As people slowly wore off their New Years hangovers, many were first introduced to the now-Netflix series, Black Mirror, the technology-based Twightlight Zone-esque show. When I meet new Black Mirror fans, I always enjoy their reactions — both highs and lows — as they go back to the earlier episodes. Still only 19 episodes in series length, it makes for a relatively short, twisted binge. Each episode is so nuanced and layered it only makes sense for average watchers to want to dive deeper and understand more. Do these technologies exist? How far away are we? Could this Black Mirror episode really happen? Therefore, it’s no surprise that Black Mirror podcasts have started to emerge. However, like most TV show-focused podcasts, there are the good ones … and the bad ones.
Black Mirror Cracked is in the former group. Not only is it a great Black Mirror recap podcast — a must for any TV podcast — but the hosts also discuss the intricacies involved in the episodes, the Easter Eggs, oh, and they were able to snag Black Mirror showrunner, Charlie Booker, for an exclusive interview.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Suchandrika, one of the hosts of Black Mirror Cracked, and discuss their love for Black Mirror, her favorite (and least favorite) episodes, and the deeper questions the show asks of the listeners. See below for our Q&A [British spelling unchanged :)]
Discover Pods: Why do people tune into your podcast?
Suchandrika: The 7 podcasts (one for each episode plus showrunners interview) have achieved over 10,000 listens in the 6 days since release. There’s a hunger within the Black Mirror audience to talk about what the show means and to let out the emotions stirred up.
DP: What was your favorite episode from season four and why?
Suchandrika: Hang the DJ – it’s my heart rather than my head calling this one! The chemistry between the leads is not only adorable, but spot on: the piss-taking, the poking each other, the awkwardness… but all done with such tenderness. It’s very British flirting.
But the sweetness of the episode is tempered by the dark edges, with those scary guards holding out Tasers, and the Truman Show-esque wall our heroes have to climb in order to be together. You really don’t know if it’ll work out well for them.
And it’s all for an app! Somehow, the episode has done such a good job of getting me invested in the storyline that I don’t mind this at all. In fact, it makes total sense.
It’s such a romantic idea for an app – 99.8% of the time you’d choose each other over rules, safety, common sense. Who doesn’t want that?!
DP: Black Mirror continues to explore the difficult questions we’ll ultimately face as technology further penetrates our lives. Which Black Mirror episode did you find the most eerie in terms of how close the technology might be and/or asking questions you hadn’t previously thought of?
Suchandrika: Season 3’s Shut up and Dance. The tech in it is stuff we already have: internet, webcams, mobile phones. if anything, the main character’s desktop looks kind of old!
And yet – his life is destroyed. Same of the other main characters. Nothing to stop that happening yesterday or tomorrow, in terms of tech.
The question that Black Mirror keeps asking – in my mind – is “What makes a human being?”
Episode after episode explores this huge philosophical area.
Is it having a body? Well tell that to the cookies in White Christmas, or USS Callister, or San Junipero.
Is it your memories? What if someone else could see them and experience them differently to you? Welcome to Crocodile or Men Against Fire.
Is consciousness enough? What about the total dehumanisation of the characters in Fifteen Million Merits?
So, quite a few questions there, yes!
DP: What are your all time favorite and least favorite Black Mirror episodes?
Suchandrika: All-time fave: The Entire History of You, from Season 1. Apart from the tech, it’s a well-paced, perfectly-acted drama.
Imagine a world where all our experiences are recorded, and can be played back for ourselves and others. For me, that changes what it is to be human.
Our memories and their mutability over time, that’s what makes us. Think of how vivid your childhood and teenage memories are. All those firsts.
Then try to remember what you had for lunch a week ago. You see what I mean.
And why would you want to remember that in the same technicolour as the first time you rode a bike without stabilisers, or your first kiss?
Imagine being able to project your perfectly-preserved memories onto a wall as they do in this episode.
Imagine being able to access someone else’s memories in that perfect state. That would change what it means to be human, I think.
All-time least fave: I’m with those who don’t think The National Anthem and The Waldo Moment reach the heights that the rest of the series does.
However, I’ve got to give the wooden spoon to Season 2’s White Bear. The premise of keeping a person – albeit a criminal – in a theme park of their own despair, letting crowds yell and throw things at [in this case] her – it’s too unfair to me.
They wipe her mind and put her through it all again the next day, only to end the day with the big reveal of her crime (she helped her ex-boyfriend abuse a child). then unconsciousness and memory loss. And everyone seems delighted by this set up. No. I can’t get behind that. To me, it’s just torture, and we learn nothing from that set-up.
It’s still a good watch, though, as Black Mirror invariably is.
DP: What’s the biggest challenge you face as an indie podcaster?
Suchandrika: All three of us involved in the podcast work for the Daily Mirror.
My co-host Ryan Brown and our producer Daniel Jackson both work on the communities team, keeping eyes on the website comments, among many other things. I train journalists.
So we did have a soundproof room and a podcast mic in the building to to call upon.
We did try not to spoil the episodes too much – and ones from other seasons, as the connections between episodes spring to mind – but it’s hard to know what’s a spoiler in Black Mirror. It’s ALL spoilers! So we tried really hard to make this clear ahead of anyone clicking play.
DP: What are your top five favorite podcasts?
Suchandrika: I’ve loved Cheryl Strayed since I discovered her Dear Sugar column on the Rumpus – I think novelists make the best Agony Aunts – so her Dear Sugars podcast with Steve Almond is right up there.
It’s because of them that I heard about Esther Perel of Mating in Captivity fame, and I really enjoy her podcast’s insight into relationships and sexuality.
The Tip Off podcast delves into British investigative journalism – who doesn’t want to know how that sausage is made? And we should all be glad that these journalists are still getting the funding / support for this kind of work.
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review is a no-brainer – if you like film, you’ll really go for this.
The last one’s a Daily Mirror stablemate: First Time Dads. The series covers the ‘secondary’ parent’s experience of becoming one.
The series is mostly about men becoming dads, but the latest episode has an interview with our Daily Mirror colleague Ann Stenhouse, who’s in a lesbian relationship. Her partner was the one to give birth.
She presented her experience as somewhere between being a second mum and being a dad.
It’s a privilege to get such an insight into other people’s lives.
As a podcaster, how do you feel about listeners speed listening to your work?
As someone who works in digital journalism, I know there’s a lot of content out there, but people only have limited time to give to it.
Once a piece of content is out there – a podcast, a story, a Facebook Live, anything – the audience gets to decide how they experience it.
I don’t think any of us could ask for more than that.
DP: Anything else you’d like to add?
Suchandrika: I’d just like to thank everyone who took a chance and listened to the podcast!
We’ve had an amazing response – 12,500 plays in 6 days, and showing no signs of slowing down!
I had a feeling that Black Mirror fans would be into hearing a discussion after watching each episode.
It’s amazing to find out that’s true, and to hear from people who enjoyed listening.
The conversation keeps on going – that’s the beauty of podcasting, and our connected world.
Yay technology! *waits nervously for the Black Mirror-esque twist*