[This story contains major spoilers from the Black Mirror season six episode “Beyond the Sea.”]
Charlie Brooker warned that part of the sixth season black mirror The episodes were to be the bleakest yet. And “Beyond the Sea,” starring the trio of Aaron Paul, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Mara, certainly fits that profile.
In the 80 Minute Space Saga, Paul and Hartnett play astronauts aboard a spaceship on a six-year mission. The episode, however, takes place in an alternate 1969 where technology exists for astronauts to transmit their consciousness to Earth via a space travel link and walk among their families as a mechanical replica while their real bodies sleep in a bed. Space capsule.
But things go horribly wrong for Hartnett’s astronaut, David. In the middle of the night, a hippie cult (led by Rory Culkin) invades his family’s home and brutally murders David’s free-spirited wife (Auden Thornton) and children in front of their eyes (replica), before destroying his replica. The scene, which echoes the infamous Charles Manson-led murder of Sharon Tate, which took place in 1969, and subsequent Manson Family murders, is motivated by his view that David’s “man-machine” defies nature. and it is an abomination.
Unimaginable tragedy leads to complications. David’s replica was unique, so he is stuck in space with no connection to Earth for four more years. When Mara’s endearing and lonely character, Lana, the wife of distant astronaut Cliff de Paul, suggests David borrow her husband’s bond, her visits spark a complex love triangle. David, in Cliff’s replica, pursues Lana, and when he is finally rebuffed, he makes a vengeful decision to steal Cliff’s replica, visit Earth, and brutally murder Lana and her child; handing Cliff the same gruesomely tragic hand he received.
Brooker, the creator and writer of Netflix’s Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series, has long maintained that he is pro-tech, recently reiterating that black mirror The episodes are “worst case scenarios” showing how flawed humans can make terrible decisions in the midst of emerging science. “Beyond the Sea” represents that, as David’s flawed choice leads to a grim and tragic ending.
Downstairs, Hartnett and Mara talk to the hollywood reporter on Brooker’s pandemic-era inspiration for the story, the specific reasons “Beyond the Sea” was set in an alternate 1969, and the most horrific day of filming: “If you’re completely taken away from [love and connection]it will atrophy your soul.”
It’s been a four year wait for season six; Charlie Brooker said the world felt a bit too dystopian to do more black mirrors and now it’s back with episodes that turn what black mirror is. What insight did you get about what inspired him to write “Beyond the Sea”?
Josh Harnett: When I talked to Charlie about it and to John [Crowley, director] on why Charlie wrote it, was that he wrote it during lockdown as a reaction to lockdown. He was feeling isolated and he probably won’t say this, but I think he was feeling a little FOMO (laugh) looking at the lives of other people in the world. And he thought that maybe you are comparing your own situation with someone else’s situation; everyone seems to have their chickens roosting and why is it always sunny in that part of england and not in my part of england? That’s something people get into when they’re isolated on their social media, and I think it was a reaction to that feeling of separation from social media, but being there in a way. And also, obviously, the isolation.
What really got me, and I think he had said something about it, was the idea that love and connection is a resource that, if taken away completely, will stunt your soul. He didn’t exactly say that, that’s me digressing a bit. But I think that happens to David; he is trapped on that ship and there is no possibility or hope for his future. And the only hope he has left is a highly elicited relationship that he doesn’t know how to handle. And then things go very, very wrong.
Charlie also said that this season contains some of the bleakest episodes yet. This certainly is. It is set in an alternate time period, but speaks to universal themes around marriage, ego, and technology. Kate, what do you think are the ultimate sins that led these characters to tragedy?
Kate Maria: Well, I don’t think any sin should lead to what some of them, or none of them really, had to experience. it’s so horrible. But I think the episode is really very, very relevant and universal. It doesn’t matter when it takes place. I think it was just as relevant in the ’60s as it is now; the connection issue. The human connection and how important it is for all of us to survive and love. Not just in a romantic relationship, but to feel loved and experience love. That’s what I found so fascinating about it; and then seeing these two men experience isolation and also seeing my character, Lana, experience isolation in her own home. All those things I think can be very relatable.
Hartnett: The sins that lead to its horrible result. … I think that’s partly why Charlie set her in 1969. Her sin is basically hope and optimism. Those are the things that are nullified by this Manson-esque murder.
Because at that time, the space program was the great hope of the American people and the hope of humanity, in a way. It was the cutting edge of technology at the time; people going into space meant something, like we were all going to colonize the moon or live somewhere. jetsonics future. And I think that’s why he wanted to set it then, because it was right before the Manson murders. I was talking to Kate earlier about her character reminding me of Joan Didion because she had said or written at the time: The ’60s ended all optimism, all hope. All experimentation ended with the Manson murders. That was it. That was the end. And I think that great experiment ended so long ago, that Charlie wanted to go back to that moment to reinvent why, and of course, to then put this isolation helmet in its place. [Brooker says the “Demon 79” episode, which has a companion “Red Mirror” label, inspired him to travel back in time for “Beyond the Sea,” a “retrofuturistic” episode like a “lost science fiction story of the ’60s.”]
I was grateful that the actual murders were not shown. Josh, what was it like filming the crime scene Manson-style?
Hartnett: It was a really horrible day, I have to say. I think that was the worst, really. We didn’t have a lot of time to shoot this, so it was at the end of a very long night of shooting in Valencia. We were only there for three nights of filming. you have to imagine this [murder], and then John kept asking for another take and then at the end he wanted to do this rotating shot zooming in on my face. I have kids and you just have to go somewhere you don’t want to go. I was so exhausted by the end of it. It was not funny. But that’s part of the job. But nothing was seen, which is good; there was nothing that I could see. It was all in my head. I don’t think John shows much violence in this. I think the most violent thing that happens is when Aaron punches me in the face, pretty lightly. That’s all.
Kate, Charlie has made complicated love stories around consciousness. This one had two layers, with her husband not only a different person but also a machine. What did you do with the love triangle in this story and with loving a person who is not defined by what they are on the outside?
Mary: I thought the love aspect of this was so intriguing and complicated. I thought, “Well, Aaron has a really tough job playing these two men, but actually being a man who feels very different things.” But for me, when we were doing all our scenes, because all my scenes are with him, it was easy to tell which character he was playing, because you’re so much more present with Lana. And the other is very much not. He is gone, in many ways. So it was kind of interesting and interesting topics to explore.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
black mirror season six is now streaming on Netflix.