The first episode of Black Mirror, which featured a fictional British Prime Minister getting freaky with a pig, was such a grandly audacious and confrontational piece of television, containing as it did illegal sex, creative use of social media and awful PR people and political advisors trying to figure out how to deal sexually with pigs, that it was almost impossible for it not to be a triumph.
The series' success from that first episode on, as both high quality television and cultural landmark, is testament to the imagination of creator Charlie Brooker, who was already established as one of the UK's leading televisual talents. But given the enormous impact of this first episode, there was the question of whether he would be able to sustain such twisted and suspiciously prescient — thinking over a whole series, and even multiple series.
Here we are, six years after the airing of that first episode, awaiting the arrival of series four which will appear on Netflix on December 29. This season is again a masterpiece of dark, flashy foreboding and Brooker has lost nothing, except possibly any shred of hope for the future of humanity, as he again plumbs the deepest concerns of our modern age.
The ominously named episode Arkangel is the story of a parent who lives on a bleak-looking working class American city street with the child she loves too much. The story grows from a single parent's overreaction based on a desire to protect that child. The overreaction is met halfway by an extraordinarily parentally-appealing technology which enables and encourages her neuroses, eventually landing viewers bleakly at the conclusion, as Black Mirror episodes tend to do, that technology is effing us all over.
Crocodile starts with a shocking event, a cover-up and a technology that is supposed to help, but instead effs over several people. Hang The DJ demonstrates a technology that effs over people's relationships. And, finally, Black Museum tells of a clever probable psychopath running a museum, in the middle of a desert, that displays a selection of now-defunct technologies he has created, each of which has effed over a diverse range of people.
Like the museum curator character he has created, Brooker has a gift for concept creation, but where he has used it for good, or at least for good entertainment, his Black Museum character has not.
Last night I watched a video on Twitter of a robot doing exercises that made it look exactly like an incredibly powerful human, culminating in a standing backwards somersault. The robot's strength and speed were obvious. The key takeaway, as I saw it, was not that even the strongest international pro wrestler will never beat one of these robots in a fight but rather that someone had thought at some stage that making this thing was a good idea.
American entrepreneur Elon Musk said on Twitter that in a few years that robot would be so fast the only way to capture its movements on camera would be to use a strobe light.
As technology like this advances upon us, inevitably forcing us to succumb to a life of doing its mundane household tasks, Charlie Brooker will be able to look back and say, "I told you so."
It probably won't make much difference to his quality of life, but that shouldn't take away from the achievement.