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Have you ever lost someone and wished you could have said one last thing to them? Been able to set right your relationship with them? Or perhaps even tell them that you were pregnant? Well so does Martha, the only difference is, she gets her chance…
As the series title suggests, Charlie Brooker’s latest TV show takes a dark look at a life set in the not too distant future. By mirroring the lives and experiences of the people we all have in our lives, Black Mirror brings an uneasy edge to your late night television viewing. If you liked Utopia, this is another series to get your teeth into.
Series Two, Episode One, titled ‘Be Right Back’, addresses what the effect of losing a loved one can have on a person. This, done Black Mirror style, means it brings a slightly futuristic edge to it and gives the characters some fancy-dancy gadgets to use throughout the episode.
In ‘Be Right Back’, Martha loses her partner Ash before she gets the chance to tell him she is pregnant with his child. During her grieving, her friend signs her up to a new technological initiative which allows people to connect and talk to those that they have lost. The way that this programme works puts a frightening spotlight on the reliance on social media that we face in this current generation.
The program analyses Ash’s online presence, absorbing his Facebook, twitter and email interactions before coupling them with photos and videos to build a repertoire of vocabulary to mimic his speech patterns and communicate to Martha via instant messaging, on the phone, and ultimately, in cloned person!
Now this makes us think… How reliant are you on social media? Could someone tell a lot about you from a sarcastic tweet with a clever hash tag? Maybe a depressing status (we’ve all got THAT friend…)? Or how about a tag in a photo that makes you think ‘Oh…My…’? Well if the future can be predicted by Charlie Brooker, there could be a not-so-little cyborg you running around even after you’re gone!
However, as promised, this series isn’t all yay-nobody-has-to-die cheerfulness… Martha soon realises that, like those belongings we all cling to when we lose someone, this is far from having the real person here with us. The cyborg-boyfriend (Cyboyf) version of Ash fails to express emotions or even conform to typical human needs such as sleep – he even creeps Martha out by laying there with his eyes open whilst she’s in bed. Cyboyf Ash believes he should attend to every need that Martha has. At one point, this leads to a slightly humorous sexual pleasuring scene when Ash finally is no longer a one minute wonder! But, the fun soon ends as although he can recognise emotion, he cannot create or emit it himself. This sparks frustration in Martha. She begins to realise that Cyboyf is only Ash in one respect – his appearance. And as Cyboyf Ash points out, even his appearance is drawn from photos and videos from Facebook which, as he says, ‘tend to be the most glamorous ones of ourselves.’
Brooker also highlights the fact that when people are no longer with us, it’s the tiny things that we miss the most – the way they hold you even when you’re angry, the way they bring us tea when we’re ill, and the little annoying habits they have – something that Cyboyf Ash cannot remember.
The episode culminates in a scene upon the cliff top when all Martha wants to do is give Cyboyf Ash one last chance to signify that he can feel anything! His emotions are trialled when Martha stands and faces him and tells him to jump after he jokingly mocks her for being close to the edge. Cyboyf Ash struggles to muster any reaction but finally manages to tell her he doesn’t want to jump.
The end of the episode skips forward a few years and we are shown a glimpse of life with Martha, her daughter and the man in the attic, Cyboyf Ash. However, that is how he stays known, Martha does not tell her daughter that the man she sees is a mirror of her actual father.
Black Mirror is a brilliant series all round. The acting in this first episode between Hayley Atwell (Martha) and Domhnall Gleeson (Ash/Cyboyf) is brilliant. The relationship is a believable reflection of modern relationships and the struggles faced when we lose a loved one. ‘Be Right Back’ is a real series bar-setter with a high standard of performances from the cast, a perfect musical score, and a gritty and truthful script looking at life through Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.
Follow Adam @AdamWollerton