Hey guys! So we’re just starting the fourth season of Black Mirror, and I feel like there are highs and…a low of the season. But here we are, starting off with USS Callister.
A series where Cristin Milioti is introduced quicker than the series where she played the titular character? Don’t mind if I do!
All jokes aside, this episode literally takes Star Trek to a whole new level. I’ll preface this by saying that I never liked Star Trek. I was forced into watching it when I was younger, and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
This episode combines a Star Trek spoof with the inner workings of a MMO RPG. It follows Robert, who was an underappreciated programmer and co-founder of this game. He doesn’t get the respect that he feels that he deserves from his co-workers. Nanette, played by Milioti, is new to the team, and of course has no idea what Robert gets up to in his own time.
You see, within his own game, Robert has sampled the DNA of his co-workers, and put them into his own separate server of his game. He can use the co-workers to his whims, and it reflects the same kind of themes as White Christmas did in the second story, which featured Greta’s consciousness in a program while the real-life version still lived her day-to-day life, as well as the technology used is reminiscent to what was used in San Junipero.
There’s also a festive element in this story, considering the time it’s set in. The major deadline is the Infinity update to the game rolling in on Christmas Eve, and the need to get Robert’s modded variant to update.
The aesthetic of the in-game scenes is heavily reminiscent of Star Trek, and that’s amplified by the outfits and even the stylisation of the opening scene – remember that the original series started in 1966! This also feeds in to the monsters and different planets that are available, including Skillane VI.
In this world, he is admired and loved (when he is around, of course). This contrasts vastly with his real-world counterpart, where he’s at best ignored, and at worst ridiculed. Initially you feel bad for him, considering that there’s no context to why everyone treats him with a lack of respect – Nanette seems to be the odd one, who actually admires Robert, and he was the reason that she wanted to work at the new job. Of course, the resentment Robert feels from his regular day-to-day life drips in to the game world, where he takes control of them all, and uses incentives in order to get his way.
All in all, this is an enjoyable episode even if you’re not a Trekkie. It’s because the story focuses on the behaviour of Robert, rather than rely on the nostalgia. It’s similar to how San Junipero worked, and that’s why USS Callister became so popular.
Next week we focus on the heavily divisive Arkangel.