timespace coordinates: England July 1984Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a 2018 interactive film in the science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by series creator Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade. Netflix released it on 28 December 2018 as a standalone film. In Bandersnatch, viewers make decisions for the main character, the young programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) who adapts a fantasy novel into a video game in 1984. Other characters include Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry) and Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), both of whom work at a video game company, Butler’s father, Peter (Craig Parkinson) and Butler’s therapist, Dr. Haynes (Alice Lowe). The film is based on a planned Imagine Software video game of the same name which went unreleased after the company filed for bankruptcy. It also alludes to Lewis Carroll‘s own works that feature the bandersnatch creature. A piece of science fiction and horror, Bandersnatch incorporates meta-commentary and rumination on free will.Presentation – Bandersnatch is presented as an interactive film. A brief tutorial, specific to the device being streamed on, explains to the viewer how to make choices. They have ten seconds to make choices, or a default decision is made. Once a playthrough ends, the viewer is given an option of going back and making a different choice. The average viewing is 90 minutes, though the quickest path ends after 40 minutes, and at least one path results in a 2.5 hour viewing experience. There are 150 minutes of unique footage divided into 250 segments. IGN reports that according to Netflix, there are five “main” endings, with variants within each ending; such endings may be intercut with credits, similar to other Black Mirror episodes. Producer Russell McLean said there are between ten and twelve endings, some of which are more vague as endings compared to others, and according to director David Slade, there are a few “golden eggs” endings that may take a long time before viewers figure out how to achieve them. No ending is considered “prescribed” over any other, according to executive producers Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, particularly as they felt some endings were not truly endings in the traditional sense. In most cases, when the viewer reaches an ending, the interactive film gives the player the option to redo a last critical choice as to be able to explore these endings, or they can alternatively view the film’s credits. In some cases, the same segment is reachable in multiple different ways, but will present the viewer with different choices based on the way they reached the segment. In other cases, certain loops guide viewers to a specific narrative regardless of the choices they make. Some endings may become impossible to reach based on choices made by the viewer, unless they opt to restart the film. This action will erase all stored information about which options they had selected while watching the episode on that device.Analysis – The term “bandersnatch” originates from a fictional creature created by Lewis Carroll, which appear in his 1870s poems “Jabberwocky” and “The Hunting of the Snark“. The film makes several allusions to Carroll’s works. Part of Butler’s motivation is to find his stuffed rabbit toy which leads him to discover deeper secrets, comparable to Alice‘s quest to find the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Ritman and his girlfriend Kitty lead Butler into a psychedelic experience in their flat, correlating to the Mad Hatter‘s tea party from the same story, with Kitty’s appearance even similar to that of the Hatter. At one point, Butler travels through a mirror, or literally following the action suggested by the title of Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. The design of the Pax is similar to Carroll’s own drawing of the Bandersnatch.
The “bandersnatch” term also relates to Bandersnatch, a planned video game by Imagine Software. One of several expensive “megagames” which Imagine Software worked on, Bandersnatch was never released as the company went bankrupt in 1984. Imagine’s closure was widely publicised as the events leading to it occurred at the time the BBC were featuring the company in its 1984 “Commercial Breaks” documentary series, and had cascading effects on the video game development industry in the United Kingdom. As an allusion, the film opens on 9 July 1984, the day Imagine was closed, and the cover of Crash with this news is featured in the film. The video game was mentioned in an Easter egg in series three episode “Playtest“, on the front cover of a magazine which is briefly shown onscreen. Additionally, the story shares elements of the works of Philip K. Dick, who frequently wrote on alternate realities and timelines. The Davies character is an allusion to Dick, who had frequently used recreational drugs throughout his life, and at one point attempted to kill his wife. Dick’s work Ubik is visually referenced in the film. Brooker also compares the story to the 1993 comedy fantasy Groundhog Day, about a character who re-lives the same day repeatedly. Some of the themes of lack of free will, monitoring, and control, as well as the 1984 setting, led to comparisons to George Orwell‘s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Bandersnatch has elements of comedy, horror, pathos, science fiction and a 1980s period piece. David Griffin of IGN compares it to the adventure video game series The Walking Dead, whose first instalment was released in 2012, and the 2018 adventure game Detroit: Become Human. At one point, Thakur mentions that Butler’s game has no need to type in “get lamp”, which is the first necessary command that the player must use in the first text adventure game, Colossal Cave Adventure, and the title of a documentary about the onset of interactive fiction. (wiki)