Even though there have only been 19 episodes of Black Mirror—and one interactive movie—it is still regarded as one of the best shows of all-time. Every episode is a roller coaster ride and even though fans are expecting a heartbreaking twist at the end—minus “San Junipero”—it still somehow manages to catch them off guard every time. But here’s the real reason Black Mirror is so scary: Slowly but surely this fictional show is starting to become our reality. And yet we can’t look away.
1. As Literal As It Gets
The title Black Mirror comes from the idea that when people look at a screen when it is not on—computer monitor, cellphone, TV—they see their own reflection. It is literally a black mirror.
2. Look Closely
There has been a fair share of high profile actors appear on episodes of the series, whether they were already established, like Jon Hamm and Bryce Dallas Howard, or on the rise, like Daniel Kaluuya. But fewer people realize how many big name celebrities write and direct episodes as well. Jodie Foster directed “Arkangel” and Rashida Jones and Michael Schur co-wrote “Nosedive”.
Surprisingly, Jodie Foster had never even seen an episode of the show until she was sent a script for one, which she absolutely loved. She immediately watched every episode of the series and became a fan, with her favorites being “Shut Up and Dance” “White Christmas” and, of course, the especially disturbing pilot episode, “The National Anthem”.
4. Rating Game
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard starred in the episode, “Nosedive,” which is about a world where people are rated on an app and that rating effects their social status. Although that doesn’t exist completely in our world, we do have rating systems on apps, particularly Uber. This prompted Howard, after filming the episode, to ask an Uber driver what her rating was on the app. She was a 4.8, which is great but apparently not good enough for Howard, who was disappointed when she found out.
5. Starting Off With a Bang
The series kicked off with quite the pilot, as it saw the British Prime Minister perform a, shall we say, indecent act on a pig. According to the series creator, Charlie Brooker, a pig wasn’t the first animal to pop in his mind when writing the episode, and it wasn’t only animals that he considered. At one point, he floated around the idea of having the PM do it with a giant wheel of cheese. How that would have looked we will never know, and frankly, that is a good thing.
6. (Unknowingly) Based on Real Events
What may be even more disturbing than that first episode is the idea that it may have been based on a real life event. A few years after the episode aired, a rumor spread that British Prime Minister David Cameron performed a similar act on a dead pig as part of a fraternity initiation. Brooker claimed he had no knowledge of that event and swears it was all just an unfortunate coincidence.
7. Write What You Know
The episode “Hated in the Nation” is based on Brooker’s experience dealing with public outrage back in 2004, when he wrote a satirical article calling for the assassination of George W. Bush.
8. Same but Different
It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the series that Black Mirror is heavily influenced by The Twilight Zone. Brooker was a big fan of the show and essentially copied its format, from the anthology aspect to the tone and specifically how every episode has a twist at the end.
9. To Be or Not to Be
Back in 2013 there were plans to turn the episode “The Entire History of You” into a feature length film after Robert Downey Jr.’s production company bought the rights to the episode. However, in 2016, Brooker revealed the project was put on hold indefinitely. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that it may never get made.
10. Cultural Differences
Surprisingly, Brooker got his start in comedy, writing for British comedy televisions shows. He even sees Black Mirror as a dark comedy but admits that British sense of humor is different from American, so the humor may be lost on an American audience.
11. Filling the Trophy Case
In 2017, the episodes “Nosedive” and “San Junipero” were nominated for Emmy awards. “Nosedive” lost out on the Outstanding Cinematography award but “San Junipero” had more luck, winning Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Writing. That success carried over to the next year, as Letitia Wright recevied a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her work in “Black Museum” and “USS Callister” took home four awards.
12. Friend of a Friend
In an episode of Friends, Ross Gellar predicts that, in the future, people will be able to store their thoughts and memories into a machine and live forever. Why is that being mentioned in an article about Black Mirror? Well, because fans will recognize that as the exact plot of the episode “San Junipero.” Gellar was definitely ahead of his time.
13. The Future Is Now
Some of the technology that appears in various Black Mirror episodes is starting to become reality. Some of these new pieces of teach are helpful, while others down right terrifying. Developer Eugenia Kuyda “coded and created a digital version of a friend” that died, similar to the plot in “Be Right Back.” Pizza Hut released an automated pizza delivery truck that is similar to the one that appears in “Crocodile” and the creatures from “Metalhead” are similar to ones created by BostonDynamics.
14. Sharing Is Caring
Does every episode of Black Mirror take place in the same universe? That’s a tricky question. According to Brooker, at first, when fans asked him if the episodes were connected, he would say no. But recently he’s admitted that some new episodes may reference events that happened in previous ones. For example, the season four episode “Black Museum” features items from previous episodes, while “Striking Vespers” uses the same headsets as “USS Callister” and references “White Bear,” “Playtest,” and “San Junipero.”
15. Record Release Party
In a rarity for television shows, two episodes—“San Junipero” and “Nosedive”—had their soundtracks released on vinyl by Lakeshore Records and Invada Records.
16. Facts About Font
If anyone out there is losing sleep over trying to figure out what font is used for Black Mirror in the opening credits, they can rest easy as it is Proxima Nova Bold.
17. Toeing the Line
Don’t expect more than six episodes per season for future seasons of Black Mirror, as executive producer Annabel Jones claims that number is the sweet spot when it comes to whether or not the writers will lose their minds. Apparently, coming up with, writing and filming six episodes puts the staff “just on the cusp of a nervous breakdown,” so anymore and Black Mirror may cease to exist.
18. Twisted Sense of Humor
Brooker took a tweet that tried to mock the show and found a way to implement it into the episode “Playtest.” The writer was not a fan of Black Mirror and mocked it by writing, “Next on Black Mirror: what if phones but too much.” Brooker decided to play along with the joke. In the episode, a character leaves their phone on during an experiment. Doing so causes his demise.
19. So Bad It’s Good
According to Brooker, his ideas for episodes generally come from conversations or while he is going for a run. He then knows whether or not it is a good idea if he pitches it to his showrunner and she responses with, “Oh, that would be horrible,” which means it is perfect. Basically, he is always looking for “the worst case scenario in any situation” and goes from there.
20. Country to Country
Black Mirror‘s filming locations span from Cape Town, South Africa for “San Junipero” all the way to Iceland for “Crocodile” and little Hamilton, Ontario for “Arkangel.”
21. Changing for the Better
“San Junipero” deservedly won a GLAAD award, but the victory holds even more weight once you find out that the script originally featured a heterosexual couple. The writers switched to a lesbian couple because they felt like it was a better fit. Clearly, they were right. Additionally, the episode originally ended abruptly with Kelly simply visiting Yorkie in the hospital. But when Brooker started writing the episode he had so much fun that he just kept going. This resulted in a very rare happy ending for Black Mirror.
22. Family Legacy
Did Greta in “White Christmas” look familiar? That might be because the actress, Oona Chaplin, is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter.
23. Part of the Problem
Although technology seems to cause conflict and pain in every episode, Brooker wants to make it clear that this does not mean that he is anti-technology. To him, the show isn’t about how technology is humanity’s downfall. It’s more about how people’s weaknesses are brought out and emphasized because of their interactions with technology.
24. Fit to Print
In 2017, Brooker announced a three-volume Black Mirror book series that would feature all-new stories by successful authors. However, even though the first volume was supposed to come out in May 2018, the release date kept getting pushed back. Eventually, the project got shelved indefinitely for the foreseeable future. The reason? The books got more complicated than Brooker expected. Womp womp.
25. Looking Back
There is no telling when the three-volume book series will be finished but if anyone is looking for a Black Mirror book to fill the void, they can pick up Inside Black Mirror, written by Brooker, Jones and Jason Arnopp. The book is a behind-the-scenes look at the series, documenting the journey of the show from idea to development. It also features Easter eggs and trivia.
26. You Never Know Who Is Watching
Daniel Kaluuya can chalk up his role in the episode “Fifteen Million Merits”—and specifically his emotional speech at the end—as the reason why he got the lead role in the movie Get Out. The writer/director Jordan Peele saw the episode and cast him based on his performance.
27. Drawing Inspiration
Waldo, the cartoon character that runs for office in “The Waldo Moment” has a real-life basis: the Tory MP and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Waldo also borrowed certain qualities from the Sasha Baron Cohen character Ali G.
28. Nothing to Hide
According to Brooker, Domhnall Gleeson’s character in the episode “Be Right Back” is named Ash for a simple reason. It’s because he dies right at the beginning of the episode. It is literally that straight forward.
29. Method Acting
Douglas Hodge, the actor who plays Rolo in the episode “Black Museum” gave his co-star, Letitia Wright, extra motivation to hate his character while filming the episode by trying to make her hate him off camera, too. Hodge claims that he purposely refused to rehearse lines with Wright when she asked, and in between takes he would look at her and growl. His method definitely helped, as Wright’s performance in the episode earned her an Emmy nomination.
30. Addition by Subtraction
The robot dogs in “Metalhead” were supposed to be controlled by a drone operator in America who didn’t necessarily have a plan or agenda but was simply some random, normal guy with a pregnant wife and kids. However, Brooker felt like that reveal didn’t particularly add anything to the episode and decided to remove it. Ironically, removing something from the episode actually added to it, as there ended up being more tension and mystery on screen when the dogs appeared.
31. Coming to America
Black Mirror got its start on the British television station Channel 4 where it produced and aired two seasons in England. This led to Netflix purchasing the series and moving production to America. That is why the show shifted from British actors to American actors at the start of season three.
32. Catchy Song
In one episode every season, a character sings the song “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is.” In season one, it was in “Fifteen Million Merits”, in season two, it was “White Christmas”, in season three, it was in “Men Against Fire,” in season four, it was in “Crocodile,” and in season five, it was in “Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too.” What does it mean?!
33. Mixing It up
Brooker and the writers worked hard at making sure every single episode in season four had its own distinct tone. They made that clear in the first episode when they tried their hand at mostly comedic episode, “USS Callister.”
34. One Step Ahead
Since there is quite a bit of time between writing and filming the episodes before they are released to the public, the writers have a unique problem. They basically have to try and predict the future. It’s their job to figure out what will be happening by the time the episodes are released.
35. Even Sadder Than Usual
“Fifteen Million Merits” originally had an even darker ending. In this version, Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) and Abi (Jessica Brown-Findlay) live together. Bing spends most of his time freaking out over the ratings of his show while Abi is addicted to a drink that numbs her.
36. Taking Things Slow
Even though there are only 19 episodes to date, Brooker advises against binge watching the entire series. Netflix probably isn’t the best place to be on if he feels that way, seeing as the streaming site was made to binge content, but Brooker feels this way for a reason. He sees every episode as “A bit like being hit by a car. How many times can you get hit by a car in one day?” Well said, but there are definitely people who would gladly get hit by cars all day if it meant more episodes of Black Mirror.
37. Try Not to Laugh
One of the biggest challenges for the show visually came when putting together the episode “Playtest.” For this episode, the visual effects team had to create a half-human and half-spider creature. They worried that it would look unintentionally funny rather than creepy and horrifying, so they had to bring in outside help. For the people who have seen the final product, they know the team succeeded, and for anyone who hasn’t yet, good luck!
38. Trying New Things
Brooker is planning on making a sequel to the popular episode “San Junipero” but not in the way people may think. He doesn’t want to simply make another episode of television but instead wants it to be “Like a thing. An experience.” We’re intrigued!
39. One Is Not Enough
Brooker thought about adding a second ending to the episode “Playtest”—which he called “nightmare mode.” It would play during a second viewing and be even more terrifying than the original. In the end, this idea turned out to be more of a logistical nightmare, as they couldn’t figure out how to pull it off.
40. These Things Take Time
The recent “choose your own adventure” film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was originally pitched to Brooker by a Netflix executive. However, Brooker turned it down, as he couldn’t envision how it would work. Then, a few weeks later, he came up with an idea for an episode…only to realize that the only way it could work would be as an interactive episode. Thus Bandersnatch was born.
41. Listen Closely
In nearly every episode of Black Mirror a character will say the word “Oi.” No one seems to know if this is merely a coincidence or a joke thrown in by the writers.
42. No Set Time
The run time for the interactive movie Bandersnatch varies depending on the choices the viewer makes. The longest version occurs if a viewer makes all the right choices. In this scenario, the episode lasts an hour and a half.
43. No Rest for the Wicked
With that being said, in total, Bandersnatch filmed two and a half hours of footage that came from a 170-page script. If a viewer wants to see every possible scene, they’ll have to be ready to dedicate two and a half hours to the movie.
44. Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!
The viewers who took the time to try and go through every possible scenario and decision in Bandersnatch concluded that there are five possible endings. However, the writers and producers don’t agree with that number, and honestly don’t even know, definitively, how many endings exist. There are millions of choice combinations and the filmmakers don’t remember everything they filmed, but Brooker thinks that there are at least 10 to 12 endings.
45. Super Duper Secret
To make matters even more complicated and frustrating for viewers is the fact that there are scenes in Bandersnatch that the filmmakers believe no one will even be able to unlock. According to the director David Slade, they even shot a scene that they themselves can’t even access, whatever that means.