Black Mirror is not, according to its creator Charlie Brooker, anti-technology. It’s concerned, rather, with technology’s potential to worsen human weaknesses. “I think that’s what Black Mirror is saying,” Brooker said in an interview to promote series two of the show. “What if the pace of change [of technology] is out of control, and we haven’t evolved to deal with it yet in the same way that we as basic apes haven’t really evolved to take responsibility for nuclear weapons?”
In White Christmas, a feature long episode that follows the previous two series, that theme is certainly visible. Utilising a format that seems particularly Christmassy, the film began with Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) – workers, seemingly, in an isolated location – sitting down to tell each other stories in a cold cabin.
Like most of Black Mirror, Matt’s story dealt with a society more connected than ever thanks to technology, and yet one in which isolation and loneliness remains, and if anything is made worse by that technology. In this world, everyone has gadgets implanted into their eyes, presumably at birth, that opens up a world of possibilities and problems.
Episode two took us back to the present day with a sort of ‘where are they now?’ catch-up with all the characters. It was a table-setting episode more than anything, and a little slow as a result, but there were a few outstanding moments and, if nothing else, the aesthetic on Utopia is so unique and beautiful to look at that even a quiet episode is seared in yellow onto your eyeballs afterwards.
In the episode’s first third, most of the characters had retreated to the humdrum lives of people not caught-up in a massive conspiracy. Ian was back at his IT job, a disconcertingly older looking Grant was confined to a flat – unable to leave because he’s supposed to be dead – and Becky, suffering from Deels Syndrome, has been forced to join up with Donaldson, the self-interested scientist with a stock of the drug that helps manage the disease (Donaldson is played by a new actor, which is a shame, because Simon McBurney was great last series).
Utopia returns at a time most appropriate. Suspicion of the establishment is at an all time high. Parliament, it seems, is an unregulated hotbed of paedophilia, fraud and cover-ups. Newspaper editors are hacking your phone, BBC children’s entertainers are touching up your kids and the government is giving them all knighthoods. The world of the conspiracy theorist has come crashing into the world of the sceptic.
Episode one of this second series played up to this conspiratorial climate, mixing real-life events with the show’s confusing world of rabbit-holes and rabbits. It began at the beginning, as Jessica’s father, brilliant but slightly nihilistic scientist Philip Carvel, was recruited by the nascent organisation that controlled the world of series one.
37 Days was a bit like an Open University docudrama, the type of thing that normally airs at 3am on BBC Two, but with a bigger budget and more recognisable actors. There were individual moments of captivating drama but they were continually broken up by pointed and unsubtle history lessons.
The first part of this three-part drama, airing over three consecutive days, followed the lead up to WWI – from 37 days before the war to 13. The episode focused mainly on the British Foreign Office’s attempts to read the situation in Europe, and the German high command’s instigating of the conflict.
The most recent episode of Jonathan Creek was an awful abomination with one of the most ludicrous endings I’ve ever seen in a mystery programme. This episode never reached those lows but it was still a long way short of what this show used to be.
The Letters of Septamus Noone had Jonathan investigating two mysteries: the first, the death of a woman involved in a play Jonathan and his wife Polly went to see, and the second the mysterious goings on around the death of Polly’s father.
[This article is spoiler free: specific scenes and dialogue is discussed but I’ve kept it as vague as possible. Links to external sites may contain spoilers]
We are, supposedly, in a golden age of television, but with Breaking Bad finished, and Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire taking their final bow over the next year, it’s been difficult to see what great televisual achievement people will be talking about a few years from now. Enter True Detective. Episode one airs on Sky Atlantic tonight, February 22. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve seen the first five episodes of the American show, and it is possibly the most enjoyable first five episodes of television I’ve ever seen.
True Detective follows Louisiana police officers Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), as they investigate the murder of a woman ritually posed in a burning field. That synopsis, and the generic title of the show, could well lead you to believe that True Detective is another gruesome police procedural. It isn’t, instead handling its unimaginative-seeming set-up using masterful storytelling coupled with depth, intellect, humour, originality and two outstanding central performances. Below are five reasons in particular to watch the show.
Babylon had noble enough intentions and I’m glad they made it but it didn’t quite work as a form of entertainment. It was too slow, too large in scope, and not funny enough. Creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong have writing credits on some great British satire, including The Thick of It, In the Loop and Four Lions, but Babylon fell short of those standards.
The show followed various sections of the Metropolitan Police as they dealt with a shooting spree. A new head of communications, freshly hired from Instagram, marshalled the PR side of things, an armed response officer struggled with his mental health and a police unit dealt with the day-to-day ground work while being filmed by an in-house videographer.