In a spoiler-free chat ahead of Black Mirror season five, we chatted to series creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones about the irony of escaping from technology through technology, and why a speech in new episode Smithereens brought to mind a viral critique of the show…
In Smithereens, in the very first shot of the episode, Andrew Scott’s character is on a meditation app. Do either of you use those?
Annabel Jones Charlie’s bringing his own one out!
Charlie Brooker I’m going to bring my own own out.
AJ [doing Brooker impression] ‘Fuck off’
CB There’s one that’s just a timer. Probably at the time I was writing that, I was feeling like my attention span had been shredded to pieces by everything and so there’s a slight sort of feverishness that you’re bombarded with things, round the clock aren’t you at the moment? It’s hard to maintain a mental flow.
I’ve tried that sort of thing. I don’t know that I’m entirely the meditative sort. Because you end up listening to yourself in your head for a long time and apparently I’m quite boring, it turns out. I suddenly realised the hell everyone else has been going through all this time.
AJ Too late!
CB Imagine that, being trapped in the darkness, with just me for company?! Because that’s what it’s like for me all the time.
AJ Oh god, I’m so sorry!
AJ I suppose meditation is the alternative to constant bombardment, so it is just a break. It’s ironic that it’s the phone that’s giving us the break from the phone.
CB You know my product that I want to market, which is a VR tech detox, so you put it on and you’re in a cabin in the woods [laughs] no phone, nothing!
The speech Andrew Scott’s character gives in the trailer kind of felt like the pitch for Black Mirror?
CB It’s interesting when the trailer went up and that line was in it, some people went like ‘oh, that’s the ultimate Black Mirror’, it’s almost a sarcastic version, it’s almost going ‘what if phones but too much?’ [a Tweet originally by writer Daniel Mallory Ortberg, that led to this article on The Toast]
It’s sort of deliberately an unhinged guy waving his fist at the App Store in that moment, but it’s also within the context of the episode, the circumstances in which he’s doing that are very disturbing but also sort of darkly comic.
Black Mirror season five arrives on Netflix on Wednesday the 5th of June.