Black Mirror creator talks the real-world inspiration for 'Metalhead'

This post contains story details for Black Mirror season 4, episode 5.

One of the reasons Black Mirror's vision of a techno-dystopic future works for so many people might be because its creator, Charlie Brooker, has seen (and been frightened by) the exact same things as the viewers. Everybody looks up from their phone after the occasional half-hour trance wondering if this thing is any good for them—Brooker just goes and writes scripts about it.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Brooker sat down to chat about some of the inspirations for the fourth season's fifth episode, "Metalhead", revealing that there's a pretty good reason that episode's killer robot dogs look so familiar.

"It was from watching Boston Dynamics videos," Brooker said, referring to the engineering and design company responsible for those faceless, four-legged robots that pop up every once in a while in viral videos to remind you that the future is here, and it seriously looks like it could kill you. 

"With those videos, there's something very creepy watching them where they get knocked over, and they look sort of pathetic laying there, but then they slowly manage to get back up," Brooker said.

According to Brooker, the episode, a mostly dialogue-free ridealong of one woman's last stand against a band of nigh-unstoppable robots in the Scottish Moors, was also inspired by the 2013 movie All is Lost, which starred Robert Redford as a man trying to survive alone on the open sea.

Brooker also revealed that the sparse, black-and-white episode originally had a more complex story, with the robot pursuing the protagonists not being automated, but rather remote-controlled by an enemy on another continent. 

"Originally in my first draft, we also showed a human operator operating the dog robot from across the ocean at his house," Brooker said. "There was a bit I liked where he leaves the [control unit] while the robot is watching her while she's up in the tree and he goes and gives his kids a bath. But it felt a bit weird and too on-the-nose. It kind of felt superfluous. We deliberately pared it back and did a very simple story."

All in all, we'd say the decision to keep things vague was pretty effective, and probably more realistic. When the robots do rise and start stabbing people, they're probably not going to spend too much time telling anybody why.

"Metalhead" was written by Brooker and directed by David Slade, who previously produced stark TV with Hannibal and American Gods and directed the unsettling Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night

All episodes of Black Mirror are streaming on Netflix now.