Charlie Brooker is well known for his social and political satirical commentary. Featuring in broadsheet columns and TV panel shows, heís got a reputation for stone faced delivery and comic timing, but in his TV drama trilogy, Black Mirror, heís managed create something with startling quality in addition to his sometimes abrasive delivery.
Airing originally on E4 in December and due out on DVD on the 23rd January 2012, Black Mirror is a collection of three unrelated stories looking at life in the modern age. With vicious precision and a long armed poking stick, Charlie Brooker manages to encapsulate the growing tech age that we seem to be blindly marching into.
The first of the three instalments is entitled The National Anthem and it is by far the most abrasive and yet subtly brilliant of the trilogy. Written by Brooker, the premise of the story is that Princess Susannah has been kidnapped by a technologically adept internet maniac. The Prime Minister of Britain wakes to the ransom demand, which is simply for him to have illicit relations with a pig live on television, and must face the dilemma of the situation.
A political team is assembled quickly with the need to silence the story and orchestrate a rescue of the Princess in time to save the PM. However, in the Twitter age, no story can really be silenced and itís a matter of seconds before the whole country has witnessed the full hostage video. When the rescue attempt also fails, the Prime Minister is left with nothing left to do than to meet the hostage demands with as much dignity as he can muster. One of the best features of the episode is that it is completely devoid of comedy in its delivery, despite the obvious implications of the plot, making the story feel real and loaded with empathy inducing impact.
The second of the three episodes is entitled 15 Million Merits, which Charlie Brooker wrote with his wife, Konnie Huq. Itís set in a surreal, pseudo future in which life is made up of a tedious routine of cycling all day for the merits needed to live. The only way out of the drudgery is a talent show that casts an eerie shadow of familiarity with our own modern day, mixing with the raunchy TV commercials and bad candid camera style TV shows that the cyclists are subjected to. The story follows one of the disillusioned riders, Bing, played by Daniel Kaluuya, as he teams up with the Abi, a girl he takes a liking to, and jumps into the void of the talent show. Once again pathos is thick, with a genuine dislike for the show and the life that leads them to it, but also a sympathetic standpoint for the people that put themselves on it. The outcome is once again bitter bitter, leaving the viewer with little room for a way out.
The final episode, In Memoria, was written by Jesse Armstrong, and is again set in an alternate world. With a tiny device to record everything that you do, itís hard to escape your past. When paranoia turns to relived reality for Liam Foxwell, he finds out much more than he might have wanted about his wife and must face them in the cold clarity of the TV screen.
All three of the episodes will feature on a Black Mirror DVD, due out on January 23rd 2012. The episodes are currently available to view on 4OD, however they will only be available until the January 17th 2012.