First impression of this episode is you’re either watching a parody or a homage to Star Trek. As it flows, you realize the Star Trek issue was simply the pretext to reproduce a new version of the classic episode It’s a Good Life from the 1961 Twilight Zone where a kid has got god-like powers and can do anything he wants with the people around him.
At the end this is a good production with a feeble plot, not what Black Mirror used to do.
On the U.S.S. Callister we meet Captain Robert Daly when he saves the day with fast, smart decisions, and also a charming touch. Daly’s physique similarities to Captain Kirk as well as James Walton’s looks alike as Dr. McCoy together with the miniskirts wore by the female crew and an astonishing production replicating the mood of 1960s Star Trek make the season’s opening a great effective hook.
As the story keeps going argumentative flaws became clear. At the end the the plot is weak, nothing we’re used to get from Black Mirror, up to the point this is maybe the weakest plot of all the series. Although, a funny episode, this is more on the comedy side that on the good horror and sci-fi that fostered Black Mirror popularity.
Here are the five flaws on the plot:
- Scientific flaw for the exigent sci-fi fan. It is shown that a sample of human DNA carries a copy of personality and memories —probably soul too—. Hence, with a DNA sample a consciousnesses can be replicated inside a game named Infinity, think The Matrix. Daly has got a bunch of his employees DNA and replicated their consciousnesses inside Infinity, these employees make up the U.S.S. Callister crew. We could get along with this, but the DNA issue has repercussions on the conclusion of the plot.
- Online of offline? The crew knows they are inside Infinity, but Daly modified his own version to look like his favourite TV show, Star Fleet. The crew is kept offline on Daly’s development build, sealed off, so only he can control it —watch minutes 24-26. Twenty minutes later Infinity gets an update and guess what? The crew is able to fly towards the patch. Hence, they were not offline, meaning they could find a way out of Daly’s controlled segment before.
- Can they die or not? It is stated that the crew cannot die, but Daly’s kills Walton’s son by throwing him to outer space.
- God or not god? We’re shown Daly’s god-like powers work inside the ship and when he fights an enemy in a planet. Later, by the finale, Daly’s god-like powers cease to work outside the U.S.S. Callister.
- Powerless god. After the update is installed in Infinity Daly looks afraid and seems to trapped inside the game. Why?
Black Mirror, season 4 episode 1, 2017, 76 min.
Written by Charlie Brooker and William Bridges
Directed by Toby Haynes
Produced by Louise Sutton
We meet Captain Robert Daly on the first scene as in the pure Stark Trek style. Daly is the captain of the U.S.S. Callister. Next scene we realize Daly is the CTO of Infinity, a multiplayer online game. He’s also a tech savvy abused by his business partner, James Walton, as well as the rest of his employees. Yep, he’s pathetic. Nevertheless, Nanette, a new employee, admires him and is interested in his inventiveness. She tries to socialize with him.
Inside the U.S.S. Callister we realize the crew inhabits a controlled segment of the game owned by Daly. There, Daly keeps copies of the consciousness of Walton and other employees, copies he got from their DNAs. Daly makes the people act as the crew and enemies of the U.S.S. Callister.The crew cannot be killed, cannot get out of there and cannot leave the ship.
Daly gets a used cup of coffee from Nanette to get her DNA and create a replica of her consciousness. Inside the U.S.S. Callister Nanette is not willing to accept her destiny as a servile crew member. She learns they cannot escape or die, but they can suffer. Captain Daly controls everything as if he were God.
Walton tells Nanette that Daly made a replica of his son and sent the kid to explode in the outer space, while keeping him watching hoe the boy froze and explode. From the spaceship, the crew can see a wormhole on the horizon. The crew realizes it is a patch for a new version of Infinity and assumes that if they fly through it they will disappear or die, and thus free themselves from Captain Daly. Problem is that Daly may make other copies of them with the DNA he already has.
Nanette proposes the crew to find a way to communicate with the external world and contact others. They realize Daly has a radio device that links him to the real world when he says his pizza has arrived and leaves the crew in the middle of an adventure. Nanette proposes the crew to blackmail the real Nanette with a series of sexy photos uploaded on PhotoCloud —an Instagram equivalent.
The crew blackmails Nanette and asks her to go to Daly’s department and steal some items from his small fridge. How the crew knows what items got their DNA is unclear. Whatever the case, real world Nanette succeeds in stealing the items while the crew flies towards the wormhole followed by Captain Daly. Why Daly does not use his God-like powers to reach them is not explained.
The U.S.S. Callister stops before reaching the wormhole. Walton goes to the engine room and turns on the engines manually while burning himself without dying. The crew gets out of the virtual reality before Captain Daly gets them.
The crew appears wearing black suits on what can be considered an updated version of the ship navigating freely throughout the cloud (the Internet?). Captain Daly cries for exiting the game inside the spaceship where he was following the U.S.S. Callister, but then a deletion in progress is announced after the patch has been installed; meanwhile, we see the real Daly still connected to the game lying on his chair. His avatar and consciousness will be deleted, but we are not shown that.