The fifth season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror will feature an interactive episode. The ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style will allow viewers to shape the events and the ending of the story, depending on their decisions at key moments in the show.
Since Black Mirror moved to Netflix in 2016, the platform has enabled the use of new innovative technological opportunities which would have been too impractical to carry out on live TV.
This interactive episode will be the first time the service has attempted this format in the adult TV market. However, Netflix has already experimented with the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ format with Puss in Book, a children’s animation where the viewer guides Puss (of Shrek fame) through a series of scenarios of their choosing. Whilst the decider in Puss is only ever tasked with choosing between two outcomes, the thought-provoking nature of the show could allow for far more complex decisions.
Brooker has apparently toyed with the idea before, during the production of season three’s video game inspired episode ‘Playtest’, but the idea was ultimately scrapped.
On that note, a question springs to mind: is there a place for interactive television?
In Recent years there has been a huge rise in games where the player’s choices have a real impact on the narrative. Huge hits such as The Witcher and The Walking Dead have proved extremely popular (despite Telltale’s recent closure). The latter of these, based on the long-running TV show, relies on an episodic format, where choices made early on can affect the later instalments. Black Mirror appears to be trying to bridge this gap and bring interactivity to a wider, non-gaming community.
Although this episode of Black Mirror will be a stand-alone story, it sets up an interesting precedent for others to follow. Perhaps viewers could eventually control an entire series, creating a far more unique experience for each individual as they observed their choices play out. Netflix, with its convenient (for the lazy amongst us) or dangerous (for those still awake at 5am after an unexpected binge) ability to automatically load the next episode would be an ideal format for this, enabling it to load a different variant according to the viewers choices.
Admittedly, this may be more impractical for producers of the show, but it would certainly imbue the show with an unprecedented level of replayability as fans explore alternative outcomes. The shorter length of the television episodes may also encourage even more viewers to re-watch, as it would be far less time consuming than replaying an entire 100+ hour RPG.
The fifth season is rumoured to begin in December. Whichever way the episode eventually plays out, it will certainly be a television event to remember and likely the most watched Black Mirror to date.