Black Mirror: Man Against Fire

Spoilers for Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 5 follow

Not much to say about this episode except that it’s another ep built on a flimsy foundation that undermines the drama of the critical choice made by the protagonist at the end.

In this case, it turns out that brain implants in the heads of soldiers make them see undesirable humans as alien invaders called Cockroaches. Soldiers go out day after day and use high tech weapons to eliminate the unarmed cockroach threat.

But one soldier’s implant fails and he finally sees that these “aliens” are actually just humans who have been singled out for elimination because they have undesirable DNA.

As we learn more about our DNA, the topic of Eugenics (improving the race by eliminating undesirable characteristics) will continue to come up both in real life and in fiction. But that’s not an argument presented by this episode. With Eugenics already in progress on a large scale, someone’s already made that decision.

The problem is the way in which they’ve chose to eliminate these undesirable elements in the gene pool: mass murder by the armed forces. This is an extremely far fetched idea as even the 19th and 20th century early proponents of Eugenics didn’t think about wholesale slaughter when the much more humane and less balls-to-the-walls crazy idea of sterilization was easier, more hygienic and humane.

Robert Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy even posited a society in which the punishment for crimes was to snip that branch of the evolutionary tree. Depending on the severity of the crime, one’s entire family (parents and siblings and sometimes even broader along the tree) could be sterilized to keep these undesirable tendencies from continuing into the future.

This works great if you subscribe to the view that all crime is 100% DNA based, but that’s a stupid idea and research has shown again and again that there is always some mix of nature and nurture to yield a certain outcome. Also, you never know what positive attributes you’re eliminating just to remove on negative.

In any case, there’s nothing new on the subject in this episode and the ending is pointlessly ambiguous.

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