After a four-year break, Charlie Brooker’s Black mirror coming back this weekend. The creator and writer of Netflix’s Emmy award-winning anthology series has spoken out about his reasons for the long wait, essentially saying that the world itself felt too dystopian for his dystopian series.
Announcing the return with season six, which drops Thursday, Brooker said he planned to reinvent the series by “deliberately changing some of my own core assumptions about what to expect” from a Black mirror episode. The result is five episodes – “Joan Is Awful” (which revolves around a renamed Netflix-esque streamer), “Loch Henry”, “Beyond the Sea”, “Mazey Day” and “Demon 79” – which will no doubt continue undermine public expectations.
And despite the fact that viewers have been surprised with surprisingly hopeful episodes in the past, such as the Emmy-winning “San Junipero,” Brooker says the new episodes are… dismal.
“I sort of circled back to some classic Black mirror stories too,” Brooker shared GK in a chat about the season. “It is therefore not the case that this season is all about roses. They’re definitely some of the saddest stories we’ve ever done.”
He continued: “It feels like the dystopia is lapping on the banks of the present moment; many people say it’s like being in one Black mirror episode, so there’s definitely a sense of looking in the rearview mirror. However, we’re looking at an alternate past, so in a sense I’m eating my cake and eating it. We’ve eradicated a lot of diseases and generally a lot of things are going well that we’re losing track of, but it’s just kind of scary when you think democracy is going to collapse. That and the climate collapses.”
However, among the new episode offerings is still an “out-and-out comedy” along with another inspired by Hulu’s Elizabeth Holmes series The dropout and one that tackles the paparazzi culture. (No spoilers here on whether they’re gloomy or not.)
One of those episodes mentioned earlier features advanced AI-like technology, prompting Brooker to elaborate on his experience with ChatGPT (“The first thing I did was type ‘generate’). Black mirror episode” and it comes with something that reads plausible on the surface but sucks on the second,” he previously said).
“When I first came across ChatGPT I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s it, my job is done’. But now that you’ve played with it a bit more, you see the limitations,” he says of the emerging and controversial technology for writers, and the main sticking point in the writers’ strike. “There is a generic quality to the art that pumps out. In five years it will be undeniably perfect, but when will it replace the human experience? I don’t know if that will ever happen.”
Despite his struggle to remain hopeful in the current times (“I’m confident that the younger generation seems to be head over heels and seem pissed off,” he says), his optimism about technology in general is his. The creator has long maintained that the villain is in it Black mirror isn’t the technology – it’s what people do with it.
“Usually there’s a weak and flawed human being in the story who fucks things up, rather than it being the technology specifically,” he says in another pre-season interview with Wired. “We did ‘Metalhead,’ which was about robotic AI dogs killing people — honestly, that’s the technology. But in the “Entire History of You,” the episode where memories are played, it’s this jealous and insecure husband who is screwing up his own life. It’s generally not the fault of the technology in the stories.”
He continues: “I am generally pro-technology. We’ll probably have to rely on it if we want to survive, so I wouldn’t say (Black mirror episodes) necessarily warnings, but also concerns, if you know what I mean. They may be worst case scenarios.’