TV review: Black Mirror, Channel 4 - Charlie Brooker's writing has changed since he became a husband and a father

Food and Drink, BBC2

"Be Right Back", the first episode of a new series of Black Mirror, began in mundanity, a young couple – Martha and Ash – teasing each other affectionately as they drive through the night. He's a little distracted by his mobile phone and she's clearly getting a little tired of coming off second. "Glovebox," she says in an admonitory voice, a cue for him to put the device into purdah for a while.

As soon as they get home, though, he's staring down the electronic well again. She throws a tea-towel at him: "Just checking you're still solid," she says. "You keep vanishing down that thing." The writing's departure from idiom here is a clue – or a premonition. As is Ash's memory of how his mother reacted when there was a death in the family – sweeping away every photograph of the dead person and confining them to the attic.

It won't come as a huge surprise to any viewer that Ash doesn't have long to live. When he fails to return from an errand the next day, Martha's curiosity turns to anxiety and then, with the arrival of flashing blue lights outside the kitchen window, to grief. And it's at this point that Ash's obsession with social media comes into its own. At the funeral, a friend of Martha makes a suggestion: "I can sign you up to something that helps," she says. What she has in mind is an iAsh. Somebody has married artificial intelligence software with the dense crop of personal detail we leave behind us on the web to create a virtual loved one. Give it permission to access private information and the simulation will be even better: "The more it has, the more it's him."

Martha is initially appalled but then, in her grief, can't resist trying it. And the software it seems not only has a sense of humour. It has Ash's sense of humour. After she upgrades and uploads some home videos it has his voice too. And then she goes the final step. Two delivery men arrive with a very heavy crate. Inside it is Ash 2.0. All she has to do is add electrolytes, wait a little and he – or a fair replica – will be back. Ash 2.0 isn't perfect. He can't do sexual response because that isn't on the public record anywhere. But he has a degree of hydraulic control that flesh-and-blood men might envy and which clearly proves satisfactory when Martha succumbs to loneliness and sleeps with him.

It won't have come as a great surprise to any viewer either that this was a futuristic version of "The Monkey's Paw", that terrible short story about the dangers of getting what you wish for. Oddly, though, it was a tender, more wistful account of the fable, neither of those adjectives you would have associated with Charlie Brooker even a few years ago. His writing has changed since he became a husband and a father, but it's a thickening not a softening, I think, admitting feelings far more complicated than rage and exasperation. Here they included the counter-intuitive truth that it's not always the sweetness and the give that you miss about someone you love but the sourness and the resistance, too. I wasn't too sure about the science of Ash's resuscitation, but I thought the emotions were engineered pretty well.

Television occasionally stages its own unwise resurrection. Food and Drink has just returned from the vault, for example, and what a zombie of a programme it is, vaguely reminiscent of the original but without a spark of life. Michel Roux Jr presents, with Kate Goodman playing the Jilly Goolden role, and last night included a stale item on the baking fad and, bizarrely, a defence of sliced white: "There is surely room for bread that is nutritionally iffy, that's cheap, that's crappy and white," said the reporter. Oh, and apparently the French make good croissants and have nice street markets.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones