At last a gem emerges from the sea of dross that is British TV. And what a gem it is. It is difficult to find the superlatives to adequately describe Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. A powerful and disturbing technological dystopia. A masterpiece of futuristic gloom. An unparalleled examination of where our new technological powers might be leading us to. Charlie Brooker must now be considered Britain’s pre-eminent TV dramatist with no one else remotely close. This is up there with the very best of British TV: Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Dennis Potter’s Singing Detective, I Claudius, Talking to a Stranger, Our Friends from the North and This Life.
Black Mirror matches or even excels beyond the very best from the USA; The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and the truly outstanding, In Treatment. It is difficult to find fault with Black Mirror either from a script, direction, characterisation or acting perspective. It is simply as good as it gets. The bleak scenarios that Brooker creates linger days, weeks even months beyond the programme’s end. The seven episodes thus far offered have already begun to lodge themselves into the national psyche. What better recommendation than that can there be?
As we move relentlessly towards the so called point of singularity, where intelligent machines begin to programme themselves thereby supplanting we humans as the most intelligent species, Brooker imagines a sort of transition zone where we attempt, and largely fail, to master these exponentially expanding technologies. Well, to be more accurate, we do, according to Brooker, master these technological developments, but with alarming social consequences. It’s a cruel future that Brooker imagines but perhaps no more or less cruel than we have already witnessed over the millennia. But when technology seems to be to the fore, that cruelty takes on a colder, more alienating feel.
Nothing is set in stone. Human history is not following some preordained, teleological future. We still presumably have choices albeit in fairly constrained parameters. We could harness the new technologies for our collective benefit. Clean energy, time saving devices for production and leisure, and consequently, a radically shorter working week for all. But the omens do not look promising. The most likely immediate scenario is that the wealthy elites will try to capture the powers imbued within these new technologies for their own selfish purposes while the rest of us will become a genetically and technologically inferior underclass. Charlie Brooker is sending us a stark warning. Will we heed his warnings? Probably not.