Typically, Horror movies are known to be the pallbearers of fear but as an audience, we are pretty far removed from its after-effects. In our heart of hearts we know that, a crazy clown with a nefarious grin and a striking red balloon would never peep at us from our kitchen sink. But Speculative Science Fiction ? Now that’s another story altogether. In a world where visionaries like Elon Musk are wary about Artificial Intelligence taking over the world, Horror movies are the least of our worries. If you are one of those people who listen to tech advancement and say – “Bah humbug ! That aint happening in my lifetime..”, think again. We already have machine-learning chatbots who are writing code which their own creators were unable to follow. Countries like UAE are already granting citizenships to Robots. Gene-designers are already growing meat from stem cells. And we now have definitive proof of gravitational waves which means that now we can soon know for sure about the whereabouts of nearby wormholes. Maybe, we would even send a probe into one. The point is that, the world around us is changing at a ferocious pace. It’s so fast that you are thrown directly into the middle of the story without even realizing where it had even begun.
Cobb: Dreams feel real while you’re in them right? Its only when you wake up when you realize they were actually strange.Cobb: You know when you’re in a dream that you’re always in the middle of the action. Tell me… How did we get here?Ariadne: Well we just walked…Cobb: Think about it, how did we get here?
Metalhead is, in my opinion, the most simplistic and unidimensional story this season. Based on a world that has been overrun by robotic dogs which relentlessly track humans and eliminate them, the behavior and movement of these machines eerily remind you of those Boston Dynamic robots that have perfected the human motions of running, leaping and even somersaulting. Their fluid movements are so refined from their predecessors that with accompanying cosmetic packaging, these machines can be made to look and move exactly like animals. Bella, played by Maxin Peake, finds herself being pursued by one such dog when she tries to get hold of a “box” from a seemingly abandoned warehouse. After watching her friends get killed by the dog-machine, Bella’s chances of survival are slim but she is hellbent on keeping a promise she has made to her sister. What ensues is a cat and mouse game that may end with her very life.
Precedent: SpotMini Prototypes by Boston Dynamics
5. Black Museum
Black Museum is an homage to Black Mirror itself (Black-ception ? #NiceTryDad). Nish is on a road-trip and has to hault for a couple of hours to charge-up her car. She notices what seems like one of those cheap roadside attractions. Since, she has time on her hands, she decides to check it out anyway. She is met with Rolo Haynes the eccentric proprietor of the place who promises her an intriguing tour of his unique collection of crime artifacts. As he shows her around, we get to see props from all the previous episodes as if the current story had become the fourth wall while we had become the fifth. Haynes proceeds to tell Nish the horrid stories behind some of the items on display. Black Museum is an anthology in itself albeit with a punchline which we do not see coming. Although the stories – such as the Pain Addict – within are haunting in themselves, the overall episode seems unwieldy and rushed for wraps. Interestingly though, Rolo Haynes’ character seems to be an incarnation of writer Charlie Brooker himself relishing the previous editions of the series but also feeling trapped morbidly in the dark visions of the future.
Precedent: Digital Immortality
4. USS Callister
Star Trek has enthralled generations of science-fictions enthusiasts with its romanticized approach towards future technology and the human zeal for exploration of the unknown. In fact, the vision of the stories we watched soon became our vision of what the future could look like in a thousand years. USS Callister makes up a parody world inspired by the crew of the legendary USS Enterprise, wherein a gallant captain whizzes through the galaxy saving space-travelers from peril. The opening act seems a bit exaggerated and over-the-top and might almost make you hate Brooker for patronizing the legacy of the series until you realize its a made-up world. Robert Daly, played by Jesse Peimons (Breaking Bad fame), is the CTO of a VR gaming company whose latest production Infinity lets you experience a Star-Trek-esque world where you can become Captain Kirk or any character you like. Despite being a genius, Daly is socially awkward and as a result is universally shunned in his organization. To get back at everyone who has treated him badly, he creates a special mod in his residence, which can recreate people from his office as characters in his space-ship – the USS Callister – using their actual DNA. Once a character has been created, Daly can do with them as he pleases. His system is foolproof until a new employee Nanette, played by Cristin Milloti, joins his team. Enamoured by her, Daly creates her likeness within his mod but little does he know that she is an ace coder/hacker herself and may break the system from within. USS Callister plays with shifting perspective from being a playful parody to a creepy premise where consciousness can be trapped in a never-ending limbo.
Precedent: The Tesla Suit
The best part of Arkangel is its simple premise of a mother worrying about her child and how this unassuming emotion leads to her ruining her own life and that of her child’s. Marie, played by Rosemary DeWitt, is a single parent of a toddler named Sara and like every single parent, Marie finds it challenging to balance between her work and caring for her child. While spending a day at the park, Marie loses sight of her daughter. When she doesn’t hear her voice even after calling for her a hundred times, Marie loses herself until a passerby spots the little girl and brings her to her mother. This incident aggravates her deep-rooted paranoia of losing her daughter someday. So, one fine day, she decides to enroll into a free trial of a prototype “Arkangel” program that would implant a chip into her child’s brain. Once done, Marie would have a constant live feed of her child’s whereabouts and even what she sees in real-time. The Arkangel software also allowed a mother to pixelate distressing scenes or words, theoretically protecting her child from everything nasty in the world. As Sara grows up, she realizes that because of her mother controlling her vision and her mind, she is unable to experience what other kids are experiencing. To give her a fair chance, Marie decides to retire the Arkangel controls for good, in her attic. But as Sara grows up into a teenager, Marie’s penchant to keep an eye on her child takes hold of her. Based on the biblical reference of an Archangel – an angel who watches over you to protect you from harm – the story explores the lines between a parent and a child and how much of the latter’s life they can/should control. If any of your parents are too possessive or concerned about your safety, make them watch this. Statutory warning – You may scar them for life…
2. Hang the DJ
Imagine a world where every single human being is governed by Tinder on steroids. Well, its not difficult to see the reasoning behind Hang the DJ. In a society marred with choices and confusion, we are in a perpetual search of our one true love with whom we would be happy forever. Tinder is not an app that is selling “dating convenience”. Instead it is selling us a way out of our fear that we would die alone someday. It is trying to create a process for us to fall into love. And that is exactly the premise of Hang the DJ. Frank, played by Joe Cole, and Amy, played by Georgina Campbell, are matched together by The Coach, a Siri-like AI assistant that claims that it would help them to find their one true love, their ultimate match through a series of dates it selects for them. How it works is that the people who are matched have to tap on their hand-held pebble-like devices to check the duration of the match which may vary from a few hours to years. Once the clock starts, the couple is compelled to stay with each other for the entire duration getting to know each other, in which time the machine captures their responses and reactions to various situations. Using this data, The Coach then selects yet another partner and patches them with you. There’s a catch though. Once the match expires, the couple have to go their separate ways no matter what. The story takes a turn when Frank and Amy are matched for a second time. As their match nears its expiry, they decide to go against the system by staying together and eloping away from the system. Hang the DJ makes us realize that finding love is not supposed to be supervised by technology and that finding the right partner is supposed to be messy and beautiful.
Precedent: Algorithmic Matching used by Dating apps
Science-fiction is the most alluring when it is used as a subtle element, waiting in the ramparts as a mere tool until the tool becomes so pervasive that it dominates the plot and takes you by surprise on its implications. Crocodile, begins with a couple – Mia and Rob – accidentally hitting a biker on the road with their car and killing him. Fearing the consequences, they decide to throw the body and the bicycle into a lake nearby and move on with their lives as if nothing had happened. The story then shifts to Shazia who is an Insurance Claims Investigator, who is working on a case where a driver-less Pizza truck has hit a pedestrian. In order to establish the pedestrians Insurance claim, Shazia has to find a credible witness who can corroborate to the accident. To make her job a bit easy, she uses a device which helps her access recent memories of her interviewees through memory recall techniques such as sounds and smell. Following the threads see gathers from the memories of a string of witnesses, she pinpoints her search to that of Mia who had happened to watch the accident from a hotel window she was staying in at that time. To get a final corroboration, however, Shazia has to access Mia’s memories. But Mia’s memories are not as innocent as those of the other witnesses. She is hellbent on keeping the hit and run fifteen years ago, a secret. Much of Crocodile’s appeal comes from the fact that it is so similar to Fargo – an out-of-place character committing crimes that they would never have committed had they not been in that impossible situation, an honest truth-finder who stumbles upon a terrible secret and the most unassuming of objects giving away the criminal to justice. Crocodile is as satisfying as it is horrid, as it plays with the human condition in all its glory.
Precedent: Memory Reconstruction
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