MIR­ROR'S EDGE

Black Mir­ror cre­ator Char­lie Brooker ven­tures out of this world for Sea­son 4

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS JOHN NU­GENT

one-up a dark-edged sci-fi that’s al­ready fea­tured vir­tual-re­al­ity nurs­ing homes, fly­ing robo-bees and Prime Min­is­te­rial pig-shag­ging? That was the chal­lenge fac­ing

Black Mir­ror cre­ator Char­lie Brooker as he sat down to plot out its fourth sea­son. The an­swer, it turns out, was by be­ing more am­bi­tious. One new episode, ‘USS Cal­lis­ter’, sees the show blast into space; another, ‘Black Mu­seum’, fea­tures three sto­ries in one, which Brooker likens to The

Simp­sons’ ‘Tree­house Of Hor­ror’. With worldwide recog­ni­tion and a place in the cul­tural lex­i­con se­cured — Stephen King has praised the show as “like The Twi­light Zone, only rated R” — Black Mir­ror can af­ford to splash out. Sea­son 4 will treat fans to a “gru­elling thriller”, an “in­die drama”, and one “quite play­ful” episode set in a “wonky so­ci­ety”.

For a self-con­fessed neu­rotic like Brooker, it’s the lat­est bold step in an of­ten ag­o­nised creative process. He of­fers an ex­am­ple of the tor­ments in­volved in pi­lot­ing Black Mir­ror to the small screen. It was sum­mer 2016, and the show was about to launch on Netflix, but Brooker couldn’t de­cide in what or­der the six episodes should air. “You know that scene in Swingers where Jon Favreau leaves a hun­dred mes­sages on some­one’s an­swer­phone?” he laughs. “It was a bit like that. I’d send emails say­ing, ‘This is the run­ning or­der!’ Then five min­utes later, I’d send another one say­ing, ‘For­get it! I’m crazy!’” Part of his worry was over mak­ing the show ac­ces­si­ble to new­com­ers.

As Sea­son 4 looms, ac­ces­si­bil­ity is less of a con­cern. “We can as­sume peo­ple know the na­ture of the show, broadly speak­ing,” he says. He’s not wrong. A protest sign at a re­cent anti-trump rally read, “This Episode Of Black Mir­ror Sucks”. Brooker is re­luc­tant to give away too many specifics, but in de­scrib­ing each episode, the re­cur­ring theme is new­ness: to chal­lenge him­self, and the au­di­ence, with some­thing sur­pris­ing. For the ever-sur­pris­ing Black Mir­ror, it’s quite an ask.

It’s a huge lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge, too. Each episode is a self-con­tained mini-movie (“a full meal”, in Brooker’s words), with the bud­get to match. Sea­son 4 was filmed in Canada, Spain and Ice­land, with di­rec­tors in­clud­ing Jodie Foster, John Hill­coat and Game Of Thrones’ Tim Van Pat­ten. There’s the first ac­knowl­edge­ment that some episodes ex­ist in the same uni­verse. Its cre­ator, how­ever, re­mains his un­der­stated self. “In do­ing [Sea­son 3], I be­came aware that a few more things are pos­si­ble,” Brooker ac­knowl­edges. Now all he needs to de­cide is the run­ning or­der.

Above: The Jodie Fos­ter­di­rected ‘Arkan­gel’.

Here: An­drea Rise­bor­ough in John Hill­coat’s ‘Croc­o­dile’.

Be­low: Dou­glas Hodge and Leti­tia Wright in ‘Black Mu­seum’.

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