Black Mirror: USS Callister

Black Mirror is a science fiction show on Netflix that explores the darker side of technology and science. Many of the plot lines are dark and disturbing, with unsettling endings. One recent episode has been called out for being a fun homage to Star Trek, and so last night we sat down and watched it.

** SPOILERS BELOW **

The premise of the episode is that software developer Robert Daly is the creator of a massively multiplayer online virtual reality universe, but that he’s a socially awkward loner with no one to spend his riches with. So he’s created his own version of the game on his home system, in which he recreates his favorite TV show “Space Fleet”, a complete copy of the 1960s Star Trek. Inside this virtual reality world he’s created digital clones of people in his life, based off of their DNA. He’s cruel and mean to all of them, tormenting them because of his inability to relate socially in the real world. The trouble is, these clones are actually sentient and want nothing more than to escape.

When a new member is brought on board she decides that she’s going to do whatever it takes to get everyone out, which basically involves dying, while getting her real-life human to steal Daly’s stash of DNA. It’s a complex plan, and it eventually succeeds. They escape his evil clutches (stranding him in what appears to be a coma), but what comes next is truly fascinating. They are somehow transported to the actual live version of the game and are now playing the game… from the inside.

This is the type of scenario that any of us who spent years playing MMORPGs has occasionally thought about. Wouldn’t it be cool to actually live in the fantasy world that your character inhabits? Wouldn’t it be neat to adventure and live a life of danger and excitement? At the end of USS Callister we have a ship full of digital people who are doing just that.

There have already been rumors of a spinoff series that will follow their continued adventures. I actually hope this happens, even for just a limited 5-6 episode run. I think that seeing characters inside an MMORPG would be incredibly fun, and could lead to a lot of cool story possibilities. Especially now that they are free of Daly’s grasp and potentially have the ability to contact their real-life selves.

If you’re into Black Mirror, or Star Trek, and haven’t watched this episode yet, I’d encourage you to check it out. It’s well worth the hour of your time, and it’s a loads of fun.

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