In its fourth season, Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series Black Mirror stirred up some debate over its new dedication to relatively positive endings. The earliest seasons, on Britain’s Channel 4, showcased possible technology-driven futures that ranged between relentlessly grim and merely melancholy. But subsequent seasons, produced and released by Netflix, have been skewing in an increasingly positive direction. Episodes like “San Junipero” and “USS Callister,” which come with traditional upbeat endings, earned strongly positive reactions from some fans, but for others, they were a sign of the show losing its edge.
But what if Black Mirror were interactive and every fan could just pick their own favorite ending? A report in Bloomberg this morning says a “choose your own adventure” episode of the show is in the works for season 5, and that it’ll debut before the end of 2018. Netflix hasn’t yet revealed the planned release date for season 5, but it’s been widely theorized that like the previous Netflix seasons, it would be a fourth-quarter release. (Season 3 debuted on Netflix on October 21st, 2016. Season 4 came out on December 29th, 2017.)
According to a 2017 Bloomberg report, Netflix has been working on interactive shows for adults, following its experiments with children’s choose-your-own-adventure stories, including the Shrek franchise spinoff Puss in Book and an episode of the stop-motion animated series Buddy Thunderstruck. Interactive movies for adults have largely been one-off novelty experiments in the past, but projects like Steven Soderbergh’s TV series Mosaic have increasingly suggested that an audience raised on complicated interactive storytelling in video games is well-suited for sophisticated storytelling where they have some control over the outcome.
The idea of a choose-your-own-adventure Black Mirror episode is compelling for a variety of reasons. Given that the show is fundamentally about changing technology and the future, there’s a good chance the interactivity will be an aspect of the narrative itself, as well as part of the experience of watching it. The show seems unusually suited for this kind of experiment, given its engagement among viewers interested in technological development and the future. And Netflix is particularly well situated for interactive content, since it operates entirely in a streaming environment via video delivered on smart devices which can handle the kind of stream-switching required by interactive stories.
Bloomberg’s report was short on details about the episode, and gave no specific sources for the story, which was attributed to “people familiar with the matter.” But it does claim Netflix has a variety of other interactive projects in the works, including adaptations of as-yet unnamed video games.
The Verge reached out to Netflix for comments on the report. A spokesperson responded, “Thanks for reaching out! You have the ability to choose your own response from Netflix: this or this.”
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