For those who’ve not seen, Black Mirror is a snapshot of the not-too-distant future in which technology envelops us and enables us to form our own personalised dystopias.
The second series, like the first, is made up of three episodes, telling three completely separate stories. They are interesting from a technological point of view and mix black humour and unrelenting bleakness. It’s a bit like watching The Twilight Zone, if The Twilight Zone became a corporeal being, undertook a failed suicide attempt and went back to being a TV show.
The first episode of the second series Be Right Back, sees a recently widowed woman seek solace in a computerised version of her dead husband. It starts with e-mail, then synthesised phone calls, then a fully prosthetic robot doll thing.
It tackles a number of ideas, but the most interesting is that we live our lives online and that it would be possible to reconstruct an individual from what we do. It then goes on to reject the claim, for the moments we capture digitally are not a true reflection of ourselves. They are only snapshots, usually of the good bits. For example, the deceased husband did not mention his sexual inadequacies online, so they do not exist in the robot version. Whilst this is portrayed as a benefit, by the end it is seen as the biggest flaw.
Our digital fingerprint is leaves nothing but a rather superficial impression of ourselves, from which it would be impossible to create anything other than a caricature. We do not share our more embarrassing moments with the world, or at least not in a way that could bring them back to us. Still, it is these moments as much, if not more than anything else, that make us who we are. Without our failures and our neuroses we are mere shells.
Secondly, there is the terrifying thought that not only would people be sufficiently willing to exploit the emotional loss of another to make these monstrosities, but that people would actually use them. Like a life-sized comfort blanket, not only are they creepy but emotionally stunting and quite possibly seriously harmful. That she is unable to let go and keeps the robot of her dead husband in the attic is symbolic of the fact that she can never move on from this.
All in all, this was a very good episode and bodes well for the rest of the series.