Contains spoilers for all Black Mirror episodes to date. This story originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
On November 20th, Inside Black Mirror officially hits book stores. It’s set to be the “first and only official Black Mirror book.” It’s an oral history, as told to writer Jason Arnopp, of what went on behind the scenes and in development for each of the anthology show’s 19 episodes, featuring interviews with creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, directors, designers, cast members and more, and it comes highly recommended by us.
A great read for fans of the show, Inside Black Mirror contains hundreds of nerdy titbits. Here are just a few we picked out…
1. In real life, the pig that appears in episode one “The National Anthem” was named Madge. So now you know.
2. Shane Allen, Black Mirror commissioner and former Channel 4 Head of Comedy recalls about “The National Anthem,” “I do remember a debate about why it had to be a pig. Charlie considered a duck too small and absurd. A horse or donkey seemed too cinematically cumbersome.” There was apparently talk of a chicken.
3. “The National Anthem“ apparently once included a scene in which porn actor Rod Senseless gave the Prime Minister performance tips, but it was cut. Unless that was a joke?
4. There was originally an explanation for the hospital scenes in “The National Anthem“ – journalist Malaika had been shot in the leg so was being treated there, but that element was cut, so the hospital staff and patients’ reactions just stood in for the viewing public.
5. To fill the many screens in the “Fifteen Million Credits” cycling rooms, they actually filmed scenes from fictional gameshow “Botherguts,” in which fat people were cruelly mocked. The budget wouldn’t stretch to filming all the fictional gameshows, so Endemol allowed the show to use real footage from “Don’t Scare The Hare” and “The Whole 19 Yards,” which you can spot if you look closely.
6. Jordan Peele cast Daniel Kaluuya as the lead in Oscar-winning film Get Out after seeing him as Bing in “Fifteen Million Merits.”
7. Bing’s TV show at the end of “Fifteen Million Merits” was jokingly nicknamed by Brooker and co-writer Konnie Huq, “The Screenwipe Show,” because of its resemblance to Brooker’s BBC Two ranting and raving series.
8. There were a few alternative endings for “Fifteen Million Merits.” One had Bing and Abi, who was a drug addict who’d been forced to have lots of plastic surgery, living together but both were really unhappy. In another, Bing lived alone in a plush house but was anxiously tracking the streaming figures after his latest rant, having “just swapped one treadmill for another,” says Brooker. One pulled back to reveal that the exercise bikes weren’t connected to anything. None of those options were ultimately considered ambiguous enough.
9. In “Be Right Back,” look closely at the scene of Ash (so named apparently because he dies almost immediately) the cyborg in the attic scene and his face looks a bit off. That’s because they shot that at a point in the schedule where Domhnall Gleeson had grown a beard for another part that he was contractually unable to shave off, so they had to remove it digitally. “Ash in the attic was one of the most expensive shots in the whole series!” says Brooker.
10. “White Bear“ was inspired by something that happened during the making of Dead Set, Brooker and Jones’ “Big Brother“ zombie miniseries. Actor Riz Ahmed was being chased by zombies and a bunch of local kids started filming him on their phones. “I was struck by that as an image,” says Brooker, “everyone just casually standing around. Not even enjoying it, apparently, but bored as they film your discomfort.”
11. The Perspex van in which Lenora Critchlow’s character Victoria is transported near the end of the episode was nicknamed “The Wicker Van” on set (in reference to the 1973 film) because it was a kind of sacrificial container in which her discomfort was being enjoyed by onlookers.
12. “White Bear” went through several different iterations before the punishment theme park idea stuck. There was one involving a psychiatrist session in which the patient confessed to having violent impulses linked to a mysterious symbol that it turns out, lots of patients were experiencing because it had been added subliminally to the TV signal in the switch from SD to HD.
13. Brooker was influenced in “White Bear“ by footage that went viral of Colonel Gaddafi being dragged through the streets.
14. Having used up a lot of budget on “The Waldo Moment,” they were forced to shoot everything for “White Bear” at RAF Daws Hill barracks, a former US airbase with housing estates on it, which contained the action and gave it a real focus.
15. Charlie Brooker “would never rule out a return to “White Bear,” he says. “There’s a sequel idea that we’ve discussed for ages. What if the memory-wipe thing stops working? What if Victoria does start to get déjà-vu? There was an idea where she does try to break out of the prison.”
16. The basic concept for “The Waldo Moment“ came out of the development for Nathan Barley, the sitcom Brooker co-created with Chris Morris. The original idea was for an animated candidate MP “along the lines of Gorillaz.” “We wondered how the fuck we’d do that as a Nathan Barley episode and it never happened,” says Brooker.
17. Waldo, the animated cartoon bear that stands for election in “The Waldo Moment“ was named after rig the digital puppeteers use to pick up facial movements – the Waldo rig.
19. Before Jon Hamm (who was first recommended to watch Black Mirror by SNL cast member Bill Hader) was cast as Matt Trent in “White Christmas,” his character was a cheeky cockney “more of a Jack The Lad, a chirpy bloke.”
20. At one point in the writing process, “White Christmas“ was set on a spaceship, “but not for very long” says Brooker.
21. “White Christmas“ director Carl Tibbetts appears in the episode playing “Popcorn,” one of Trent’s “perverts” watching the date in progress on the side screen.
22. The idea for blocking people in real life came from 2001’s Unnovations, Brooker’s TV Go Home spinoff about ludicrous inventions, including high-tech glasses that turned homeless people into cartoon characters so you didn’t feel guilty about seeing them on the street.
23. In the original outline for Nosedive, Lacie’s big blow-up at the wedding went viral and she accidentally achieved the status and fame she’d been craving, but co-writer Mike Schur (The Good Place, Parks & Recreation) pointed out that it was too similar to “Fifteen Million Credits,” then the new idea was worked out.
24. For “Playtest,” Charlie Brooker had an idea about someone who took part in an augmented reality Whack-a-Mole game who starts seeing them everywhere and is eventually driven mad by it.
25. There was apparently a lot of improvisation on set by actor Wyatt Russell in “Playtest.” Incidentally, Russell is the son of actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.
26. Listen carefully to the soundtrack of “Playtest“ and you’ll hear the noise that mobile phones make when there’s interference, just before they ring, blended in with the soundtrack as a little pointer that Cooper’s phone will be the death of him.
27. “Playtest“ is Black Mirror’s least well understood episode, according to Brooker. Viewers don’t always realize what is real and what is the simulation, i.e. the fact that Cooper never actually meets SaitoGemu boss Shao.
28. “Men Against Fire“ was a radical reworking of “Inbound,” an unmade Black Mirror script about Norwegian soldiers invading the UK, which was rejected by Channel 4 commissioner Jay Hunt for being too heavy handed.
29. “Nosedive” started out as a film idea after the first season of Black Mirror. Brooker and Jones went to the US to talk to movie companies about developing it. That version was more of a comedy where the economy is run on your personal score. In the film premise, a celebrity with a high rating was blackmailed into reducing it within 24 hours, “like Brewster’s Millions for reputation.”
30. Joe Wright was attracted to the five-star-rating idea of “Nosedive“ because he said his most recent film Pan had been “universally slagged by the critics.”
31. Listen closely to Max Richter’s score for “Nosedive” and the social media alert sound Lacie hears is incorporated in the music throughout.
32. Michaela Coel played an airport clerk in “Nosedive,” and they loved her so much she returned for an expanded role in “USS Callister.”
33. For “Shut Up And Dance,” they had trouble casting the little girl Kenny stares at in the café because when the paedophile storyline was explained, parents didn’t want their child to do it. That’s why the little girl in the episode is the daughter of executive producer Annabel Jones.
34. There are lots of little clues in “San Junipero“ pointing to the real story – the song “Fake“ by Alexander O’Neal is featured, as is The Smiths’ “Girlfriend In A Coma.” Yorkie recoils from seeing the car crash in the video game because of her own car crash in real life. There’s a House of the Dead video game as an in-joke because “house of the dead is essentially what San Junipero itself is.”
35. The title of “Men Against Fire“ from S.L.A Marshall’s 1947 book Men Against Fire: The Problem Of Battle Command.
36. Finding a location for the Granular headquarters in “Hated In The Nation“ proved tricky. The HQ was actually five locations in the end, including a salad farm in Essex and the ExCel Conference Centre in London.
37. Jesse Plemons’ fiancé Kirsten Dunst was on set on “USS Callister“ with him and asked if she could be an extra – “quite a few people spotted her on screen when the show went out,” says Annabel Jones. In more star-studded casting, the voice of the gamer heard at the end of the episode is that of Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.
38. Brooker was well aware that there’s a so-called plot-hole in “USS Callister“ (you can read our review here) that growing copies of people from their DNA wouldn’t automatically come loaded with their personalities and memories. There was a version of the script that explained it by showing Daly uploading data from their “Grain” implants as featured in “The Entire History Of You,” but it became too unwieldy so they scrapped it. “I know it doesn’t make sense!” says Brooker, “It’s just that I don’t care.”
39. In “Crocodile,” Andrea Riseborough was originally sent the script for the insurance investigator’s role, but she argued that the protagonist should be a woman, and got the lead instead.
40. The pizza van accident in “Crocodile“ was filmed over two nights and on one night it snowed heavily and on the next it didn’t. They built it in to the story “passing if off as a nod to the slightly fluid nature of this memory technology. Basically we explain a continuity error that no one actually ever notices,” says Brooker.
41. The seed of “Crocodile“ was a real-life incident in which Brooker witnessed a man being knocked down by a car and called the ambulance, then was asked to give a witness statement about the incident to police. “Wouldn’t it be useful if there was a gadget that let you corroborate what all the witnesses actually saw?”
42. “Metalhead“ was filmed on two of the few monochrome cameras in existence, a choice by director David Slade, who, like Charlie Brooker, was inspired/terrified by this Boston Dynamics robot dog for the episode.
43. People assume the dog in “Metalhead“ is a warehouse security robot but it’s supposed to be a military robot “a war has happened and these things are all over the place, having killed everything,” says Brooker.
44. “Hang The DJ“ was originally set in a tower block but production designer Joel Collins had recently been to a party at Soho Farmhouse, which he showed Charlie, who recreated it in the script as a “Center Parcs for dating.” The episode was filmed in Painshill Park, Surrey.
45. The geometric layout of the park in “Hang The DJ“ is based on the circuitry found inside a mobile phone, which, as the story is all an in-app simulation, is where it’s really taking place. Production designer Joel Collins thought, “If we can’t tell the audience we’re inside a mobile phone, what happens if I design it like we really are.”
46. Despite viewers thinking that they’d used a practical animatronic robot for the dog in “Metalhead,” it’s all CG.
47. When Letitia Wright sent in her self-tape audition for “Black Museum,” the person she had reading the other lines off-screen was “Fifteen Million Merits” star Daniel Kaluuya, who was starring in Black Panther with her at the time.
48. Rolo, Douglas Hodge’s character in Black Museum was inspired by Penn Jillette, who’d provided the basis of one third of the story in his short story The Pain Addict. “Rolo’s rhythms were heavily modelled on the way I’d seen Penn speak” says Brooker.
49. On “Black Museum,” Douglas Hodge refused to rehearse his scenes with Letitia Wright when she offered, which threw her a bit, and helped to maintain their characters’ on-screen animosity.
50. The “Monkey needs a hug” toy in “Black Museum“ was inspired by Charlie using the toilet in a Singapore airport and being asked to press happy/sad face button afterwards to rate the experience. “I thought, ‘look at that fucking dystopian imagery they’ve put in my eye-line there – that’ll come in handy some day.” And it did.
Inside Black Mirror: The Illustrated Oral History by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones with Jason Arnopp will be published on November 20th by Penguin Random House. Until then, here’s everything we know about Black Mirror season 5.