Black Mirror is coming back. Very, very soon.
Netflix confirmed the news that fans had been hoping for for months when it released a trailer for standalone “event” episode Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
The story, at least on the surface, is set to follow Stefan (Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead), a young programmer who hopes to create a computer game inspired by an adventure novel given to him as a child.
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“In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he adapts a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game and soon faces a mind-mangling challenge. Welcome back,” the official description reads.
However, that synopsis does not do justice to the intrigue surrounding the trailer and the possible directions this latest Black Mirror instalment could take.
There have long been rumours that Netflix could release a ‘choose your own adventure’ episode of Black Mirror, an interactive style of storytelling that allows viewers to determine the decisions of the story’s characters – and have a hand in how the story ends.
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Netflix has already experimented with this type of storytelling for children’s TV. Bandersnatch could be the first time it’s used for ‘adult entertainment’…
But that’s not all that can be gleaned from the first look at Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Read on to find out everything we’ve learned from the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch trailer…
Bandersnatch: set in 80s Britain
The trailer opens with Stefan examining what appears to be some form of medication, and talking about having disturbing dreams.
“I keep having these vivid dreams. Like thinking weird things,” he says. What kind of weird things? Well, Bandersnatch clearly holds the answers…
The action flips to a tower block in what appears to be 1980s Britain. This ties in with sightings earlier in the year of Black Mirror filming in and around Croydon.
Apparently they are filming a Black Mirror set in The Past, so naturally they're in Croydon. See vintage WH Smith and Chelsea Girl. pic.twitter.com/q54HQZChoT
— Nick Walker (@nickw84) April 21, 2018
A new computer game – and a Black Mirror easter egg
Actor Asim Chaudhry (best known as Chabuddy G from BBC comedy People Just Do Nothing) seems to be playing some kind of video game developer mogul. In the trailer, he promises Stefan that their company could be huge, “like Motown but for computer games”.
Now look at the poster behind them. It’s for a game called Metl Hedd, but the title and the depiction of terrifying robot ‘dogs’ are clearly a reference to previous Black Mirror episode Metalhead. That episode, incidentally, was directed by David Slade, who is returning to direct Bandersnatch.
Is Bandersnatch a real game – and is Jerome F Davies a real author?
Then we get a first shot of the game itself, Bandersnatch, loading up on Stefan’s screen.
“It’s an adventure game, based on a book,” Stefan explains. The book is an adventure novel from his childhood by an author called Jerome F Davies.
Fans have been quick to theorise about what the title ‘Bandersnatch’ could refer to. A bandersnatch, for starters, is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass and nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark.
However, perhaps more intriguingly, it’s also the title of a genuine 1984 computer game project that never saw the light of day.
Poster for ‘Bandersnatch’ the game, a project which never saw the light of day — the game was developed in 1984, the same year ‘Bandersnatch’ the Black Mirror episode takes place (which we know as a set photo shows Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ at #1 on the charts inside a record store) pic.twitter.com/SlzbERQHuR
— Kezia Abigail (@xiurongg) November 26, 2018
Even more intriguingly, the game has already featured in a previous episode of Black Mirror: the title was spotted on the front cover of a gaming magazine in season three’s Playtest.
WHHAAATTTT, Bandersnatch was referenced all the way back in Season 3 on the front cover of the gaming magazine in Playtest ? pic.twitter.com/LabQe7dX6v
— Jeeves Williams (@jeeveswilliams) November 26, 2018
However, the book in the trailer does not appear to be an actual novel. Sorry. The story of the author who cut his wife’s head off seems, unsurprisingly, to be all from the twisted mind of creator Charlie Brooker.
However, other pop culture references in the trailer do appear to be based in reality. Check out for example the poster on the left hand side of Stefan’s wall in a later shot: look closely and it says Manic Miner, a game originally released in 1983 for the ZX Spectrum console.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
After this, the trailer all goes a bit trippy.
“When it’s a concept piece, a bit of madness is what you need,” actor Will Poulter’s character advises. Cut to Stefan throwing his pills down the toilet, and a burst of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax.
The track is yet another confirmation of the 80s setting; the lyrics were even referenced in Black Mirror’s official Twitter account when the trailer was first revealed.
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) December 27, 2018
Don't do it. pic.twitter.com/dZUeyxW50x
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) December 27, 2018
Images flash on the screen as Stefan slots in a video cassette. At least one appears to be the author Jerome F Davies smoking a cigarette (earlier in the trailer we saw a headshot of him).
Other scenes could be of his bloodstained office, eerily echoing Stefan’s own paper-strewn desk. However, there could be another Black Mirror easter egg here. Look at the image below: isn’t that daubed symbol similar to the one seen in season two episode White Bear?
It’s popped up regularly in Black Mirror, including season four’s Black Museum and season three’s Playtest.
A Black Mirror “Event”
It is also telling how the trailer refers to Bandersnatch as a “Black Mirror Event”. Not an episode, not a film; surely this suggests a more novel way of TV storytelling? A ‘choose your own adventure’?
There are more shots of those nostalgic WHSmith shopfronts (for non-UK viewers, WHSmith is a long-standing high street stationers, newsagent and entertainment store. Hence the shots of Stefan flicking through the vinyl records).
Then, finally, there are those key phrases: Change Your Mind. Change Your Life. Change Your Past. Your Present. Your Future.
Doesn’t this suggest that viewers will be able to do all those things too as part of a ‘choose your own adventure’ storyline?
“Your fate has been dictated. You’re not in control.” a woman on a television screen declares menacingly.
That may have been the case for every episode of Black Mirror so far. But perhaps for this TV “event”, viewers really are in control?
Black Mirror: Bandernsnatch is released on Netflix on Friday 28 December 2018