Of all the shows currently on the box, Black Mirror is perhaps the most adept at capturing our anxieties with the nature of technology and its sinister potential. Previous episodes have shown how our very conception of reality can be defined entirely by technology. On one level, the series is a hyperbolic representation of the very worst ways in which technology could manifest itself. However, this is always firmly rooted in dynamics that are believable and relatable, and it feels as if it is only a logical leap away from being sold in your local high street store.
This feature-length White Christmas special focuses on an invisible version of the Google Glass, the “Z-Eye”, which enables anything users see and hear to be broadcast across the internet, as well as the capability to physically block people, which renders the blockee and the blocker mute silvery blobs to one another. This device has caused Matt Trent (Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Kidulthood’s Rafe Spall) to be shacked up ostensibly in a cabin in the wilderness for five years on the premise of a job getting away from their previous lives.
Matt reveals how he guided shy Harry (Lead Balloon’s Rasmus Hardiker) into gatecrashing an office party and providing step-by-step guidance and advice into seducing a mysterious and aloof girl that catches his eye. The scenario is being simultaneously viewed by voyeuristic men desperate to see her naked. The implicit issues of violations of privacy has parallels with the leaking of celebrity photos “Naked-gate” as well as the NSA files means this paranoia resonates, feels justified and the story remains convincing and truthful despite its science fiction framing.
This notion of how technology frames our identity is picked up on in the episode’s secondary technological creation; a Matrix-like idea of an identical copy of a person in code form, though they are still a conscious and physical entity. Greta (Game of Thrones’ Oona Chaplin) impeccably portrays the horror of the potential of slavitude to technology, as she regains consciousness in her code counterpart, in the middle of an operation, in a “cookie”, a pod in which her digital self is stuck in as she exists immortally. Matt has the ability to control time, fast-forwarding her life 6 months when she disobeys his command to care for her real-life counterpart as she recovers from the operation.
The twist at the end of the episode warns of the pernicious possibilities of technology; it can created for the purposes of something moral, but it can also change our perception, which complicates and destroys genuine empathy and humanity. Black Mirror remains the only show on television to deeply and incisively explore the implications of how technology affects our lives and mentalities. In 20 years time, we may look back on Black Mirror and see it as a stark and prophetic vision of the near future. Whilst the specifics of the technology may be different, it would not be altogether surprising to find variations of this dark vision of society.