Black Mirror’s fourth season episode “Black Museum” is set in a tourable collection of technological artifacts with horrible backstories. As shady proprietor Rolo Haynes puts it, “if it did something bad — chances are it’s in here.” And for longtime series viewers, some of those backstories should seem very familiar. Besides the three items that play specific roles in the mini-anthology stories of “Black Museum,” there are props from episodes spanning the series’s entire run.
Black Mirror stories frequently reference each other. This season’s “Arkangel” shows a scene from last season’s “Men Against Fire,” and the song “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” can be heard in multiple episodes. But the Black Museum is the largest single indicator that Black Mirror constitutes a coherent timeline of high-tech disasters, like the world’s most misanthropic cinematic universe. (Or at least that the show’s set designers like in-jokes.) The episode adds yet another layer of tragedy to an already-dark series: this world has apparently watched ridiculously sinister inventions backfire again and again, to the point that there’s an entire museum based around the phenomenon. And still, tech innovators in Black Mirror never stop producing horrors and disasters.
But not every episode features a crime worth commemorating. Here’s what we’ve spotted so far in the Black Museum.
Spoilers for all seasons of Black Mirror ahead, including end spoilers for season 4.
The DNA scanner from “USS Callister”
This sophisticated DNA scanner (which looks a lot like a cheap 3D printer) belonged to sadistic game developer Robert Daly, the antagonist of this season’s debut episode, “USS Callister.” Daly used it to imprison virtual copies of his coworkers in a Star Trek-inspired video game mod. The lollipop next to it holds saliva from his boss’s child, whom Daly imported and “murdered” in front of his father.
I’m not sure which laws forbid turning people into sentient role-playing game NPCs, and I’m not sure exactly how this scanner made its way to the Black Museum. The episode ended with Daly comatose and his little universe deleted, while his digital prisoners roam the larger multiplayer game he developed. But whatever Haynes knows about the device’s backstory, the scanner is one of the few exhibits based around a new category of crime, not just a high-tech weapon.
The Arkangel tablet from “Arkangel”
At the other end of the scale, this broken device is a low-tech assault weapon from the fourth-season episode “Arkangel,” where a teenager named Sara uses it to bludgeon her overprotective mother Marie. It’s also the control center for an Arkangel — an implant that lets parents live stream the view from their child’s eyes, as well as filter out frightening or “inappropriate” images.
Beyond being an Easter egg, the Arkangel tablet feels like something that actually would turn up in a true-crime museum. It hits all the right sensationalist buttons: a violent parent-child rivalry, a scary (and eventually banned) piece of technology, and literal spatters of blood.
An Autonomous Drone Insect from “Hated in the Nation”
The ADI looks like a honeybee, but is actually a tiny solar-powered robot designed for pollinating flowers. Because this is Black Mirror, it can also murder people by burrowing into their brains after tracking them down with secret facial-recognition capabilities, and can be hijacked to target the victims of Twitter shaming campaigns.
This is a bit of a stretch for a schlocky roadside attraction, since “Hated in the Nation” ends with the ADIs killing nearly 400,000 people — it’s like putting Lizzie Borden’s axe next to fragments of a detonated atomic bomb. But “Black Museum” clearly establishes that Rolo Haynes is effectively a sociopath, so maybe he isn’t fazed by their sheer destructive capability.
The masked man from “White Bear”
The masked man appears in the second season episode “White Bear,” where he’s part of an elaborate punishment for a child abductor named Victoria Skillane, whose face can also be seen on a screen in the Black Museum. He threatens Victoria as part of a simulated apocalyptic scenario, after which she has her memory wiped and repeats the whole ordeal again.
Unlike other installations, this isn’t necessarily an original artifact, just a dummy with an iconic mask. And for all we know, the “White Bear Justice Park” — or some similarly grisly tourist attraction — is still running.
The bathtub from “Crocodile” and Carlton Bloom from “The National Anthem”
You can see two references in this shot. The bathtub in the foreground is where a woman named Mia — protagonist of this season’s episode “Crocodile” — committed one of a string of murders, attempting to cover up an accidental killing in a world where memories can be forcibly extracted. In the background, there’s artist Carlton Bloom, who developed a complex plot to humiliate the prime minister in Black Mirror’s first episode.
Incidentally, the events of “White Bear,” “The National Anthem,” and “Hated in the Nation” all take place in the UK, and “Crocodile” is set in Iceland. So Haynes’ museum — a small and seemingly obscure roadside attraction in the southwestern US — is commendably international and cosmopolitan.
The creators of Black Mirror
Besides the Easter eggs linking episodes of Black Mirror together, the Black Museum has at least one clear metatextual nod: you’ll catch production designer Joel Collins in a mugshot next to the thermostat.
There’s another, more nebulous possible reference, too: on the other side of the thermostat, is a wall of unlabeled plaster faces. My colleague Lizzie Plaugic pointed out that in the middle row, the second face from the left bears a reasonable resemblance to series creator Charlie Brooker — enough to suggest that we’re looking at some of the team behind Black Mirror. After all, they’re the people who orchestrated every single atrocity in the Black Museum.
In this Storystream
Black Mirror: breaking down the series' technological nightmares
- Black Mirror’s Arkangel misses out on so many story opportunities
- Black Mirror’s Black Museum episode is packed with Easter eggs
- In Black Museum, Black Mirror finally finds a single person to blame for technology