‘Black Mirror’ Director Talks Possible “USS Callister” Spinoff And Star Trek Connections

Cristin Milioti in "USS Callister"

At the end of December Netflix released the fourth season of Black Mirror with the biggest episode being an homage to Star Trek titled “USS Callister.” In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the director of the episode (Toby Haynes) has suggested there may be a follow-up, saying:

I was talking with Louise Sutton, who produced this and “Metalhead,” and she cooked up a brilliant idea of spinning it off into a TV series. I’d love to do a TV series of “USS Callister” — it’s probably one of the best pilots for a space show ever. And I made it! So I’m keen to see it as a TV series. I think Charlie might revisit it as a Black Mirror. Whether I’m the one to do it, I don’t know. Being a fan of the show as much as I am, and being a part of making it, I’d love to work with that crew and cast again. It’s a gift for a director.

Black Mirror “USS Callister”

Getting the Star Trek right

Haynes, who has experience with sci-fi after directing a number of episodes of Doctor Who and is a self-confessed fan of Trek fan, also said that he “begged” the producers of Black Mirror to give him the job, fearing they would give the feature-length episode away to “some big shot Hollywood director.” He also talked to THR about how he tried to get the details right, noting:

I’m probably a bigger Star Trek fan than [Black Mirror creator] Charlie [Brooker] is. As a kid, I was a super-geek for all things sci-fi on TV, particularly Doctor Who. I knew the original ‘60s Star Trek show very well. I was such a fan that I’m kind of reverential about it, so I was happy to play fast and loose with this version. I knew stuff that Charlie didn’t know, which is why we put Michaela Coel in a red outfit. Michaela had to be in a red outfit because she’s the first of the crew to get killed

In addition, the director discussed how he worked with actor Jesse Plemons (who plays programmer Robert Daly and the computer-world fantasy “Captain Daly”) to get the right kind of Star Trek performance out of him:

It comes from a place of love. Clearly, Daly is such a fan that he is mimicking the way that his hero speaks. It was also a very fine balance about how Shatner-y we were going to get. We brought in a voice coach. We worked it very carefully. Jesse would say, “You let me know if you want to turn the dial up on Shatner.” We did it one or two times where he went full Shatner, like when he says “Fire” in the opening. That’s straight out of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I love those movies. I’m quoting my heroes. So it comes from a place of love. We’re not punching down, we’re punching up.

Black Mirror “USS Callister”

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the trailer for “USS Callister” from Black Mirror.


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I liked the episode, but my lack of imagination keeps me from seeing it as a series.

The series basically writes itself.

You have the virtual people, who are a likable and fun crew, with the ability to go anywhere in this game cosmos, and Star Trek is just the start. If it was just them, there wouldn’t be any dramatic tension, but back in the real world…

Walton comes home from Xmas break, sends security to break down Daly’s door and drag him back to the office and he is discovered dead. Walton covers up the PR debacle of having the CTO killed by his own game and investigates what happened. There were certainly security cameras in the apartment, so Nanette stealing the DNA samples would be discovered, which gives Walton all the clues he needs to suss out what Daly’s amazing gizmo can do. Good god, creating actual people in a game. Dollar signs dance before Walton’s eyes, but he realizes…

HE is still in the game, a person who knows everything he does, is just as smart as him, and probably realizes that his real-world self is going to hunt him down and is plotting counter moves even as we speak. (Real Walton does not know Virtual Walton sacrificed himself for his crew – but is not dead – and could be resurrected by some Talos IV Star Trek tech situation).

Meanwhile Aaron Paul’s gamer character is realizing damn, are the game people alive? Way cool, dude! Pretty soon Infinity has a gaggle of new players on the insane rumor that somehow, the game characters are alive.

So on the one hand, Real Walton has a massively successful business proposition but on the other, it’s highly dangerous and could blow up in his face at any time. The story is, the virtual characters fighting for survival vs the real characters, trying to keep the genie in the bottle. There’s probably ten seasons of material in this setup. Sorry about no paragraph breaks.

@nerdrage — I’ll give you that premise if we find the characters in the virtual world have achieved sentience. “Real” people trying to stay alive, pitted against not only a virtual madman for survival, but the “real” one as well on the outside trying to contain it, or shut it all down. Kind of like the TNG episode with Prof. Moriarty.

A follow-up would be pretty great. I actually considered at least the notion of a spin-off because it’s a good setup, but not sure where they could go with it that would make it last any length of time… I suppose it would have to be split between the company and the ship. Maybe the company is in trouble after Daly dies and now the crew races the clock while they try to get the Callister employees to notice they exist, before the company goes under and Infinity shuts down. Still would probably make a better sequel episode than it’s own series, unless there’s a tone-shift and it becomes more of a comedy, following the crew as they acclimate to being in an MMO and to successfully becoming a starship crew.

@Ashley — I think it’s going to have to break with with DARK MIRROR, and become a real parody that does embrace the love they speak of. It should be everything ORVILLE is not. A GALAXY QUEST, full of humor, without taking itself too seriously. Something like that would really complement the Trek universe, not like ORVILLE which is trying badly to replace it as the true successor to post VOY legacy.

Please, no more. Discovery is already getting enough hate from the purists who don’t want to give the series a chance before they cast judgment upon it. These same people call us fans of Discovery paid CBS commenters because they think that everyone who loves Discovery also are pro CBS. Those same purists prefer to have Discovery cancelled today if they could (it won’t happen btw and won’t happen for a long time so save your breath) and have The Orville be the only Trek on the air. Ok, The Orville is a Trek wannabe with dick and ass jokes and a captain who mocks his superior right in front of her (as evidenced in The Orville season finale “Mad Idolatry”). Please stop before more purist fans ruin the Star Trek franchise forever.

Ever heard about the dick joke that Tim Russ pulled that one time?

If you change the taste of lemonade too much, at some point you have start calling it something else. Moaning about purists does not change that simple fact, it’s you and the name that needs to change.

You’re right, Zip. And thankfully, Discovery very much tastes like Star Trek. It’s fans like you that need to change.

Discovery is full of great adventure, compelling characters, moral lessons and social allegories, with futuristic and far-fetched technology, fantastic alien races, and engaging stories.

That’s Star Trek, even if the Klingons, uniforms, and ships look different.

To continue your soft drink analogy I’ll quote a now famous Pepsi campaign:

“New look, Same great taste.”

Discovery is New Coke.

Pepsi was barely a step up from Cragmont imitation strawberry — in other words, undrinkable. Old Coke was always ‘it’ — with root beer and dr pepper distant seconds.

I’d consider TNG and nonDS9 BermanTrek to be Pepsi compared to the real thing of TOS (in fact I think I made that analogy about 29 years ago, too.)

Discovery is Star Trek in every way that matters.

Also, let’s please not hold up TOS as the be-all-end-all of the franchise. At this point it was the originator but is just a small part of a 50 years+ franchise. And even as the originator it wasn’t perfect, and had more bad episodes than good.

I really hate the “classic original” worship that is going around, whether one Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, or Super hero movies.

The originals were never perfect, and were a product of their time. Evolve or die. That’s goes for the shows and the fans.

Unfortunately, Discovery is also quite dull…something TOS can never be acused of.

Discovery ain’t perfect – but by your line of reasoning we’d still be stuck in ’65. Maybe that’s what you want.

Honestly? I REALLY wanted to like DSC, and also give The Orville at least a chance. Generally I hate sci-fi shows except for Star Trek. And mocking shows even more so. Turns out… as much as I really want to love DSC… I cannot stand it. The way it is now… I still hope they’ll fix it. Although I highly doubt it. It’s a continuation of what Abrams started… ruining Star Trek. The topics are wrong, the feeling is wrong, it even LOOKS wrong, which is the easiest to replicate in a new show. The entire premise is wrong. Nobody wanted a PRE TOS show… but rather a Post Nemesis one. Put it there… and half of the problems just go away.

The Orville on the other hand… I really don’t know how Seth did it… but I love this show. Period.

@TheralSadurns — “nobody”!?

Completely disagree with you 100%. “Everybody” does.

They should make it just to show how far “Trek” these days is from the TOS Wagon train to the stars concept. Gone is the conflict, diversity and challenge of exploring space and new civilizations with our limited resources – now it’s all about free energy, collectivism, cosplay and moral superiority. Trek culture used to be about how we could build a real IMpulse drive now it’s an identity where we all just expect to play holodeck all day.

Kids these days, right?

We used to be about building a real impuse drive? What? When was this? I’ve been a fan since 1982, and I don’t recall being invited to any Impulse Drive-building conventions.

Sorry you missed it. Those were awesome … uhm … failures.

So sad we don’t have impulse engines already.

Really? I was born 1981 and even I recall talking how fast was an Excelsior class “battleship” with trans warp drive and how far can she go, will the Constitution class get trans warp drive, how many D7 cruisers can a Connie refit hold off, what is going to happen with Genesis technology etc. And as for IMpulse drive you ended up with nuclear pulse propulsion (I think explosively pumped flux generators into fusion devices though in space what’s so bad about using fission-fusion), the NERVA nuclear rocket, ion engines, VASMIR and even some talking EM drive. Back in mid 80s though it was all Orion pulse propulsion when the Enterprise was still thought to have a fission or fusion nuclear plant for reserve power.

Aren’t the impulse engines powered by a fusion reactor?

Now they are powered by fake free energy reactors that no one has to work and magic mushrooms.

Oh, least we forget about that darn thing known as reality. AI is here, big data has all but eliminated the need to build starships to go exploring, 3D printing, cell phones, genetic engineering, and all that stuff TOS guessed at and got completely wrong. Even Trek culture is dated, #metoo pretty much rules out the captain constantly hitting on Yeoman Rand and denying her promotion because no one fetches me coffee better. All obstacles in the 60’s to overcome, so in the 21st century if Trek remains a positive outlook for the future then we need to explore those new limits on tech and social issues. Oh, wait, does that mean we can’t b**ch about gay relationships now?

So…the pros are getting in on fan series now? Weird, wild times.

Black Mirror is my new favorite show and this was my new favorite episode! Great work!

That transition through the wormhole into the Abramsverse look was brilliant — just as horrid-looking as the real thing in 09, but for this show at that moment, it really worked!

And it has also shown how much can lighting and color scheme do for the “period” feeling. All they did was repaint the damn thing and dress the crew into asexual jumpsuits.

I definitely got a bit of Shatner vibe from Jesse. Great stuff.

Agreed. I loved the ‘Let me know if you want to turn the dial up on Shatner” line from Plemmons.

Plemons did a really interesting thing with his voice that I don’t hear from most Shatner imitators. He captured that particular “interior resonance” voice Shatner used in TOS Season 1. I can’t explain it really well, but the sound made me sit up in my chair ;^)

He got a lot of the body language down perfectly too.

A weird, trippy story, and the female lead, Cristin Milioti, was a standout!
It might be interesting to see a limited-run series.

I’d love to see this writing crew tackle something along these lines. Toby Haynes clearly has respect and love for Trek lore, and I think “Callister” displayed that. I absolutely loved this episode. And as far as it being compared to Discovery, why? Why can’t there be more Trek-inspired shows out there? If you don’t like them, no one is making you watch. But thus far, Orville and episodes like Callister are showing there is an audience for “Trek-like” programming beyond Discovery (and it’s much easier to access in the U.S.). Sit back and enjoy the ride, I say. It’s a helluva lot more than we were getting only one year ago. If you only like Discovery, good for you. No one is taking it away from you. I’m watching everything mentioned above and having a good time.

A folo-up would be cool, but not a series. They’re code. Period. Who cares, week to week, what they do?? If, on the other hand, they use their technobabble to ‘beam’ into the real world and cause mayhem, that could be fun. But really, one more installment; no series.

It might be fun to watch them tackle a MMORPG universe from the inside.

I mean, Tron was pretty successful back in its era, and so was ReBoot.

They’re not just code. Virtual Nanette knowing what Real Nanette knows (but Daly couldn’t possibly know) proves she has a reality outside what Daly coded. Sure, it’s daffy fantasy tech but since when is that new to Star Trek?

But the one thing they can’t do is exit their game universe. That would be too much and anyway it would destroy the premise.

Spinoff? oh hell yea. This show would take off like a Romulan Warbird out of Klingon territory.
So much potential with this. Video gammers and Trekkies could unite on this one. Don’t wait to long on this Netflix, any delay would cause a level 3 warp core breach in earnings.

Netflix greenlit Bright 2, they can greenlight this series. Their standards are not very high.

A spinoff series would be a great idea, but there’s no reason to see this as just Star Trek. They’re in a game cosmos and the motif could be anything. I’m envisioning a demented Futurama, that trots through every sci fi trope and then some. What’s to stop them from going to the Wild West mod?

@nerdrage — ah, kind of like SLIDERS. Same cast different world every week.

Very much enjoyed Callister as the hard-edged virtual Star Trek . Some out-there sci-fi writers would be a great addition to a possible spin-off , and the new show an incredible replacement for Disney’s retired Tron !

I don’t see how you can make it a series without us having in the back of our minds that none of it is “real.” (Even Galaxy Quest was “real”, although they tried to make it a comic series.) It’s akin to why the DS9’s producers decided against having the whole series revealed to be part of Benny Russell’s imagination at the very end.

The only way to do it would be to have a holodeck malfunction-type episode every week, which would become boring.

Yeah, but none of Trek is real, either.

Note the “.

Star Trek is real in its own world. This isn’t.

cristin milioti staying in the captain’s chair?
works for me.