Since its UK debut in 2011, Black Mirror has unveiled our fixation and cultural addiction to technology and the dark consequences of dislocation that has become the new normal. Now with a 12-episode deal with Netflix, the third season of the Charlie Brooker created satirical and often unsettling anthology series launches on October 21.
Having starred Jon Hamm, Marvel alum Haley Atwell and Outlander‘s Tobias Menzies and in past seasons, the six-episode run features appearances from the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, James Norton, Cherry Jones, Wyatt Russell, Halt and Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis, Michael Kelly, Malachi Kirby and Kelly McDonald.
Having never shielded away from the intersection of technology and electoral politics, the series in its very first episode infamously depicted a fictional UK PM having sex with a pig on live TV and in its second season had a mocking cartoon bear named Waldo becoming an anti-establishment figure on a global scale.
With a screening today at New York Comic-Con of the Dan Trachtenberg directed “Play Test” second episode of the third season, I spoke to Brooker about working with the streaming service and what we can expect for the six-episodes of Season 4.
The Brass Eye writer also talked about how “terrifying” he finds the rise of Donald Trump and how Black Mirror fights to keep up with the ever expanding melding of social life and social media in today’s world.
DEADLINE: Technology has become such a fast moving and fluid thing in recent years, with new normal, so to speak, taking form so frequently, so how does a show about the impact of technology stay fresh and biting and not become lean towards old hat?
BROOKER: I think after the show first arrived in 2011, that there generally speaking was a shifting mood around 2013 or 2014 where I think a lot of people started just independently thinking I’m not sure that the internet’s entirely good anymore. It was that social media started feeling like less of a fun place to hang out and more kind of like a pub at closing time where things could kick off at any moment. So I think that’s definitely changed and also just in terms of more technology being accepted and sort of absorbed into our lives on a daily basis. So, to that, we’ve had to run quite fast to stay ahead of the curve in a way in this series.
DEADLINE: Running fast is a good way to describe the latest rise of the anti-politician like the Brexit crowd in the UK and Donald Trump here in America – they are very apt and nimble with tech and communicating through the clutter to their constituency. What is your take on this very modern form of populism?
BROOKER: I’m finding it alternately fascinating and terrifying. So it’s an interesting one and it’s a really difficult thing.
We did an episode in the second season in which a cartoon character runs for office in the UK. That was based on the sort of mood at the time. At the time, the mood was that politicians were all robotic sound bite machines basically. We’ve got characters in the UK like Boris Johnson, who’s kind of like a proto Trump in many ways even down to the crazy blonde hair. Then Mayor of London, now Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson was widely seen as a cartoonish oaf and that made him strangely undentable as a politician. No one could land a blow on him because he was already ridiculous.
So you get that happening with Trump. You get outrage fatigue, don’t you? In that the more outrageous and bizarre things he does the quicker they fade into the rearview mirror.
DEADLINE: Like a well crafted and jacked up reality show…
BROOKER: Yes, in a way it almost becomes unreal. It’s hard to get a foothold on it because of the constant sort of scandalous waypoints that are coming out. It’s hard. You can’t keep them all in your memory. So it’s bizarre and it demonstrates the extent to which people want any form of change. It’s definitely uncharted territory just in terms of his manner but it’s something that seems to be happening around the globe. The personality politicians. It’s an interesting but worrisome time.
DEADLINE: Any plans for a Trump tale, so to speak?
BROOKER: No, because I don’t tend to look at the news. The zeitgeist tends to dribble in to other stories. We always start with a sort of “what if?” story idea. Maybe with “The Waldo Moment” episode, maybe we did Trump there in a way, I don’t know. Although I am thinking about the way society is getting polarized so that’s something that will be interesting to tackle in the next season.
DEADLINE: Speaking of this new season, what were the differences for you with Black Mirror now being a Netflix show as opposed to a UK TV series?
BROOKER: It’s weird to think that they’re all going up at the same time. I like to think someone at Netflix pulls a lever to publish it all at once. That’s what I like to imagine. Someone pulled a lever and it’s instantly everywhere.
This is one difference because they’re all going up at once in a way, there’s a bit more variety of tone amongst these six stories than we’ve had before. So we’re not just unrelentingly jet-black. There’s a lot of jet black within the show still but we also bring in a few sparks of hope now and then to keep things interesting.
But in dealing with Netflix, they have thoughts and notes and suggestions and this, that, and the other but they’re never prescriptive about them and they’re very collaborative and they’ve always been very smart and very helpful. I will say, when Netflix picked it up I saw some people complaining that it would become too American. So I partly in an impish way thought I’m going to write one set in California just because I thought that would be funny. But honestly, working with them directly didn’t really change anything except when it comes to the sequencing of the episodes, which order we’re going to put them in.
DEADLINE: How so?
BROOKER: We had a real headache there because we just couldn’t work it out because it’s a bit like sequencing an album. Really, you can watch them in absolutely any order but I guess most people will probably watch them in the order in which they appear on the list.
The other thing is being on Netflix is the running time is flexible. So we’ve got a feature length episode as well as ones that are shorter than that. So really those are the only differences I’d say.
DEADLINE: This third season is 6-episodes and you have another six for a Season 4, where are you in that back six?
BROOKER: I’ve got three stories down so we’ve got three scripts done and that’s halfway in terms of the writing almost. I can’t say too much.
I can sort of hint that there’s some things we didn’t get to do during the first season because we felt they were in similar territory but some fresh ideas. One idea we’ve been wanting to do for ages that we’re doing, and we’ve got a mix of what I would say are epic stories alongside kitchen sink level domesticity. So we’ve got hopefully a wide mix. I can’t really say more than that.