A long time from now in a galaxy far, far away: cute robots carry out menial tasks, self-improvement is the currency of the day, all is equal and fair, and skin-tight rainbow jumpsuits are the height of fashion. A brave new world born from a frustrated artist redesigning a broken reality plagued by hate and riddled with melancholy. There’ll be the odd alien invasion but that’s what happens in the future. Far scarier is the possibility our yearned for utopia is a technicolour dream and the future won’t be a better place but a bit like the present, only worse, post-the blonde tangerine leading the ‘free’ world having had a Twitter tantrum, hitting the big red button whilst stumbling around in the dark for a light switch.
Judgement Day shouldn’t take us by surprise, warnings have been televised for the past decade. Each public service announcement provided a different option for the end of the world: zombie apocalypse, nuclear attack, alien invasion, or a mass blackout; indulging in a bureaucratic game of choose-your-own-apocalypse. Their message was clear ‘YOU’RE DOOMED’ and those left in the rubble will have to redefine their meaningless existence. Good luck.
The Aliens most accurately predicted the coming of the Trumpocalypse, where wall building is the ‘in’ thing. On one side of this particular wall was a human city, and the other a ramshackle alien encampment. The aliens were the lowest of the low: all criminals, their hair a narcotic, and were probably responsible for that thing that didn’t happen. At least according to public opinion. When border guard, Lewis Garvey discovered he was half-alien, he had to reassess his identity and realise what it meant to be both human and alien, or either. Learning along the way that the bad guys aren’t always who the propaganda points to in a world where Breitbart headlines are government policy.
Extraterrestrials aren’t the only scapegoats of the near future, there are also job stealing robots to contend with: sleek, shiny anthropomorphized iPhones that don’t need loo breaks. In Humans, synths (androids available from all good electronics store) are ‘Public Enemy Number One’ just for being able to do what humans do, and not looking like their great-grandad toaster. Humanity is more than happy to use the synths as appliances or smash them up to let off a little steam, but treating them with compassion is a stretch. Instead their fear heightens the synths otherness, leading them to realise their place in the world may be changing and, questioning what it means to be human.
Cloning, like robotics should probably be left on the lab floor. At least until malevolent corporations or cults aren’t the only entities using it to further their less than utopian ideals. In Orphan Black, the Dyad Institute monitored and manipulated the lives of women, who didn’t even know they were clones, much less part of a shadowy conspiracy. Before they knew of each other, each woman had their own life, which they sought to maintain even after the truth was revealed. Sarah Manning wants to protect her daughter, Alison wants to keep living as a ‘soccer mom’, and Cosima to continue her studies and cure other clones of a ‘plague’. As rival factions fight to control them, the ‘sisters’ take on the task of defining themselves as more than clones or a copyrighted idea to figure out what the hell is going on.
Technology is dangerous. All technology, not just advanced robotics and cloning but even everyday gadgets. Black Mirror showcases how the latest gimmicks can get out of hand and skewer reality into the barely familiar. Technology grants wish fulfilment, opening up a myriad of possibilities: talking to the dead through social media, living in a world where the way out of your box is a talent contest, personal ratings dictating your life and a cartoon demagogue making awful things seem palatable. Users should beware. It’s all a bit bleak. But as the sides for World War 3 are already being drafted, nuclear winter looks to be our preferred option for doomsday.