveness at worst, and easier to dismiss by the audience it’s trying to reach.

Only a third party like Black mirror or Orville could have done this effectively, and if McFarlane had tried his hand at it, he’d have turned it into a joke, and made it even easier to look past and ignore what it was trying to say.

Denes House

smike, I’m delighted for you. Peace and long life to you!

Marja

Smike,
And while I’m not in a hurry to embrace full-on QT splatter and gore any time soon, I promise I will give it a chance, I will finally try to open up my mind…2017 had been a nightmare for me, but it was a nightmare that I had created by trying to shield myself from present day developments, living in a past long gone…It’s time to say goodbye… After this thread, “Smike” will cease to exist just like Daley.

Well, my friend, I hope you will come back under a different identity, having abandoned Smike for, say, Nicholas Nickleby :^)

I’m not in a hurry for any splatter and gore in Trek either, and again, I don’t think Tarantino is going to approach Trek in that way. He may have some tough “sacrifices” of characters, but I doubt they’ll be random or senseless as happens in his signature films.

Believe me, 2017 has been a nightmare for me, as a US resident, for socio-political reasons, and I more than understand any desire to live in the past. But I will work to overcome the reality that presently besets me, and I hope you will too, because action, as James Kirk might say, begets change.

Hope to see you again. Your posts are thoughtful, even though they’ve been overwrought at times.

Liam Wheaton

A ‘nerdy beta male’ is not a type of person. And even so, the show isn’t attacking nerdy beta males for being childish or controlling. He’s attacking childish, controlling nerdy beta males. And those most definitely exist.

Ashley

Great episode, lame review. This also speaks volumes about the reviewer. “While many will enjoy “USS Callister,” it came off to me as a cruel parody and even a misandrous attack on male science-fiction fans. If the group on the receiving end of Charlie Brooker’s “satire” were anything but nerdy beta males, the Internet would be up in arms over it.” It’s not misandrist, but it is gender-related. Just like how something racial isn’t automatically racist. It’s pointing out some male-specific behaviors that are certainly common enough and problematic enough that they should be discussed, but it doesn’t apply to the whole sex unless you’re implying that all men act this way. Which, of course they don’t, but enough do that it’s a topic worth exploring. And I’m sure most people will get something out of this, because most will recognize at least one of the antagonist’s character flaws. All that aside, I thought the production values were great as well, and there was some good tension. I don’t think the Star Trek link should be too heavily focused on. It was merely a story-telling vehicle, ironically much like Star Trek is. This could have easily been anything else that people obsess over, which is further underscored by the fact that it was an immersive video game above all else. And actually, being that it was a game world, it gave him the power that he lacked in the real world, which is what the story was primarily about. The… Read more »

Marja

I see it more as satire of gamer culture, in which some males have been infamously misogynistic! So, yeah.

HenryBravo

I echo what everyone else is saying. The author missed the mark and doesn’t seem to understand what Black Mirror is about. The last 2 sentences of the article make that clear.

Mike

I saw the Star Trek elements as a backdrop. Black Mirror is more like a modern take on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. This episode isn’t really commenting on Star Trek or its fans as much as it’s an exploration about gaming and how some people behave in their virtual playground. Westworld had a similar subplot.

Peng

That’s what I was thinking too. More of an extension of the current vr trend and where it could lead to. Also how people online in games are totally different from their real world selves.

Blerk

I, for one, would like to congratulate the author on allowing his absolute worship of an old TV show keep him from giving an episode about a man-child and his absolute worship of an old TV show a good review. That’s some kind of hat trick, buddy.

VoR

Ha, perfect. :)

J.S.

I laughed so hard seeing the “modern” “Apple Store” bridge complete with lens flares (as opposed to “classic” bridge of Callister). Preeeeeetty smart.

Denes House

I felt pretty much the same way as Jared after watching this episode. I’ve seen all of Black Mirror to this point (yes, even the horrible first episode) and have liked a lot of it. I think the premise of Black Mirror is that it holds up a mirror to the blackness of our human souls, showing us the darker parts of us that we often don’t like to own up to. I think that’s a fantastic premise, and I resonate with it a lot.

And I think that’s what I *didn’t* like about this episode. Because there was no love for fandom in the episode, it felt like someone holding up a mirror to the darkness in *someone else’s* soul. And that shifts the tone from being self-examining to being cruel. I never got the feeling in the episode that there was any understanding or sympathy for Daly, any sense that he was a human being with dignity and worth.

There were certainly parts of the episode that I liked. I thought some of the design choices were excellent. I liked entire segments of the episode. But the show as a whole felt cruel to me.

Benjamin Adams

Dude. Daly was a murderer. A stalker, a creep, and a murderer. If you identify with Daly then I don’t know what to tell you.

Aapje

Did you even read the comment you are responding too? The entire point was that it was impossible to identify with Daly and that this made it into a bland black/white story.

dnwilliams

‘USS Callister’ was fantastic, and the fact that any fan of Trek could take it as a personal attack is telling.

If you found Daly identifiable to an extent, you’re supposed to. He’s recognisable, because he’s a well-drawn character. He feels authentic. He feels like the worst possible version of us taken to horrific extremes. BLACK MIRROR shows us the dark side of humanity through the lens of new media – that’s the whole point! Telling a reverential Trek story the way you’d see Trek do it would be both off-brand and redundant.

As for the claim that “if the group on the receiving end of Charlie Brooker’s ‘satire’ were anything but nerdy beta males, the Internet would be up in arms over it” maybe you should I don’t know, watch the very next episode of the show, which satirises 21st Century motherhood. Quite a different demographic on the receiving end there, I’m sure you’d agree.

Such a shocking lack of self-awareness, what an embarrassing review.

Marja

the painfully clear message for the awkward young men who cultivated sci-fi and fan culture before it went mainstream.

Ahem. There are awkward and not-so-awkward female fans who cultivated Star Trek fan culture pretty assiduously, Jared. Starting with Bjo Trimble, the female fan culture of Star Trek is pretty well documented.

I guess you’re saying the fan culture they’re satirizing so cruelly in Black Mirror is the male fan culture, right? But your implication is that only males are responsible for sci-fi fan culture. And that may be true for the fandom of older sci-fi films, say, from the ’40s or ’50s, but I think the beginning of nerd fan culture happened in the ’60s with “Twilight Zone,” “Outer Limits,” “Trek,” the lamentable “Lost in Space.”

And I get you on a redemptive, Trek-like ending, but I don’t think “Black Mirror” does those. And I don’t like total caricatures either, but I think those are a staple of “Black Mirror” too, like the well-reviewed episode with Bryce Dallas Howard about internet “Likes” and “Dislikes.”

It’s the story of that crank “living in his parents’ basement” — the likes of the trolls we see here occasionally.

Jack

Or the crank living in a decent house or condo — who spends way too much time in the past, his head, and a fictional universe where nothing changes, he’s always right and he has total control.

But, yeah, this comment is spot on. And the review reminds me of the “how dare you not make Luke a hero!” thing with the latest Star Wars movie (or complaints about female/black/Asian characters).

Marc Henson

Ditto…especially to the Luke Skywalker thing. Couldn’t of said it better.

Marja

One of my favorite aspects of TLJ. Although Luke does

SPOILER ALERT

… redeem himself in the end :^)

Kirk1701

I think this episode DOES pay homage to Star Trek, but not the Star Trek that exists only in the minds of super-fans. There will always be those fans who feel it’s only for them. No one else may enjoy, unless they observe a strict code. We’ve now entered fundamentalist religion territory. I definitely think we’ve all been guilty of “canon-thumping” at some point.

I certainly idolized Kirk in my youth as the person I couldn’t be. But when I rewatched the series after university, I realized Kirk’s greatest skill was being a non-linear problem-solver. He was unpredictable. I found as a man I had internalized those traits and used them in my daily life.

So I think we should feel a bit uneasy with Daly’s fate. At any point he could’ve turned it all around. He could’ve allowed the “crew” to make their own choices and have a much more absorbing experience. However, he remained frozen in his dogma and shattered in the cold of space.

As an aside, I enjoyed the different production eras of “Space Fleet.” The production quality was excellent. I don’t feel the final version of the ship was the Apple bridge. We actually saw a lot of the Bad Robot camera work and lighting when Nanette wakes up on board Callister. Really good work.

Anthony Thompson

I wish that Trekmovie would do a review of ‘Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy’ starring Shatner and Christopher Plummer, etc. from 1997. It’s from game footage which was shot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFjKV9IcGV8&t=6341s&index=13&list=PL_3gmPdtpyDYl0Hdo6CCUxHU0P2uJx_Dg

Ashley

I’m a bit surprised that some of you are practically defending Daly. The guy was a monster. Sure, he’s human, people make mistakes, maybe it’s sad that he got this way… but the guy couldn’t be redeemed. At the start of the episode, it was setup as another cliche.. the poor nerd who can’t catch a break and gets shit upon by everyone else. Definitely setup to be a sympathetic character. That is, until we see his true nature. By this point, we should no longer have sympathy for him. If we’re regarding the ‘Space Fleet’ characters as real people (which is the intention, as they mentioned ‘sentient code’ and ‘digital clones’), then Daly murdered a real and innocent child over and over to break another person’s will. He.. no. I don’t need to explain every awful thing he did, it was all laid out in the episode, though I’m sure some implications might take further consideration to grasp just how horrible and horrifying Daly’s acts of abuse and torture were. Even if he had a brief moment of conscience (which would have gone against his character for the contrived sake of redemption), he would still be a monster and have done terrible things. I know the elephant in the room here is that he’s a white male, and some white men feel like they’ve been unfairly attacked lately. And he’s a nerd. He’s a gamer. These things hit very close to home for some, as evidenced by the reviewer’s… Read more »

Jack

I think maybe one could argue that he didn’t think of them as real people or their suffering as real — and maybe through that since he had created them, he owned them. And that maybe, combined with the ability to get revenge for his real life, he was frustrated In the same way you’d be if your computer wasn’t working (I don’t say kind things to mine).

But I don’t think it would be a strong argument, so screw that.

Ashley

I mean, I thought about that too, but it falls apart when you consider that he’s a coder. And if he didn’t code them to behave a certain way, then he’s got to know there’s something up with their behavior. That their actions and knowledge are somehow the result of what was passed through the DNA. He knew exactly what they are and what he’s doing, he just thought he could get away with it. But the point is still valid, and a good reflection on how we treat each other online sometimes.

Kirk1701

Agreed. I certainly took the cliché nerd bait. It was pretty difficult not to, as a male. When Nanette shows up with that angelic face gushing on Daly, I was certain I knew where I was. And I wasn’t super pleased about it. “Like any woman that Hollywood-beautiful would idolize a coder. Snort.” But that’s another tipoff. If we’re seeing this woman as a sex object for Daly, we’re already reducing her as a person. We’re cramming her into a very restrictive role. The fact that she’s actually “starship captain” material doesn’t even occur to us till the end of the episode. Her solution to her “cage” (lol) is very Kirk-like. She uses her sexuality to distract the villain, then traps him in a cage of his own logic. She also takes time to get to know the strengths of each crew member. In so doing, she inspires such dedication that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for each other. THAT’S a starship captain. THAT’S James T. Kirk. If we call ourselves fans, then there should be no ambiguity. Star Trek ’09 follows this storyline very closely.

Benjamin Adams

Wow. You really, really, REALLY didn’t get that episode. That review almost comes across as a MRA reading. Aw, poor misunderstood male SF fans? Not at all.

Benjamin Adams

Flat-out, the more I think about it: This review is probably the single most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read on Trekmovie. And that includes comments threads.

Jack

I’d read something by Jared Whitely in an online Utah paper on that Discovery story about how they didn’t want Isaacs improvising something about God. I didn’t agree with Whitely’s premise or buy his arguments — that without belief in God, we won’t have a future because we won’t have babies because Christian nations have a higher reproductive rate than non-Christian nations, or something — but it fit the audience and it wasn’t as outraged as this (maybe he had editors?). Here the back up stuff (something, something, Trelaine/Kruge/forgiveness) doesn’t quite back up anything — it’s not a Star Trek episode or even a spoof/homage of one.

Well, at least this got us thinking and talking.

And I think it’s on the nose (the episode) in looking at how some of us get so focused on details (and wishing they were real) that we miss the point of the whole thing.

Benjamin Adams

Whitely said whaaaa?!

OK. Not like the guy has any kind of *agenda* then….. *cough*

Antonio

I don’t think it’s fair to bring up GamerGate in a review like this since the episode had little to do with gaming but more to do with the effects of games in a man who struggles to get his life right.
in the end he gets the short end of the stick because he abused sentient AI’s to the point of his death.
I fail to see how gamergate is in any way related to this.

Marja

GamerGate was a major exposure of the true attitude of some male gamers. Teen-aged testosterone taken to the worst extreme. Even if the gamers in question weren’t teenagers.

Seems like you may not have got the point of the Black Mirror episode.

Travitt

White, male entitlement I’d the commonality.

Banana

Jared, this episode isn’t about Star Trek, it is just a backdrop…

Dana Farricker

I’m not convinced Jared actually watched the episode before reviewing it.

Shatners Bassoon

I dearly love and treasure the tenats of Trek as much as the next man, but this review completely misses the point of Black Mirror. It’s supposed to be a Twilight Zone style show about how technology and social media could create living nightmares for us in the future. The Star Trek style setting was purely incidental. The point was the bad guy had created his own world to act out his crazy fantasies. That could of been anywhere or anytime.

ThePhaige

I have not yet seen the BM episode, but I had a feeling when it was announced it was going to have a twist about it that would have it be very much not Star Trek. I have a good idea of what they did with the virtual chamber of horrors that the antagonist presents and now I am even more looking forward to watching it… The only way Black Mirror is like Trek in any way is that A… its Science Fiction and B… it deals with the issues of today. In the case of Black Mirror it tends to show the darker unintended consequence of fallen mankind, in Trek they attempt to resolve them through an evolved sense of mankind. So yes its an antithesis. I love Black Mirror.

DerMudeTude

Sounds like this episode hit a little too close to home for some people, eh?

Good.

Moeskido

Male reviewer cries “cruel misandry” at a dystopian depiction of many male gamers. Additional points off for expecting any “Black Mirror”—a brilliant, continuing examination about the dark things that new technology is doing to us all—to compare with the gag-a-minute, feel-good “Galaxy Quest.”

Something tells me the writer of this review is a gamer who resents not only the satirization of many tunnel-visioned male Trek fans, but also the candid subversion of its principles by an asocial, misanthropic game developer.

I’ll bet he also reviewed Discovery’s Mudd episode by exonerating Mudd of serial mass-murder. Trekmovie.com’s loss.

Jack

Whitely wrote pieces about this in advance — Black Mirror’s doing a Trek episode! Fans here’s what you need to know about Black Mirror before you watch their Trek episode! — so maybe it’s a case of, to paraphrase a better writer’s tweet about Last Jedi reactions, nothing is going to compare to the show/movie you’ve been making in your head for months/years.

The whole point of the episode is right there in Booker’s quote. This was never meant to be an homage or a spoof.

Jack

(*I’d meant a better writer than me, not JW. Not trying to pile on the guy here.)

Moschops

“If the group on the receiving end of Charlie Brooker’s “satire” were anything but nerdy beta males, the Internet would be up in arms over it.”

Oh, FFS. He does everyone, but every group he laughs at seems to think they’re being singled out for special harshness.

Gary 8.5

I hope Trekmovie has some New Year pieces prepared

Tracitt

Misandrous? Seriously?

Shatners Bassoon

I’ve been a fan of Charlie Brooker for 20 years, when he used to make a living just reviewing videogames and pop culture. He’s a self confessed nerd and very self effacing. I therefore have a hard time believing he’d have any ill will against sci-fi loving beta males, like has been mentioned on here.

Fred Javelina

No, but his comedy spares no-one, if you’ve seen NewsWipe, ScreenWipe or read his old TVGoHome fake television listings (warning: very NSFW). I think he would understand their position but be able to point out the inherent contradictions of “beta nerds” turning into bullies – or point up the self-involvement and lack of ability to see others as real people.

alan d light

Never had watched Black Mirror, but I rewlly enjoyed USS Callister, reminded me of a modern day Twilight Zone…excellently done.

Zaku

You were expecting something like Galaxy Quest from an episode of Black Mirror? Really?

Fred Javelina

I’m going to start off by saying misandry isn’t a real thing. There is no systematic, society-wide set of norms, culture, expectations, laws, and practices that hold men back, consider men to be lesser beings, pay them less for the same job, pass laws to regulate their reproductive choices, cause employers to treat them differently, make people feel it’s OK to constantly flirt with them and comment on their appearance, create a culture where people feel entitled to their bodies, so they feel threatened walking home alone at night, etc. The power dynamic is *the exact opposite.* You do not see countless news stories of women picking up guns and shooting up fraternities, college campuses, or movie theatres because they felt men rejected them. And the incidences of women sexually harassing their male underlings, while not zero, is virtually zero, compared to the opposite. Women have every reason in the world to ‘hate men,’ and yet they don’t. I work with feminist organizations, and most of the members are cis-hetero, married, to men, and have kids! Misandry is a theoretical concept that exists solely for people uncomfortable with change, to try to claim false equivalence, or worse, project that the opposite of reality is happening, like ‘reverse racism’, another thing that doesn’t exist. In the upside-down world of Reddit / 4Chan forums and pickup artists / men’s rights activism, any progressive change that makes women more equal _must_ mean something has been taken away from men, like it’s a zero-sum… Read more »

Benjamin Adams

*wild applause*

As an aside – how the hell did Barclay ever graduate from Starfleet Academy? I mean, seriously?

Fred Javelina

He scored really high on his engineering exams? Tbh, aside from his phobias and anxieties, he always displayed excellent problem solving skills, and he may have had his issues under control at an earlier point, but the pressure of working on the Enterprise brought them back. It might have taken him longer to reach Lieutenant because of that. I don’t think they expect every Starfleet officer to be a Kirk.

Jack

Well said. I wish I was half this eloquent — I hear things like misandry, reverse-racism, race-baiting and “tolerance only applies to leftists” and I start to sputter.

Fred Javelina

I learned from many wiser women and minority people who had trod that path (and wrote articles, and books, etc) decades before me.

Marja

Jack, The arch-conservative movement in the US is very adept with using language. They co-opt “oppression” for themselves. It’s so outrageous to me, but I reluctantly have to applaud their ability to twist language around to serve themselves. Kinda like one Josef Goebbels….

Jack

@Marja. Ugh. Yeah. And I do understand how this appeals to people who don’t understand, or even know about, the issues and just see people griping/asking for “special” treatment.

Karidian

Well said.

Moeskido

You win Comments for this page. Well said! Much more on-point than I was here.

Marja

Fred,
This country needs more guys like you. Thanks for this.

Fred Javelina

I’ll have some digital clones sent to your country. What planet again?

Karidian

Finally saw the episode. Wow! One of the most riveting shows I’ve seen in a long time, and totally at odds with this review. I enjoy Jared’s writing, and I adore him on the podcast, but he’s way, way, way off the mark on this one. Unfortunate and weird remarks about misandry and beta-males tell me our reviewer completely misunderstood the episode. But hey, no one gets it right every time. I hope Jared doesn’t take the criticisms too hard.

Jack

Agreed. I think I’m little oversensitive about the misandry/persecution stuff these days.

I don’t see any nerd bashing in this episode. All I see is the portrait of a psychopath who lacks control in his real life, so he created this fantasy existence with total control of everything and everyone. So that means, that the technology he had at his disposal only enabled him to fulfill his need for power and control. What an interesting episode!

Cmd.Bremmon

Any form of media that condemns adults playing in the holodeck instead of living life, exploring the galaxy, dealing with reality and conflict, is of service to humanity.

TUP

So I havent read all the comments but I gather there is a lot of disdain for the review.

I tend to agree. And Ill use this summation from the review:

“While many will enjoy “USS Callister,” it came off to me as a cruel parody and even a misandrous attack on male science-fiction fans. If the group on the receiving end of Charlie Brooker’s “satire” were anything but nerdy beta males, the Internet would be up in arms over it.”

The reviewer insults the core audience he’s seemingly defending. And neither is correct.

Talk about over-sensitive. The idea of socially awkward guys using video games to create new, idealized identities for themselves isnt a false stereotype. It happens.

Of course there are plenty of us that enjoy video games who are not hardcore gamers just as we can enjoy Star Trek without being “nerds”. But that wasnt what Black Mirror was going for. It was telling a specific story.

I was certainly not insulted as male or as a video game fan. And definitely not as a Star Trek fan. It didnt send up Star Trek at all, in my opinion. A 60’s style retro-future TV show was merely the back drop. And well done.

Im not a huge Black Mirror fan but I really enjoyed this episode.

Cmd.Bremmon

I think a TNG backdrop would have been more suiting – even in the show the characters are playing holodeck while ranting about how superior they are let alone fans. TOS was way more humble, no holo playing.

TUP

The idea was, it was the guys favorite old show. The idea being it was sort of a “square” show from back in the day, rather than a more modern show.

Danpaine

Excellent episode from a great show. Bad review, which I think is rare for this site.

Curious Cadet

There’s not one single positive comment about Jared’s review, yet not a word from him.

Are we to assume he’s retreated into his virtual world?

Zaku

He has just created virtual clones of every commenter…

matt

We got a Daley in the house! Did you self identify with his character too much or something?

Jack

“And the world he created for everyone to enjoy is amazing, but only once they have eliminated him from it — and that is the painfully clear message for the awkward young men who cultivated sci-fi and fan culture before it went mainstream.”

Okay, I’m still a little hung up on this — and Marja pointed out that there have always been female fans while others have pointed out that the episode shows how stuff can’t stagnate but has to evolve — but are you also saying that male nerds are responsible for all great sci fi (which, no) and that now everybody else is throwing them out of it — without thanking them for (…I don’t know, having a TV and nothing to do on a Saturday?).

And, er, is “white” implied here?

I get that you write for conservative outlets (but your stuff is usually pretty balanced, from what I’ve read), but this whole talk of “we made it, now we’re being thrown out” kind of scares me — especially in this current make things great again climate.

I get that it’s just a TV review — and I’m pretty thrilled that we’re having a thoughtful discussion about it.

Karidian

Yes, the more I reflect on this review the more I’m bothered by it. I think it’s about time to hear from Jared on this. I’ve quit other Trek sites/forums (Trek Prop Zone) recently that push this claptrap. I was happy believing TrekMovie was better than that, so it’s very, VERY disappointing to read it from such a prominent contributor as Jared.

I’d still like to believe that just maybe we’re reading more into this review than Jared intended. Maybe he wanted The Orville or TOS and simply didn’t “get it.” Maybe. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time buying into that – thanks in large part to some of the insightful comments I’m reading. In those comments I’m glad to see the true spirit of Trek is alive and well.

I really think Jared should take a moment and clarify what he was trying to say in this review. I’ve been a fan of his, mainly from the podcast, so I’d like to be wrong about this.

Ashley

No, I don’t believe that’s the case. I think he knew what he was talking about. There are lines like this, which show his thinking and skewed morals… “But the villain here has no opportunity “to relent or repent or confess or abstain.” The one opportunity the selfish CEO of the company has to make reconciliation with Daley turns out to just be a ruse.” Why would Walton try to reconcile with the man who murdered his son over and over? The man who imprisoned and tortured multiple people? I’m actually rather disturbed by how much Jared has downplayed all of this, painting Daly as just misguided and able to ‘learn his lesson’ so that everything will be okay again. And to call that ruse an ‘opportunity’, I mean.. Daly wasn’t being understanding, he was furious. I believe he described his intended punishments as ‘biblical’. There was no opportunity here. However there were plenty of opportunities for Daly to change, because at any time he could have stopped himself. But the one or two times he showed mercy weren’t for Nanette or any of the others, it was a power-trip. If Jared just meant that the writers didn’t give him opportunities to change, well… that’s not what this show is about, not what this episode was about, and honestly it just wouldn’t have been realistic considering Daly’s personality. Jared just seems to have his opinions and they’ve warped his view on all of this. Sorry but, there are monsters out… Read more »

Curious Cadet

@Ashley — I’d be curious if Jared voted for Trump and continues to support him. Because this review certainly could have been written from an “Alt right” white male perspective.

I thought it was a great episode of Black Mirror. And I didn’t take it as a knock against Trekkies at all; if anything, the way it ended — with Nannette taking control of the ship and the crew falling into place behind her — suggested a real love for making the tropes of the subgenre work in a new way.

I thought Cristin Milioti was dynamite; I’d watch a spinoff with her as the lead, for sure. I also thought Jimmi Simpson was awesome.

And Jesse Plemons, too. You’ve got to give him props for playing a character this despicable.

Curious Cadet

@Bryant Burnette — I’d say after the sociopath Todd on BREAKING BAD, this was somewhat tame …

That said … Now that I’ve seen it, yes, the spinoff, is about the crew that remains.

But I’m a little confused, is Plemons dead in the end? The video game killed him, because he was a rogue element playing it during an update? Talk about frightening futuristic technology …