Here’s the deal:
There’s no TV show more formative for me than The Twilight Zone. What Rod Serling was able to achieve in the 1950s/60s television landscape was staggering, but even more impressive is how well the show stands the test of time. From pig-people to bookworms, bomb shelters to cannibals, The Twilight Zone has stayed fixed in our social consciousness, and it’s a show that’s followed me from childhood to adulthood.
This is why it’s always been disappointing for me to see how uninspired most other anthology shows are. I’ve watched the entirety of the revival Twilight Zone series, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Crypt and Serling’s own Night Gallery, and a good number of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of the Unexpected, but I always found them to be just okay.
While all these shows had stand-out episodes, none had the consistently high quality of The Twilight Zone, nor the artistic vision and execution. It’s been sixty years since the end of The Twilight Zone. Where is its worthy successor?
Allow me to introduce you to Black Mirror.
Black Mirror is a British show created by Charlie Brooker which explores the dangers of modern technology through the lens of a near-future world. The black mirror of the title refers to the thousands of screens which surround us daily, from televisions to computers to phones.
Much like The Twilight Zone was focused on the issues of the day (conformity, paranoia, race relations, fear of Richard Nixon’s face), Black Mirror explores modern social and technological issues with expertly-crafted scripts and crisp cinematography.
With only six episodes produced in two seasons so far (British TV doesn’t make any damn sense), there is limited material but there also isn’t a bad story in the bunch. Episodes of particular note include one in which a woman buys a robotic “clone” of her dead lover, one showing the consequences of keeping your memories in a database, and another where a terrorist demands the British PM copulate with a pig.
The show just appeared on Netflix streaming for the first time and this week saw the release of a Christmas special entitled “White Christmas.” The special is a 90-minute episode of three interwoven tales featuring actor/handsome dreamboat/all-around cool dude Jon Hamm and showcases some of Black Mirror’s most interesting and horrifying futurist concepts yet.
Brooker has plans for at least one more season in the future, though I hope this is a project that he continues for some time. While he certainly shouldn’t run the wheels off it, I’m confident he can keep producing great work with this sporadic schedule.
Go watch Black Mirror on Netflix or elsewhere, and track down that Christmas special. It’s some of the best sci-fi around.
But seriously, there’s a signpost up ahead.