11:17am PT by Jackie Strause
With 'Black Mirror,' Netflix to Let Viewers Choose Their Own Adventure
Black Mirror is going interactive when it returns, making a past idea from its creator a virtual reality.
Netflix's acclaimed anthology series from Charlie Brooker is working on a choose-your-own-adventure episode for its forthcoming fifth season, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Though details are scarce, the interactive narrative would allow viewers to pick how the story will unfold as they watch.
Bloomberg was first to report the news on Monday. Black Mirror will be part of a slate of projects being developed by the streaming giant as it enters into live-action interactive programming, according to the report.
Black Mirror is a perfect testing ground for the storytelling format. The sci-fi series tackles techno-paranoia with standalone episodes that exist within the same universe and often carry with them many Easter eggs for dedicated viewers. When discussing "Playtest," the Wyatt Russell-starring season three episode, Brooker said he toyed with ways to make the video game-themed story an interactive one. But the ideas ultimately didn't pan out.
"We could keep one on an infinite loop! You could do that on Netflix — make one a Groundhog Day that literally never stops. And disable the 'back' button for viewers," Brooker told THR in late 2017. "That’s something to think about. We did talk to some of the tech people about things we could do. When we were doing 'Playtest,' the video game episode, I wanted to do it in nightmare mode, where after you watched it once, if you watched it again it was different."
Now, one year later, it seems Brooker's ideas — which have a knack for predicting the future — and Netflix's technology are lining up.
"We're experimenting with new genres," executive producer Annabel Jones recently told THR about the upcoming episodes. Brooker added, "We try to do things that are markedly different from what we've done before, so hopefully we've got that."
Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date for Black Mirror's fifth season, which is currently in production. Though the last season dropped in December 2017, Brooker and Jones don't typically stick to a yearly schedule when delivering seasons. December 2018 would likely be the earliest the season could arrive, especially since an interactive episode would require a longer script.
HBO stepped into the interactive narrative space when it released Steven Soderbergh's limited series Mosaic earlier this year. Though the six episodes that aired on TV told the linear version, the launch was paired with a "branching" narrative app where viewers could customize how they viewed the story.
Netflix has already released choose-your-own-adventure episodes for some of its animated programs for kids, like Puss in Book, but Black Mirror will be the first for adults. And it seems the streaming giant is already playing into the hype.
The series recently won four Emmys for season four's Star Trek-inspired "USS Callister" episode, adding to its two Emmys from series standout episode "San Junipero."