USS Callister is the first of six new episodes which comprise Black Mirror Series 4 and begins with a Star Trek spoof – where Jesse Plemons (Fargo Season 2) makes for quite an amusing Captain Kirk-a-like, presented in the show’s original 4:3-ish ratio. I say ‘ish’ because the whole thing is still within the 2.00:1 widescreen ratio that a lot of TV dramas are shot in these days, for no apparent reason. That said, that’s just the opening few minutes before the drama proper start… which is in 2.20:1, so a little wider. Yes, I love widescreen films, but it’s not really required for TV dramas.
New employee to tech firm Callister Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) is massively impressed with boss Robert Daly (Plemmons) because he designed the VR game to end them all, Infinity, which throws them into the game based on Space Fleet, the aforementioned Star Trek clone. However, not all of them are that excited to be taking part against the enemy, Valdack, but how to break out and return to normality if you’re stuck inside a videogame?
USS Callister all boils down to Daly being one hell of a control freak of a boss, and how that links in with the Space Fleet game didn’t really gel for me at all. I did like a particular element when he analysed a cup with his computer – amongst a cool plethora of screens, and when he started it going, it set an estimated completion time of 16 hours, since it doesn’t matter how much our technology progresses, computers still take bloody ages to process everything!!!
I also liked Cristin Milioti’s sassy Nanette in this, but overall, since I didn’t ‘get’ the episode, it made for a disappointing start. USS Callister is also the longest of the new Black Mirror series, and it really doesn’t need to be. In the end, it just left me feeling as cold as outer space.
Now, while series 3 of Black Mirror was available for review, this one was not, thus making it intensely annoying to have to catch up once it’s released. I understand the production team didn’t want spoilers leaking, yet that’s why some companies have non-disclosure agreements which you can sign in order to prevent that. Plus, in any event, I hate giving spoilers. If something wasn’t known in the trailer, I rarely mention it in the review, and even then, I’m selective about what I include, since not everyone will have seen it the trailer.
Plus, playing catch-up means by the time all my reviews are up, the initial rush has gone and there’s less call for reviews. It’s similar to how a lot of videogames companies aren’t releasing their review copies until the release date, and games are not something for which can you can do a quick turn-around.
So, this aspect doesn’t bode well for Charlie Brooker‘s latest series of creations, and while I look at each TV show, film or game on its own merits, I can see why this one was kept hidden.
Finally, one observation which I’ll put behind a spoiler wall, so don’t read before you’ve seen it:
Black Mirror: USS Callister is available on Netflix now. The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but you can buy a DVD boxset of Series 1 & 2 and the 2014 Special.
Running time: 76 minutes
Widescreen ratio: 2.20:1
Director: Toby Haynes
Producer: Louise Sutton
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Writers: Charlie Brooker, William Bridges
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Robert Daly: Jesse Plemons
Nanette Cole: Cristin Milioti
Walton: Jimmi Simpson
Shania: Michaela Coel
Baldak: Billy Magnussen
Elena Tulaska: Milanka Brooks
Nate Packer: Osy Ikhile
Kabir Dudani: Paul G Raymond
Pizza Guy: Hammed Animashaun
Tommy: Tom Mulheron
Gamer691: Aaron Paul (voice)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.