From one a week, to all in one weekend. The new series of this modern and often disturbing sci-fi tv series has switched from UK Channel4 over to Netflix. The budget has been increased greatly, the locations, visual effects, soundtrack all bigger this time. But does that make it better?
In the space of just over a couple of years this series has successfully become the modern equivalent of The Twilight Zone of The Outer Limits for modern times. Some episodes have been darkly comic, satirical while others have been almost too terrifying to think about for too long after watching.
Like the previous two mini series, the shows continue to jump ahead from known daily life modern technology such as smart phones, the internet, A.I., social media, online games and more. There are some differences this time, but there are enough familiar things to keep you interested and guessing like before.
Okay, so I really don’t wish to give spoilers and so I’ll try to keep things brief but informative with my casual review of the new series here.
The series starts with a fairly light and humorous episode. This looks at social media and how desperate we might get to gain top marks from friends and others, and what it would mean in society. Things go tragically wrong for the young lady who needs more likes and stars. A good start, reassuring us that the show has not simply gone all ‘Hollywood’.
This one doesn’t seem to radical really. It follows a young guy needing some quick cash who signs up to test out a new experiment videogame. Ah, seems a walk in the park at first…safe word stop…stop…stop…! Actually ends up being pretty intense and dramatic. Reminded me of the underrated David Cronenberg movie Existenz.
Episode 3-Shut up and dance
Okay this one is in some ways funny to begin with, seems quite low budget, back to basics but the idea here soon gets very chilling and horrible. Very nasty, very tragic episode.
Episode 4- San Junipero
This is the episode that almost anyone can watch and will find it very sweet, very emotional, nostalgic. If you experienced or grew up in the 1980’s (I was a young kid back then) you will love this one. But as it moves along, this one moves from beautiful, romantic, time-travel (sort of), to bitter, difficult, tragic but philosophical and sombre tale. Very touching.
Episode 5-Men against fire
Much like Call of Duty or a military near future tale with parallels to recent warfare, this may not be the most original episode or best. It reminds me at times of 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Full Metal Jacket- which is not a bad thing. Again, this one ends with a quite nasty and very troubling close but does perhaps make us question what our governments and military may be tempted to do in the name of war or victory.
Episode 6-Hated in the nation
So this final episode is feature length. It is just under one hour and a half. Now, some people have said that this one could have been much shorter, that it dragged on too long possibly. I don’t think I felt it was too long. I did enjoy it, even though it is very much like a crime/detective drama/thriller CSI style show. It considers the dangers of social media in connection with A.I. and almost nano-tech alongside the quick reaction hate mentality of the masses. This one is probably more of a slow-burn longer lasting fear tale, which will stay with us for a while in a different manner to the other episodes.
So has the show changed far too much in the leap over to Netflix, or the way we can in theory watch the entire series in one go rather than one per week as in the past?
Some of that is just how we can watch much television these days on catch-up, but no, thankfully I think this series at least has retained the basic founding idea of what the show is and how it show be. Well done with this one Charlie Brooker, I look forward to more=if I can bare to watch through my fingers…
James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century (SF fiction) both available now in paperback, ebook and hardback from all good bookshops internationally.