Bandersnatch is the name Lewis Carroll gave one of his fantastic creatures in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, but this origin says nothing about this film (except, maybe, for the fact that in one pathway, Stefan literally goes through a mirror straight into his childhood). It was only later, after Bandersnatch inspired many later creators in different fields, when it became the title of an 80s video game that was never released (at least under that title) that it becomes relevant here. A vapourware project advertised in 1984 and released in 1986 under the title Brataccas, Bandersnatch was a video game that clearly influenced the basic plot, or setup, of the latest Black Mirror offering. Looking at the setting and gameplay of the real-life video game, it’s obvious that the influence was only on a meta level, as it does not feature a demon named Pax or a choose-your-own-adventure structure, and neither was it based on a novel. Black Mirror writers were instead inspired by the story behind its development and the halted release due to the bankruptcy of Imagine Software, the company developing it. It’s hard to determine why this connection needed to be so obvious in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, but beyond the shared title, the film’s beginning is set on 9 July 1984, the day Imagine Software closed its doors.
Even under the new format, Bandersnatch remains quintessentially a Black Mirror episode. In many ways, the interactive format of the show explores themes that are by now, after 4 seasons, ingrained in the fabric of its identity. I don’t suppose there were many people who heard about Black Mirror releasing an interactive film and didn’t expect some twist in the genre in line with the show’s previous episodes. Bandersnatch features a layered thematic core that works both with Black Mirror’s exploration of technology and with our social consciousness in this 21st century paradigm.
In terms of the Black Mirror shared universe, officially confirmed last year in “Black Museum,” Bandersnatch is easy to place chronologically, being the only episode to state the year it’s set in, and it is so far the first episode in the chronology, with “The National Anthem” following decades later. What is interesting is the by-now-staple feature of easter eggs. Creator Charlie Brooker stated that the inclusion of easter eggs didn’t initially have the purpose of tying together this shared timeline, but was more of a thematic red thread. At Tuckersoft, Colin is working on his new game, Nohsdyve, and Thakur is talking to Stefan at the office in front of a very conspicuously positioned poster for another Tuckersoft game, Metl Hedd. In contrast with Nohsdyve, which bears no resemblance to season 3’s “Nosedive,” Metl Hedd’s poster features the very same robotic dogs that roam England’s countryside in season 4’s “Metalhead.” Given the fact that, in all likelihood, “Metalhead” is situated far into the future in the Black Mirror shared timeline, its inclusion in Bandersnatch raises questions. Did an 80s video game inspire the kind of people who are handy with tools and with plenty of time to kill? A real-life version of the game that went terribly wrong? Or does it suggest that “Metalhead” is in fact set in the virtual reality of the 21st century’s reincarnation of Metl Hedd?
Do you want to read more about video games, or just get to Bandersnatch already?