'Black Mirror' Showrunners Reveal Surprising Link Between 'Toy Story' and "USS Callister"
Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones also dissect the Emmy-nominated project's origin story and the potential for a sequel or spinoff.
For Black Mirror showrunners Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, the idea for their Emmy-nominated "USS Callister" episode initially came to them while working on the special effects-heavy "Playtest" stand-alone of the anthology series.
"USS Callister" — which follows tech genius Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons), who creates his own Star Trek-esque universe within an online game where he controls and abuses digital clones of his co-workers — was born of a desire for more special effects, Brooker says, but also to "do a story about a tyrant in an alternate reality."
Brooker and Jones sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss how the #MeToo movement changed their perception of the episode, Donald Trump’s influence, the possibility of a sequel and the surprising reason they initially called the episode “Adult Toy Story.”
How did "USS Callister" initially come about?
JONES For a while we referred to it as "Adult Toy Story."
BROOKER We had to stop calling it that.
JONES Because Netflix was like, "What? You want to do porn?" And we were like, "No!" (Laughs.)
BROOKER The Toy Story element was partly born out of an idea that you'd have a scenario in which someone has got absolute power in a virtual realm, and as soon as they leave the room, everyone has to sort of exhale, like when Andy leaves the room in Toy Story and they have to behave a different way than when he's around. You look at the episode and it's about toxic fandom, workplace attitudes, toxic masculinity — that was all a logical consequence of the scenario we were thinking of.
How did #MeToo change your perception of the episode?
BROOKER I remember we had a premiere [of the episode] in New York, and the day we landed was when the Weinstein story broke. But I remember when we were shooting it, we were thinking of Trump and people wielding power because it was around the time of the inauguration. It probably meant that [the workplace harassment] aspect of the story was always there, but it was now more noticeable and felt more timely.
Is there any possibility of a sequel or spinoff of the "USS Callister" episode?
JONES I can neither confirm nor deny. (Laughs.) It would be a lot of fun, if we did it. Of all the episodes, it sort of lends itself to a sequel.
BROOKER The ending scene almost plays like it's taunting you [for a sequel] because they end up in a universe of infinite possibilities, and there's a lot of question marks we've left hanging.
JONES Because we haven't ever done a sequel, it would have to feel as if we're bringing something new to it.
And what about next season?
JONES We're experimenting with new genres.
BROOKER We try to do things that are markedly different from what we've done before, so I think hopefully we've got that.
JONES I have to say, we've picture- locked the first one, and it's good. It's really good. [Next season] will be new and different.
A version of this story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.