Welcome to 2015, folks.
My favorite part of the New Year is undeniably the annual Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy channel. 48 hours of classic sci-fi in all of it’s weird, corny, and brilliant glory. It’s famous episodes are great (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, “Eye of the Beholder”, “Time Enough at Last”) both in their comedy and not-so-subtle statements about the state of society. However, the beauty of this marathon is that it sheds light on those lesser known but equally intriguing episodes.
The Twilight Zone has no shortage of episodes depicting a terrifying future: “The Midnight Sun” where the Earth has spun out of orbit and is quite literally melting as it gets closer to the Sun; “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, an episode that highlights all of our fears and about vanity and the future of cosmetic surgery; or a brilliantly done episode called “The Shelter” in which a group of friendly neighbors quickly deteriorates into a band of savages as they fight for room in a bomb shelter during a forecasted alien attack.
The show may be at its best when the plot is able to integrate elements of sci-fi into commentary about the past. One of the more disturbing episodes is titled “Deaths-Head Revisited”. In this episode an unrepentant former Nazi officer visits a still-standing concentration camp where he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds. He is put on trial by the ghosts of the men that he tortured and murdered and sentenced to feel every ounce of pain he inflicted. It is an equally powerful message in 2015 as it was when it originally aired in 1961, just 16 years after the end of the Holocaust. This 30 minute episode was able to tell a complete and poignant story that some 2 hour films cannot accomplish.
Of course, with this there are also completely ridiculous, comical episodes. In “Living Doll” a young girl’s “Talky Tina” doll is on a murderous tirade, insistent on killing the young girl’s step father. Equally as hilarious is “It’s a Good Life” which focuses on an adorable yet monstrous 6 year old boy who wishes people into the corn field’ when they aren’t thinking nice thoughts. It’s hilariously absurd.
So, when someone at work told me to check out Black Mirror because ‘it’s basically a new-age Twilight Zone‘ I immediately scoffed. Sure, the show might be good, but nothing like The Twilight Zone has come along since the 60’s and in this brand new era of television, I was convinced it would never happen again. I am very pleased to say that my assumptions were completely incorrect.
Black Mirror doesn’t open with a cigarette slinging Rod Serling with an oddly articulated prologue, but other than that it inhabits everything The Twilight Zone was about. It is a British TV show that debuted in 2011…with just 7 aired episodes to-date. The U.K. seems hell-bent on making brilliant TV and making us all fangirl over it just to wait 2 years between season. Yes. That’s right. No new Sherlock until 2016. 2016! I guess that shouldn’t be shocking considering that Martin Freeman is the star of the biggest blockbuster in the theaters right now and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Imitation Game may very well win him an Oscar.
The first 6 episodes of Black Mirror are available have recently become available on Netflix, which account’s for the show’s huge rise in popularity. Each episode is an hour long and focuses on the effects technology has on our lives both in the present and in the not-so-distant future. It’s hard to go into too much detail but these episodes tackle the ideas of voyerism in technology, the elimination of privacy even in ones’ own mind, the possibility of post-mortem interaction with loved ones, and, most recently, the blurred lines between various levels of consciousness. The recently aired Black Mirror Christmas episode “White Christmas” stars Jon Hamm (arguably the most delicious man on the planet) and the episode has your brain twisted up like a pretzel by the end of it.
Catch up with Black Mirror on Netflix and watch “White Christmas” on YouTube (questionable video quality, but still well worth your time).
Bonus: Check out The Twilight Zone episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33”. I’m convinced this is what happened to that Malaysian Airlines flight that went missing in March.