Film & TV Muse

Do Your Worst 2020: Ranking Every Black Mirror Dystopia

Alex Thompson re-watches every episode of Black Mirror to try and prove that 2020 isn't as bad as it could be (spoilers ahead)

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Image Credit: NETFLIX

“It’s very Black Mirror” is a phrase that has become a byword for dystopia in recent years. Every time some spooky new technology emerges or something strange happens on social media, people always liken it to Black Mirror, whether it's Boston Dynamics robots that can open doors or the ever growing presence of AI. Black Mirror, devised and mostly written by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, is a TV series created for Channel 4 (recently purchased by Netflix) that is made up of isolated episodes, revolving around dystopian and science-fiction concepts. From apps to rate people and change their social standing to implants with the ability to rewind memories to entire simulated realities, they are truly bleak cautionary tales.

With 2020 going to shit, I thought it was the perfect time for a Black Mirror binge to remind me how much worse everything could be. It didn't really help. I’ve re-watched the entire series (excluding Bandersnatch) and produced a cohesive ranking system for each episode because what else would I do in self-isolation? Each episode will be scored with a ‘Dystopia Rating’ (how spooky the concept is) and ‘Likelihood’ (would it actually happen).

So, here it is - the definitive ranking of Black Mirror dystopias. Remember, we might all be in lock-down but at least we're not in a computer simulation.

Or are we?

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]

2675

Series 1

The National Anthem
Perhaps the most realistic (and I use that word sparingly) episode of Black Mirror, 'The Nation Anthem' sees the Prime Minister being forced to have sex with a pig on live TV in order to save the life of a member of a royal family. Insert David Cameron joke.
Dystopia Rating - 2/5
Likelihood - 5/5

Fifteen Million Merits
People ride exercise bikes all day to earn credits to spend on virtual entertainment while being isolated inside prison cells with TV screens for walls. They can participate in a bizarre TV talent contest and forced to watch pornography. It's equal parts WALL-E, The Masked Singer, Pornhub and being stuck in the gym.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 2/5

The Entire History Of You
Humans have an inbuilt ‘grain’ in their brain which allows them to replay memories. Sounds good right? Nope. This episode is a cautionary tale of how reliving your past can be damaging to friends and relationships and utterly soul-destroying. You might even watch your wife bang another man.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 3/5

2676

Series 2

Be Right Back
Your loved one dies and now you can have a synthetic android version of them made. Sounds good right? Definitely nope. Having sex with an android replica of your dead boyfriend before trying to bully them into jumping off a cliff before eventually making them live in your loft and co-parent the child of their recently deceased counterpart isn’t exactly ideal. Even if they do look like Domnhall Gleeson.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 2/5

White Bear
A woman is tormented as part of a bizarre theme park-style attraction where she chased by a masked man with a shotgun. People flood to watch this woman battle her way through a scenario before in a cruel twist, her appalling crime is revealed to her before her memory is wiped and the scenario begins again. Think Groundhog Day, but you have no idea you are reliving the same day.
Oh, and you’re a murderer.
Dystopia Rating - 3/5
Likelihood -  4/5

The Waldo Moment
An animated bear embarks on a campaign trail to become the next prime minister. At the time it seemed ridiculous that a TV character would run for office. Then we had Trump. While the first part of the show seems more satire than sci-fi, the final shows the creator of Waldo living homeless, in a society run by his creation. Spooky stuff.
Dystopia Rating - 2/5
Likelihood - 5/5

White Christmas
The Christmas special of Black Mirror isn't like any other christmas special*.* It's a lot more grim and has a lot of terrifying future-tech such as the ability to watch through someone else’s eyes, to block people in real life and to have your consciousness copied and placed into an Alexa to run your home. There’s a lot going on. It’s these layers of bleak future technology that make 'White Christmas' so unsettling and the idea of spending 1000 years in a glorified snow globe is also pretty grim.
Dystopia Rating - 5/5
Likelihood - 3/5

2677

Series 3

Nosedive
Imagine if your Uber rating dictated everything you did in life, from your job, to your house to your social standing. The world of 'Nosedive' is a rather grim what if scenario - what if everyone could rate your behaviour and affect your life over social media. It's not a particularly original idea (pretty sure Community did it first) but it's a bleak one.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 3/5

Playtest
Imagine VR games, but bad.
Dystopia Rating - 2/5
Likelihood - 4/5

Shut Up And Dance
Spooky dark-web hackers take control of your laptop and blackmail you into committing crimes with Bronn from Game of Thrones before it’s revealed that you were, in fact, a nonce all along. Anxiety inducing and utterly terrifying, it’s like the world’s most unsettling online safety video. This is why you put tape on your webcam.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 5/5

San Junipero
Honestly, I'd quite happily live out my existence having a bisexual relationship on a beach in the 1980s and listening to The Smiths. 'San Junipero' may have a bittersweet ending but it's not quite Black Mirror's usual level of grim pessimism.
Dystopia Rating - 1/5
Likelihood - 2/5

Men Against Fire
Using special contact images to alter the perception of enemy combatants, the military undergoes a campaign to commit genocide without the guilt. A bleak story about the misuse of technology in war with a suitably Black Mirror twist, 'Men Against Fire' shows a world where the military industrial complex has run rampant.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 4/5

Hated In The Nation
Spooky bees and online shaming - this episode shows a true dystopia where twitter hate can be weaponized.
Dystopia Rating - 5/5
Likelihood - 3/5

2678

Series 4

USS Callister
Imagine living inside a computer simulation, tormented by your malicious boss (who looks a lot like Matt Damon) and forced to re-enact an episode of something which (for rights reasons) is definitely not Star Trek. Captive consciousnesses are assigned roles as crew, villains or monsters and are made to play out the twisted and childish fantasies of a man trying to escape reality. It's weird, creepy and no one has any genitals.
Dystopia Rating - 5/5
Likelihood - 2/5

Arkangel
You can put a chip in your children to watch over their actions and keep them safe. Sounds good but in reality its terrible. A parent reactivates her child's chip when she is a teenager and watches her do drugs and have sex in the back of a van before she is eventually beaten to death by her child with an iPad. It's every parent's worst nightmare.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 3/5

Crocodile
Probably the bleakest episode yet, 'Crocodile' tells the story of a woman trying to outrun a murder she committed while being traced by investigators who can tap into people's memories. It's a narrative of escalation, where each act becomes more and more insane until the woman kills a blind baby with a hammer trying to cover her tracks. She's eventually caught by the memories of a nearby hamster.
Dystopia Rating - 3/5
Likelihood - 2/5

Hang The DJ
Another slightly less depressing episode, Hang The DJ' follows the dating lives of two characters in a near-future world before it is revealed that they were merely simulations in a complex dating app. While living in a simulation doesn't seem ideal, the two characters end up on a date in a final scene - the app telling them they are 99 per cent compatible as a couple. It's quite nice.
Dystopia Rating - 1/5
Likelihood - 2/5

Metalhead
A desolate, post-apocalyptic occupied by murderous robot dogs and it's all in black and white - 'Metalhead' is one of the most vague yet threatening dystopias in Black Mirror. Special mention for the scene where the murder-robo-dog chases the protagonist with a spinning kitchen knife, proper scary stuff.
Dystopia Rating - 5/5
Likelihood - 4/5

Black Museum
The eponymous Black Museum contains artefacts and technology from other Black Mirror episodes. This is, however, not the main attraction. The unique features of this museum? The consciousness of a human stuck in a stuffed monkey and the conscious hologram of a falsely convicted criminal who visitors can execute for pleasure. You might even get stuck in a key fob, screaming for eternity.
Dystopia Rating - 4/5
Likelihood - 2/5

2679

Series 5

Striking Vipers
Imagine having sex with your best mate in a VR version of Street Fighter. That’s basically the premise of this episode. Let’s face it though, people are probably already doing this.
Dystopia Rating - 2/5
Likelihood - 5/5

Smithereens
Moriarty from Sherlock hijacks an Uber to remind the world that social media is bad. It’s a tense and thrilling episode but it falls short of being a true dystopia.
Dystopia Rating - 1/5
Likelihood - 5/5

Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
Miley Cyrus begins to rebel against her manager so is drugged up and has her personality copied into Alexa style robots which are sold to kids and her music created via computers. It's a story about the dangers of trying to control people and constraining creativity. It's probably the most cliched narrative of the series but it's still spooky.
*Dystopia Rating - 3/5 *
Likelihood - 2/5

ALL IMAGES: CHANNEL 4 PRESS PACK, NETFLIX PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL

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