Charlie Brooker’s series of modern tech fables consist of perfectly self-contained stories, but now, as season 4 hits Netflix, we look at the ways the Black Mirror episodes reference one another to prove every episode takes place in the same warped universe.
UKN News Tickers
The good old-fashioned ticker tape is where fans first started to notice that Black Mirror stories were bleeding into one another. UKN is the show’s always-on news service and spans across all series. It’s here that we saw the headline “Geraint Fitch cleared of wrongdoing following paparazzi scuffle”, which appears in two episodes: ‘The Waldo Moment’ and ‘The National Anthem’. In episode ‘Hated In The Nation’, UKN also announces that the MASS weapons tech as seen in ‘Men Against Fire’ is going into production, and that game creator Shou Saito, introduced in ‘Playtest’, has created an “immersive new gaming system”. The ‘White Christmas’ special also features a UKN ticker that references MP Liam Munroe from ‘The Waldo Moment’ and his sexting scandal. Basically, if there’s a cross-reference to be made between episodes, you’ll find it on UKN.
Prime Minister Michael Callow
Star of the very first episode ‘The National Anthem’, in which the PM is blackmailed into copulating with a pig live on TV, Michael Callow is not seen again in any other episodes, but he is referenced multiple times. In season 3 episode ‘Shut Up And Dance’, we see a headline online that says ‘PM Callow to divorce’. Things seem to have got worse for former PM Callow by season 3 episode ‘Nosedive’, as seen in a Michael Callow social media post on Lacie’s computer: “Just got thrown out of the zoo again :(”. Looks like that pig incident wasn’t isolated.
Victoria Skillane and White Bear
‘White Bear’ is the episode that Brooker would most like to make a sequel to, but in the meantime we’ll have to make do with the multiple references to the shocking episode. Season 4 episode ‘Black Museum’ has a White Bear exhibit on show, but if you go back to seasons 2 and 3 there are loads of other references. In ‘Hated By The Nation’, Faye Marsay’s cop Blue says she worked on the “Rannoch killings” (the crime behind ‘White Bear’), while the #DeathTo hashtag on Twitter is trending with protagonist Victoria Skillane’s name. If you really squint, you can just make out a news ticker that says Skillane attempted suicide in her jail cell. Elsewhere, ‘Playtest’ features the ‘White Bear‘ logo used as part of a tech demo, while ‘Shut Up And Dance’ has an online news story referencing the Victoria Skillane trial. ‘White Christmas’ goes one better and reveals that the Skillane appeal was rejected. Whether or not we ever return to the world of ‘White Bear’, it’s never stopped evolving.
‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’
This song, originally recorded by Irma Thomas in 1964, appears in three separate episodes of ‘Black Mirror’. Most notably, it’s the song that Abi sings for her Hot Shots finale on season 1 episode ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, but a karaoke version of it is performed in the ‘White Christmas’ special. Briefly in season 3’s ‘Men Against Fire‘, it’s also sung by a soldier under questioning. Says Brooker: “It does sort of nest the whole thing together in some kind of artistic universe, to sound wanky for a moment. So it is deliberate, but it’s not part of some grand unveiling that this is all set in the year 2030 or something.”
‘Playtest’ contains a number of references to other episodes in season 3, all from one mock-up magazine cover. The special edition of Edge (which is a real mag) teases a deep dive into tech company TCKR (“Turning nostalgia into a game”), which is the provider of the services depicted in fan favourite episode ‘San Junipero’. Also on the front cover is a reference to Granular, the company who create the robotic bee drones that cause so much chaos in ‘Hated By The Nation’. Conversely, ‘Playtest’ tech genius Shou Saito gets a news ticker shout-out in that episode, and his games consoles, the Harlech Shadow V and Harlech Shadow VI, also get Twitter mentions. TCKR feature prominently in the season 4 episode Black Museum, where you can also spy a bee drone in a cabinet.
The 2014 Christmas special is a treasure trove of Black Mirror easter eggs and episode references. When Rafe Spall’s character goes channel surfing, we see snippets of episodes including ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, ‘The Waldo Moment‘ and references to Michael Callow and Victoria Skillane. Users on Jon Hamm’s dating livestream have usernames including ‘Pie Ape’ (a reference to the derogatory term used in ‘Fifteen Million Merits’) and ‘I_AM_WALDO’ (‘The Waldo Moment’). There’s also a ‘White Bear’ logo visible in Joe’s jail cell. ‘White Christmas’ itself, specifically the Oona Chaplin segment, is referenced in season 3 episode ‘Shut Up And Dance’ in an online ad labelled ‘What a Smart Cookie!’ which makes reference to “the kitchen tech of tomorrow”. Later, in ‘Hated By The Nation’, we learn via news ticker that the European Court of Human Rights have ruled that those ‘cookies’ actually have human rights.
‘Fifteen Million Merits’
The season 1 episode starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findlay gets a couple of mentions in later seasons: there’s a billboard featuring Abi glimpsed in the flash-forward at the end of ‘The Waldo Moment’ in season 2; then in ‘Shut Up And Dance’ in season 3, an online ticker references a new reality show called ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ (weirdly, not ‘Hot Shots’, the actual name of the show in the episode).
The obnoxious cartoon star of ‘The Waldo Moment’ is referenced several times in ‘White Christmas’, but you can also spy a sticker for the little blue bear in ‘Shut Up And Dance’, definitively linking those two episodes as part of the same universe.
The pregnancy test
Two episodes, season 1’s ‘The Entire History of You’ and season 2’s ‘Be Right Back’, both feature characters taking a pregnancy test, and the test features the exact same animation of a dancing baby. The props themselves are different, but there’s no mistaking that same animated infant.
National Allied Bank
It’s not exactly as glamorous as the other shared references, but the same fictional bank can be seen in episodes ‘Shut Up And Dance’ and ‘Playtest’.
The company who provide the all-important social rankings for the citizens of ‘Nosedive’ in season 3 take a turn for the worse: an ironic news ticker in ‘Hated By The Nation’ reads “Reputelligent shares nosedive”.
Sea of Tranquility
This fictional HBO show is referenced in two separate episodes, first in ‘The National Anthem’ when the government hire a special effects expert from the show, then again in ‘Nosedive’ when Lacie hitches a ride with two fans of the show.
Black Mirror S4 is now streaming on Netflix. Hear what the show’s creators had to tell us about the six new episodes below…