TV Reviews

Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1: USS Callister Review

It’s about time that I start watching this …

Synopsis: A woman wakes up on a Star Trek-esque ship where the crew praise their all knowing and fearless captain. (IMDB)

Writers: William Bridges and Charlie Brooker

Director: Toby Haynes

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 76mins

Well this went in a completely different direction and for the better.

First we must go back to where it all started. This episode was about an underappreciated CTO of a technology company named Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons). Daly also happened to be a fan of a Trek-esque show called Space Fleet was basically like the original series. His company, Callister, has developed a virtual reality game called Infinity. Daly made a mod of Infinity all to himself that created a scenario similar to Space Fleet where he was the captain and the crew were avatars based on the people he worked with.

It all seemed innocent enough with Daly perhaps using this mod of his to enact his own fantasy where he could be the strong man that he couldn’t be in the real world. His life changed once a new female employee named Nanette (Cristin Milioti) started working there. She quickly learned what Daly really thought of him and soon after, we learned what Daly thought of these coworkers. Daly managed to steal the DNA of the employees who he felt slighted by and used it to make avatars of them in his game where he possessed complete control over. 

The longer the episode went, the more it made sense. Daly pressured these avatars to praise him as their captain to make up for how he was treated by their real life counterparts. However, these avatars were not unwilling participants as they were all self-aware copies of their real life counterparts. They knew what was going on but had no choice but to comply. Seeing what Daly did to those who did not comply started to make us think that maybe he wasn’t a nice guy after all.

These avatars may not technically be people though they were very much alive. Was he really evil for doing the things he did in the game or was he the victim for how these people treated him in the real world? This added dimension to the story definitely took it in a much darker direction than what the bright and colorful exterior may imply, on the other hand, it made things more engaging to watch.

Things changed once Daly created an avatar version of Nanette. Her addition challenged the status quo as she challenged the others to finally escape this prison that Daly created for them. They probably could have escaped at any point but this was easier said than done as they were all damaged either physically or psychologically at some point by Daly. Her presence served as the last push they needed. They devised a plan using Nanette’s real-life counterpart to escape Daly’s control by deleting themselves from his game. The ending was both satisfying and/or sad depending on your interpretation.

The best part of the episode was both the production values and the acting. The ship scenes were definitely reminiscent to the original Star Trek series which added to the experience and credence to the story. The acting was excellent across the board with Plemons being the standout. Plemons’s performance as Daly was amazing as he made us feel right along with his character regardless of whether or not he was doing the right thing. This aided in the question of if he was really the villain here as he never played it one way or the other. Milioti and the rest of the supporting cast were excellent here, giving more dimensions to their characters and proving that they are more than they seem. Regardless, they were all fun to watch for different reasons.

Overall, this was an amazing episode of television with an engaging sci-fi story that managed to go unexpectedly deep on a human level thanks to excellent writing and performances. For my first episode of Black Mirror, this is definitely off to a great start.

Score: 10/10

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3 replies »

  1. I intentionally haven’t read the review yet, but thought you might have said you’ve never seen this series before. The first season is killer and defi Italy worth a warch, and there are some gems throughout all of the seasons. Stoked for season four, though!!

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