Black Mirror (Season 4), Episode1: 'USS Callister' Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Black Mirror, Season 4, Episode 1, USS Callister, Still, Bridge of the spacecraft, Jesse Plemons as Robert Daly

There are many who have described Black Mirror as The Twilight Zone of the 21st century. Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is known for its satirical and cynical take on the side effects of technology. In words of Brooker himself, “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set.” For the uninitiated, Brooker explains that black mirror “is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone."

After three rollicking seasons, the series is back with a kick-ass fourth season that is easily the biggest thing that has happened on Netflix so far, in terms of scope and certainly in terms of creative ambition. The fourth season has a total of six episodes, including one directed by Jodie Foster titled “Arkangel”. Today we would be talking about the explosive first episode of the season titled “USS Callister” that’s been dubbed as the best episode of the season by critics around the world. Directed by Toby Haynes, USS Callister can best be described as a tribute to Star Trek.

                 ********************SPOILER ALERT***********************

The story of USS Callister revolves around a gaming genius who decides to punish his colleagues who refuse to acknowledge his efforts. Since he cannot do so in the real world he unleashes his sadistic streak in the virtual world. He leverages upon the same programming gift that has allowed him to set up a gaming empire in the real world (the credit for which is usurped by the co-founder) to create a virtual universe where he is an autocratic ruler and a living nightmare for his co-workers. He uses their DNA to transport their virtual selves into the harrowing world he simulates through programming wherein he treats them as his slaves. The episode has a feature length running time of 76 minutes and stars Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, and Jimmi Simpson in the major roles. The episode features cameo appearances from Aaron Paul and Kirsten Dunst.

Cristin Milioti as Nanette Cole in Black Mirror episode USS Callister, Season 4, Episode 1

USS Callister is inspired by The Twilight Zone episode titled “It’s a Good Life” and serves as a powerful critique of the abuse of authority and power. In the wake of events surrounding the episodes of abuse involving Harvey Weinstein, USS Callister proves its pertinence to the times we live in. USS Callister is also a reminder of dirty politics in corporate circles that often deprive the deserving colleagues of the appreciation and accolades that they deserve. The episode can also be seen as a satire on internet bullying. Black Mirror episodes usually culminate in rather bleak endings but USS Callister is a departure in that regard in that it chooses hope over grim possibilities. But that doesn't mean that it isn't true to the usual Black Mirror traditions. In fact, the episode has something for everyone. One really couldn’t have asked for a better season premiere.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!
Black Mirror - 'USS Callister' Trailer (YouTube)

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