Black Mirror – USS Callister

Black Mirror’s season 4 was recently made available on Netflix. This is a show I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to. Peak TV, everyone. Anyway, I heard a bit about the first episode of the season, USS Callister, and decided to at least check out that one episode. I don’t have too many thoughts to write down about the episode, but I have some. Mild spoilers follow, but I don’t think you’ll lose anything knowing a few details before viewing.

Production Quality

The production quality of this episode was amazing. I know that a lot of TV shows, especially those on Netflix, are really upping their game in terms of picture quality, but this one really felt cinematic. I can’t help but be blown away by the quality; the sets aboard the USS Callister were deliberately cheesy, and of obvious lower quality, but it’s still high quality. The scenes in the real world are well shot, and I really enjoyed the sound design in the episode – something that I think is often overlooked.

There were some small, subtle touches as well in the set design. Most of these that I enjoyed were the light technology touches. The apartment door for example, using a display screen to show the apartment number as well as a nice little Christmas wreath. Cell phones appear as sleek devices that are essentially just a screen. The downside to this is that some of the video game equipment seems inappropriately clunky in comparison to the rest of the tech.

Ship In A Bottle

The ending of the episode, which I don’t really want to spoil, reminds me a lot of the ending of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Ship In A Bottle. The open ending of both episodes are really quite similar. Unfortunately since I don’t want to spoil it, that means I’ll have to stop talking about it.

Humour

USS Callister was very hit-or-miss with the humour. Some of it worked really well for me, but other places it felt very flat and didn’t work at all. I think in some parts they were clearly trying to invoke different sci-fi franchises (Star Trek being the most prominent) but stopped short of using copyrighted terms for some reason? I’m not sure why, because it would very clearly fall under the category of parody. For example, when Nannette asks if Daley is going to throw a fireball at her…I was expecting her to ask if he was going to use the Force. I guess the point was to avoid any mention of real life properties in the show?

Another thing – sometimes the humour felt out of place with the rest of the episode, which at times played as a sort of body and psychological horror show. What I mean is that the overall tone of the episode was uneven, leaving me unsure of what kind of message the show was trying to leave about technology. I think they were just telling a cool story they wanted to tell?

Overall Thoughts

I don’t think this episode convinced me to pick up watching the rest of the series. It was good, and I thought it was well-produced, but I don’t think this particular anthology series is for me.

If you want to hear some more detailed, spoiler-filled thoughts about the show, check out Anthology Pod’s bonus episode coverage.

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