The moody Star Trek-inspired Black Mirror season 4 episode “USS Callister” could potentially become its own spinoff series. But what would such a series actually be like? If the rumored spinoff did happen it would probably mashup the concepts of Ready Player One and Tron ending up as a chimera of The Matrix in space.
Spoilers for “USS Callister” ahead.
On Monday, the director of “USS Callister,” Toby Haynes, told The Hollywood Reporter that he feels like the episode is “one of the best pilots for a space show ever…and I’m keen to see it as a TV series.” For clarity, Haynes in no way confirmed such a spinoff would actually happen, and even acknowledged that writer Charlie Brooker might return to the same universe in another episode of Black Mirror.
Which, if we’re being honest, is probably for the best. Though primarily lauded as a spoof of Star Trek, the true brilliance of “USS Callister,” is in its critique of Trek’s fan culture, as well as serving as a speculative dive into the notion of whether or not self-aware AI programs are in fact, alive. At the end of the episode, the digital clones of people in the real world are given their own digital spaceship, and freedom to roam around a fully-realized MMOG. The fact that these are living computer programs feels like Tron. The fact that a digital universe would occupy the entirety of a possible spinoff feels like both Ready Player One and The Matrix.
But, would the story of these digital copies be interesting outside of what “USS Callister” already achieved? Haynes mentions he views the episode as a possible pilot for space show, but that seems to be an overstatement. The outer space logistics of the Callister universe are literally just a copy of Star Trek, meaning a spinoff of the episode would also rely on those logistics, which, if drawn out, would only defeat the subversive originality of the episode’s premise.
Black Mirror may have endless potential to create spinoffs and a larger shared world. But for the sake of quality control, it feels like it would be better if things stayed smaller and self-contained. As Captain Kirk said, “Too much of anything, even love, isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
Black Mirror season 4 is streaming now on Netflix.