Black Mirror S4E1 Review – USS Callister – Of Gods and Assholes and Star Trek Done Right
Black Mirror is back for a new season on Netflix and it was totally worth the wait. So now check out my Black Mirror S4E1 – USS Callister review.
USS Callister was directed by Toby Haynes and stars Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson.
We will be touching on a lot of stuff from this episode so there would be spoilers from time to time. Let me mark where they are so you can skip ahead.
This is the Black Mirror universe’s version of Star Trek and even though its a universe within a universe, the guys who did this episode definitely got the spirit of what Star Trek was. And thats not all, they managed to subvert a thing or two and then juxtapose that with whatever the hell happens in the real world.
Jesse Plemons plays Captain Robert Daly here and this guy’s pretty damn good. He manages to do a good impression of Captain Kirk and then like a man-child he goes berserk, something unbecoming of a captain of “Space Fleet” (long story short, this was how they reference Star Trek without directly getting a license).
Going back, even as he seems to be the hero in this story, its revealed that he’s actually the bad guy. The way they framed elements in the first act was all a ruse to make us think that we like Daly. In a way, its a foreshadowing of things to come in USS Callister.
How I Met Your Mother alumni Christin Milioti was EXCELENT in this episode. As Nanette Cole in the real world she gives this almost fan girl look in her eyes as she meets her hero. As a character in Daly’s personal Infinity game, she’s spunky and sassy and sexy.
God is an Asshole
I loved “USS Callister” for being profound in so many levels. For one it examines how people view god. Put in a negative situation or an unfavorable situation and people will blame him. Then surrender to the fact that we are unable to do anything. This was done in Walton’s case where he just breaks after witnessing his son be thrown into space by Captain Daly i.e. the god. He’s weathered so much and stood strong until that moment. And it broke him.
Challenging the asshole god is something that they explore here in Black Mirror S4E1. We see them try several times until they get it right. Is God dead? Have humans killed him? I don’t know but thats something “USS Callister” presents.
Bullying also gets a nod here. Particularly the vicious cycle it creates. Bully gets his kicks from buying the weaker ones, then when weaker ones gets into power, they do the same thing. They lash out and hurt people or they become monsters. Daly is a product of the same abuse in the episode and we get moments where we pity him. But towards the second act of the story, as its revealed that Plesson’s Daly is a monster unto himself in this little digital paradise, viewers are presented with an ugly truth; that we are all going about the concept of “bullying” the wrong way.
Black Mirror S4E1 had a few fun moments. Mostly during those moments in “Space Fleet”.
I loved that moment where Daly pauses the game after being notified that pizza has arrived. And they were all standing there waiting for the next bit. Hell even the monstrous arachanajax or something went from menacing to bored real quick.
There’s also that moment when Nannette finds out that there’s no sex and no genitals in this digital world they live in because the original “Space Fleet” source material didn’t have sex either. Which prompts her to say:
There was also that meta moment when Daly blurts out that all seasons of “Space Fleet” is available for streaming on Netflix.
USS Callister examines what life and sentience means. Just because you “exist” in a digital world doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to basic rights or live a life of servitude. It pretty much forces us to ask the harder existential questions like “are we really free?” or “Is our existence just something that some power-that-be dreamed up on a whim” followed by “what happens when that being decided that play time’s over?”.
It also gives us a look at how dangerous the world of virtual reality similar to how people “died” in the extremely popular anime series Sword Art Online. What happens when we actually die in the cyberworld?
Black Mirror S4E1 Review – Verdict
I loved this episode. It’s a great way to open the new season and with just the right amount of digital age concepts together with existential and philosophical questions this episode really gives us a reason to celebrate the return of Black Mirror.