Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’s Black Mirror has gone from cult Channel 4 hit to international, multi-award winning Netflix smash, with its four series of disturbing, dystopian tales striking a chord with viewers worldwide.
But the nightmarish vision of the future could have been an entirely different show, according to newly released interviews with the cast and creators which appear in companion book Inside Black Mirror.
The book discusses the dark workings behind Brooker’s brainchild, unveiling new insights into the show ahead of the release of season five.
Here’s just a snippet of what we learned from Inside Black Mirror…
Black Mirror’s ‘pig’ episode was inspired by I’m a Celebrity
The National Anthem, the visceral episode where fictional prime minister Michael Callow finds himself on, shall we say, the trotters of a dilemma, was partly inspired by I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! – and aims to explore the public’s appetite for humiliation.
I’m a Celebrity…was a surprising influence on Black Mirror (ITV Pictures)
Brooker explained, “I was watching somebody [on I’m a Celebrity] – I can’t remember who – but they were absolutely terrified. At one point it cut to Ant and Dec, and I thought Dec looked infinitely sad, like he’d gazed into the abyss.”
The episode, affectionately dubbed by fans “the one where the Prime Minster f***s a pig” was fraught with problems – from choosing which animal Callow is forced to do the dirty with to making sure Brooker managed to hit the right tone. After contemplating several other options (including sex with a chicken instead), they settled on a pig – who was called Madge, by the way.
San Junipero was originally about a heterosexual couple
However, after Brooker and Jones developed the script, they realised a lesbian couple would be a better fit.
“It was the idea of having a life unfulfilled,” said Jones. “You’ve been in a coma for 40 years, and going back to a time where maybe you couldn’t have been so sexually free as you could today.”
The script originally was set to finish when Kelly visited Yorkie in hospital, giving her a kiss on the forehead – but Brooker enjoyed writing the episode so much that he just kept going, giving us the rarest gift of all: a happy ending to a Black Mirror episode.
Domhnall Gleeson’s character in Be Right Back has a very significant name
Hayley Attwall and Domhnall Gleeson (who play Martha and Ash in Be Right Back) bonded before filming by going for dinner at the Dans Le Noir restaurant in Farringdon, London, where diners have to eat their meal in the dark. Appropriate.
Ash is also called Ash for one very simple reason, which Brooker describes in characteristically blunt terms.
“It’s because he f****** dies, almost straight away,” he said.
Jodie Foster had never watched Black Mirror before directing an episode
After positively drinking up the script, Foster turned her attention to the rest of the Black Mirror canon, particularly enjoying Shut Up and Dance, White Christmas and The National Anthem.
Why Crocodile is called Crocodile
Brooker explains that the name comes from an analogy for an earlier incarnation of the script.
“Imagine your life is a simulated boat ride,” said Brooker. “If you’re really unlucky, imagine a crocodile attacks you in the first minute. You think, from that point on, I could get attacked at any moment.
“That’s what Crocodile is: an analogy for somebody who has been traumatised at an early age, and might be troubled by life forever and never able to relax. The title stuck, even though the story completely changed. It’s weirdly fitting.”
The robot dogs in Metalhead originally had human masters
The faceless and utterly terrifying robot dogs in Metalhead were originally meant to be controlled by a drone operator in America – a seemingly normal man with a pregnant wife and kids.
Maxine Peake in Metalhead (Netflix)
However, Brooker and Jones removed the sequence from the episode after they felt it didn’t add anything – and the mysterious motives of the robot dogs only heighten the tension and fear of the episode.
The Black Museum cast deliberately fell out with each other during filming
Douglas Hodge, who played Rolo in Easter egg-fuelled episode Black Museum, really committed to the role of the nasty curator. He reveals how he was rude to co-star Letitia Wright off screen in order to foster an animosity that would transpire on screen.
Letitia Wright and Douglas Hodge in Black Museum
“On the first day, Letitia came up to me and asked if I wanted to rehearse our lines,” he said. “I just said no. She said, ‘No-one has ever said that to me before,’ and I said, ‘Well there we are’ and walked away. After that, I think she was quite nervous, but I did it to help me inhabit Rolo and to help her hate him.”
“I was heartbroken!” Wright added. “Sometimes before takes, Doug would look at me and growl.”