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This is the Spoiler Discussion for the first episode of the brand new season of Black Mirror title, “USS Callister”.

Black Mirror has finally returned, and it seems to be firing on all cylinders. This is a show that has no right to still have such good concepts for each episode, especially now that the episode count is so relatively high per season when compared to the three-episode first season. The first episode of this new season begins with an exciting parody of what is basically Star Trek. The opening sequence is shot and edited to look exactly like an original Star Trek episode with colorful costumes, cheesy dialogue, and clearly carboard props. The beginning of the episode is like a dream and the tone soon shifts for the lead character played by Jessy Plemons, as we realize that he isn’t anything close to Captain in real. The entire opening sequence we later learn is simply a game that he has created to escape his life.

The great thing this episode does is that it forces the audience to shift their views of the situation and lead character with every scene. In the opening scene we all cheer for the Captain and in the next scene we feel sympathy for him as he struggles to get through his work day. His co-workers turn out to be his crew from the game, except here they are all very unlikeable people who treat Plemons’ character with little to no respect. At this point, we are led to believe that the Captain made his own game and coded the other characters to look like his co-workers. After being scolded by his boss and feeling as if his boss has already stolen the affections of a new employee who had a crush on the Captain, we witness the Captain take out his anger on the game counterpart of that same boss. Although the Captain chokes the boss in the game and the entire scene is disturbing, it still isn’t that concerning because he is in a game, how is this different than killing people in Grand Theft Auto?

Of course, we learn that the reality is that this is a custom modded version of the game that he had created, except in this game we learn that the characters are generated by using the DNA of their real world counterparts. The crew isn’t modelled after the Captain’s co-workers, they are very much his actual co-workers as they have the same memories and personalities. When I realized the Captain was torturing his co-workers in this endless nightmare, I felt my entire perceptions shift again. There was a great deal of complex emotions in this episode as I kept fluctuating from feeling sad for the Captain to being horrified by his actions. The worst part was that all he needed was some recognition in real life or some form of companionship. He used the show’s version of Star Trek as a template for his game because deep down he wanted to save people and do good, but although those were his intentions at first, his entire worldview was jaded by his co-workers.

Black Mirror does a great job of asking these deep questions which make your head spin. Was the Captain the villain here or was it his co-workers? Sure, he was torturing the game versions of his co-workers, but were they people or just virtual A.I.? At what point is it unethical to cause harm to something? Is it wrong because they have memories of the real world? Or is it wrong because they are capable of sentient thought and are self-aware? Is the Captain’s co-worker who sabotages his game the one who is really in the wrong here? She basically aided in murder by breaking in to the Captain’s house and allowing the virtual avatars to break the game. If I was analyzing this episode by the current legal standards of our world, only the female co-worker broke the law. There is nothing illegal in collecting waste such as trash and studying the DNA. One could make the argument that we have the right to our genetic material as it is highly unique to each individual but that is a very disputed and untested area of the law. Issues such as the ones presented in this episode are likely to be prevalent in the coming decade as technology continues to evolve.

The best moment of this episode to me was the ending in which we saw the virtual avatars of the Captain’s co-workers get into the online gaming world and basically being free to live forever as the crew of the USS Callister. I could write about the ending for days as there was so much deeper meaning to it. For example, the way the crew was no longer going by the pleasantries of the old Star Trek show, but was instead using foul language and a more casual vernacular. It was also symbolic that the new Captain was a woman as our society has moved away from the ideals of the 60’s. The skimpy outfits of the female crew members changed to the same uniform as the male crew members. As the game updated itself it presented a reflection of how our society has gone through an update, however, despite our best efforts there are still a bunch of “trolls” as we saw in the closing moments of the episode. These “trolls” are intent on trying to hinder the progress of our society and some of them may see themselves as Gods when they are anonymous over the internet. The episode underlined this by having the real-world player the crew encountered have a generic gamer tag and never revealing his face (although I am pretty sure that was Aaron Paul’s voice, from Breaking Bad).

Black Mirror continues to be a show that needs to be discussed with others, as it tackles countless issues through the lens of a science fiction television series. The new season is off to a strong start as the first episode got its central messages across in a clear manner. It made me think a little about what I would do if I was a God in a virtual world and made me question how I treat those around me on a daily basis. How many of those I encounter everyday long to get home to escape into another world, a better world? I know I am one of them at least to some extent. The question is if we had the same power as the Captain and the same capabilities, how different would we be? Watching from the sidelines it is easy to say we would never stoop to his level, but Black Mirror is always that show that makes me question would I actually be different? Would I be a crew member in someone’s virtual world because I mistreated them? These are all good things to ponder, and I am dreading watching the next episode as this one ended on a relatively positive note, meaning the next one is likely going to be a heart wrenching tragedy.

Overall Score: 9/10 _Amazing_

Rapid Fire:

The costumes for this episode were great, as was all of the detail in the virtual world’s design.

-Decent enough effects for a Netflix series with the creature designs and space flight.

-It is nice to see Jimmi Simpson getting more work after Westworld, he is great.

-We got to see some familiar technology to the previous seasons of the show.

-Was the gaming technology an upgraded version of what we saw in season 2? 

-No genitals and only vodka to drink? Rough life.

How about those costumes?

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