Please Don’t Let ‘Black Mirror’ Be a Shared Universe
The science fiction anthology show Black Mirror recently wrapped up its fourth season with the episode “Black Museum,” which was stuffed with references to earlier episodes, including a lollipop last seen in the “U.S.S. Callister” episode and a bloody bathtub last seen in “Crocodile.” Screenwriter Rafael Jordan enjoyed the nods to previous storylines.
“It was a great way to wrap up the season, since everything kind of built up to that,” Jordan says in Episode 290 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was neat to see all the little Easter eggs in this episode referencing the other episodes.”
So many connections between different storylines have led to speculation among fans that every Black Mirror episode is set in the same universe, a theory that writer Theresa DeLucci finds puzzling.
“It was funny to me to see ‘White Bear’ Easter eggs in ‘Black Museum,’ because that one—like ‘Fifteen Million Merits’—seemed so far-flung in the future that I wouldn’t have imagined that they would take place in the same universe,” she says.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley actively dislikes the theory that Black Mirror has a shared universe, even if it could somehow be made to work. He’d rather see the show play to its strengths as an anthology show. “I don’t want the creativity of the storytellers to be constrained by having to say, ‘Oh, we have to fit this in between this one and this one,’” he says.
Science fiction editor John Joseph Adams agrees that fans should ditch the idea of a shared universe and fully embrace the anthology format. “We need more anthology shows,” he says. “Everybody get in on that. Make some more anthology shows.”
Listen to our complete interview with Rafael Jordan, Theresa DeLucci, and John Joseph Adams in Episode 290 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
David Barr Kirtley on “U.S.S. Callister”:
“It was interesting that this guy who’s such a creep was so obsessed with this Star Trek-type show, which is so about idealism and things like that. We were talking about this a bit on our Star Trek: Discovery panel, where you have all these people who are big Star Trek fans, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, why’d they have to put gay characters in this? It’s ruined the whole thing.’ And it’s sort of baffling to me—and I guess to all of us on that panel—what attracts people to Star Trek in the first place if they have this kind of attitude? Are they connecting with the idealism at all, or are there other things that they like about the show? So I just thought it would be interesting to explore why someone who’s such a dick would be interested in Star Trek at all, rather than Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto or whatever.”
David Barr Kirtley on “Arkangel”:
“The thing that sort of underwhelmed me about it was that I felt that the message of it—or the attitude of it—was completely clear from the start, which is that this is ‘helicopter parenting,’ and implanting this device is terrible and it’s just going to cause problems, and then that’s exactly what happened. I thought it would have been more interesting to explore the upsides of this versus the downsides, and what if you grow up in a society where this is just normal? Is it really that bad of a thing? Of course we’re used to having times where our parents don’t know where we are, but in the future maybe our parents will always know where we are, and can we have a serious conversation about what the upsides and downsides of that are?”
Theresa DeLucci on “Arkangel”:
“They always try to make it seem in Black Mirror like they think carefully about all the ramifications of the technology in an episode, but this season in general felt a little sloppier to me than other seasons. Some of the seams were showing, and I think this [episode] was one of those cases where it was. And I think that’s why people get a little annoyed over glaring things like the emergency contraception. … Emergency contraception prevents conception from happening, so it’s not an abortion pill. But then people try to say, ‘Taking something that prevents conception counts as an abortion too.’ And that’s where these lines keep getting drawn in politics and law, and I thought it was just really sloppy for Black Mirror to handle it that way.”
John Joseph Adams on the Black Mirror book:
“Charlie Brooker is actually editing an anthology that I think is just going to be three or four novellas. So it’s not going to be a whole huge anthology with lots of stories, it’s going to be just a few longer stories, and I don’t know if they’re actually going to turn any of those into episodes at some point or if they’re just going to have this other thing that exists in parallel to the TV show, but I believe that’s supposed to be out this year. … I was really mad when I heard about it, because I totally wanted to pitch this to Charlie Brooker—the idea of doing an anthology of Black Mirror stories—and since anthologies are kind of my thing, I really wanted to get in on that action, but he thought of it already.”