'Black Mirror' Season 5 Easter Eggs Establish a Shared Tuckersoft Universe
How a single virtual reality device is becoming a connective thread for 'Black Mirror.'
The thing about anthologies is that you don’t have to watch everything. Each story is one-and-done, with no promise of a continuation. And that’s still true in Charlie Brooker’s dark sci-fi series Black Mirror, but after introducing the concept of a shared universe in previous episodes like Season 4’s “Black Museum,” one Black Mirror Season 5 episode pushes the idea ever further with a clever Easter egg: Welcome to the Tuckersoft-verse?
Black Mirror Season 5, Episode 1 “Striking Vipers” tells the story of two best friends who intimately bond in a virtual reality fighting game. It also involves a very familiar device VR device that Black Mirror fans will have seen before.
While the VR device doesn’t have an official name, it looks and behaves exactly like the devices used in the Season 4 episode, “USS Callister.” Like “Striking Vipers,” that episode was also set in a contemporary reality not too far in the future, though it followed a group of sentient A.I. trapped in a private, Star Trek-esque video game mod run by a lonely programmer.
Even more telling, though, is the branding on the VR device itself. When it’s first given as a gift we see that the label reads “TCKR SYSTEM.” This seems like a clear reference to Black Mirror’s interactive episode, “Bandersnatch,” which took place in 1984 and focused on an early video game company called Tuckersoft in 1984. “Striking Vipers” seems to suggest that Tuckersoft eventually became TCKR as it shifted into the 21st century and embraced virtual reality gaming.
In case that wasn’t clear enough, the folks behind Black Mirror even updated the Tuckersoft website, which originally launched to promote “Bandersnatch” with a distinct Web 1.0 vibe. Check back today and it’s been updated to promote the fictional new game “Striking Viper.” It even features the same VR brain-scanning device.
While there is no other connective tissue to the episodes besides the existence of this unique VR device, it’s a very unique VR device, and it’s uncanny how similar it looks across both episodes. No more than an in-ear bud and a silver button that attaches to one’s temple, the device basically works like The Matrix as it drops one’s consciousness into a simulated program.
It it possible that TCKR and the gaming company in “USS Callister” are somehow also connected? Or are they simply competing VR video game companies? The Black Mirror version of PlayStation vs. Xbox?
This isn’t the first time Black Mirror has hinted at a single continuity, even if the reality is that it’s cheaper to reuse props and assets. Everything from pregnancy tests (“Be Right Back” and “White Christmas”), contact lenses (“The Entire History of You” and “Men Against Fire”) and fictional news outlets (UKN, seen in various episodes) all serve as connective threads across episodes to the point that some fans think there’s an actual linear timeline of episodes.
In a 2016 interview with Thrillist, creator Charlie Brooker shut down the linear timeline theory, insisting that the stories in Black Mirror only share a psychological continuity and not a literal one.
“I’ve read a couple things where people have tried to work out whether this whole thing is set in one coherent universe, and my view is, if they want to believe that, that’s fine,” he said. “But I don’t approach it that way, any more than The Twilight Zone was set in one coherent universe. It’s probably all in the same psychological universe.”
After Black Mirror Season 5, we’re not so convinced, and it seems pretty clear that at least a few of these episodes share the same continuity. But just because Brooker and his co-showrunner Annabel Jones keep creating connective tissue doesn’t mean there’s actually a single storyline. After all, this might just be another way the series likes to mess with its viewers.
Whether or not all episodes of Black Mirror are set in the same universe, it’s still the same, very accessible series that isn’t bogged down by a single serial narrative. You can still watch “Striking Vipers” or any of the new Season 5 episodes without having seen “Bandersnatch” or “USS Callister,” and the series will still leave you with the same pressing questions about one’s existence in the universe. That’s just the Black Mirror way.
Black Mirror Season 5 is streaming now on Netflix.