Black Mirror’s creators: “Bandersnatch is not the future of TV”

Black Mirror has set the tone for the spate of dystopian film and TV on our screens in recent years. Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times TV Festival, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones reflect on writing for our turbulent times, and the Bandersnatch effect

Black Mirror’s dystopian tale of technology – and our complex relationship with it – has been thrilling and terrifying audiences in equal measure for almost a decade now. It debuted on Channel 4 in 2011 with what would turn out to be a creepily prophetic episode about the Prime Minister and a pig (see former PM David Cameron’s unfortunate #piggate scandal).

Since moving over to Netflix in 2016, the show has gone on to gain a worldwide army of fans who are currently awaiting a – hopefully – equally as disturbing fifth season, which is set to drop later this year. Despite its reputation for delving into the darker side of humanity and technology, the initial concept for the show wasn’t as tech-focused as people might assume, according to its creators and executive producers Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.

Season 3, Nosedive

“It was sort of a modern day Twilight Zone talking about modern themes,” says Jones. “Technology was always going to be one of them, but then I think when we started to explore it we realised that there are so many things here that have been influenced or changed so dramatically through technology, and we should embrace that a little bit more.”

Being an anthology show on traditional broadcast TV and having such wide ranging subject matter (the first season covers everything from kidnapping to memory implants) made the series particularly challenging to market in its infancy. “We found it difficult to describe … because you can say this is a modern Twilight Zone and it’s going to address technology in the modern world, but until you start having films and stories it’s unknown,” says Jones. “I suppose it’s taken us to this point where we’ve got a stronger sense now of what we’re trying to do, and how wide ranging it can be in terms of tones and genres.”