Season 4, episode 1 of “Black Mirror,” “USS Callister,” delves into a masterfully written story that combines psychological horror with science fiction. Toby Haynes’s direction of this episode makes it stand out because of its unique concept and unsettling themes. Although it incorporates contemporary technological fears, it takes cues from beloved science fiction series like “Star Trek.” Jesse Plemons plays Robert Daly, a socially awkward and reclusive tech genius who uses a virtual reality game he created to escape his unpleasant life. The narrative explores his darker sides as well as the fallout from his actions in this virtual world.

The compelling storyline and outstanding acting by the ensemble, especially Plemons and Cristin Milioti, elevate “USS Callister” to the top of the “Black Mirror” series. Despite mixed reviews, it has gained a sizable following due to its originality and the psychological richness of its storytelling. This article breaks down some of the more intricate and complex aspects of the episode, providing a detailed explanation of its ending, themes, and symbols. There are spoilers in this analysis, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you might want to save it for later. Everyone else, please proceed. Have fun reading!

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister Plot Summary & Synopsis:


Do you think virtual reality will ever be as real as our daily lives? If not, this episode will undoubtedly challenge your belief. The story of “USS Callister” focuses on Robert Daly, the CTO of a tech company called Callister Inc. We learn that the company Callister Inc. has made the popular online game “Infinity.” However, Daly doesn’t appear to be the confident and well-liked leader he wishes to be. Furthermore, his coworkers frequently ignore and treat him disrespectfully because he is reserved.

To escape his ordinary life, Daly withdraws into a private game mod where he takes on the role of the strong captain of the USS Callister, a starship that echoes the iconic “Star Trek” design. In this virtual world, Daly rules his team with a godlike authority. Furthermore, they’re digital copies of his actual coworkers.

Setting The Stage

At the story’s beginning, we are introduced to Daly in his virtual world, where he leads the USS Callister with a sense of self-assurance. His team, which consists of digital copies of his colleagues, gives off the impression of being obedient to him and fearful of him. This starkly contrasts Daly’s reputation in the real world, where the same group treats him with indifference or disgust.

Nanette Cole, played by Cristin Milioti, is a new employee at Callister Inc. who happens to catch Daly’s attention one day. Although she is enthusiastic and admires Daly’s work, her initial kindness does not go far enough to change Daly’s circumstances. Instead, Daly creates a digital copy of Nanette and uploads it into his private game, thereby trapping her within his virtual world. This is done in secret.

A Twisted Virtual Reality

As we watch Nanette realize that she is being held in a digital prison, the horror of “USS Callister” begins to take shape. The digital clones in Daly’s game keep the memories and personalities of their real-world counterparts, which makes their suffering feel all too real. As soon as Nanette learns that Daly can manipulate and punish them at will, she is filled with horror.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister
A still from Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister

In the beginning, Nanette makes an effort to reason with Daly. However, it quickly becomes apparent that he takes great pleasure in the power that he holds over his digital squad. In the real world, Daly is unable to achieve the control and respect he seeks, and this power dynamic reflects his desire to achieve these things. To release his frustrations and insecurities, he turns to his virtual reality game.

The Plan To Escape

Nanette decides to devise a plan to escape Daly’s virtual dictatorship, demonstrating both her resiliency and her resourcefulness. She succeeds in persuading the other team members to join her in an elaborate plan to outwit Daly and free themselves from the confines of the game. In the hopes that she will be able to intervene from the outside, their plan is dependent on sending a distress signal to the actual Nanette Cole. As the crew deals with Daly’s virtual world’s dangers, the episode masterfully displays their closeness and resilience. Throughout their journey, they face a multitude of challenges, such as avoiding Daly’s ever-watchful eye and engaging in fights with his digital monsters.

The Showdown

The most exciting part of “USS Callister” is when Daly and the online crew participate in a game of cat-and-mouse. When they successfully send the distress signal, Nanette’s plan reaches its most crucial point. As this is going on, Nanette actually receives the message and, after a while of initial scepticism, decides to investigate. A tense and action-packed sequence takes place in which the digital crew successfully executes their escape plan, which ultimately results in a confrontation with Daly. The members of the crew confront Daly with their newfound bravery, taking advantage of his vulnerabilities and ultimately trapping him in the virtual world that he is responsible for creating.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister Ending Explained:

Did Daly Learn His Lesson?

In the final moments of “USS Callister,” Daly discovers that he is trapped in his own virtual universe, where he no longer has any control over his surroundings. The digital crew is successful in escaping, and they are able to transfer themselves to the primary server of the Infinity game. Once there, they are able to take control of their own destinies. On the other hand, Daly is unable to interact with the outside world because he is unable to leave his modified version of the game.

The end of the episode serves as poetic justice for Daly, who is forced to deal with the repercussions of his actions. While the newly freed team embarks on their own adventures across the vast expanse of the Infinity game, his counterpart in the real world continues to be unaware of the digital torment he is experiencing.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister Themes Explained:

Power and Control

“USS Callister” delves deeply into the various power and control dynamics that are at the heart of the story. To compensate for the fact that he is severely lacking in power in his real life, the protagonist, Robert Daly, builds a virtual world in which he is in complete control. Although Daly is a brilliant CTO, he is socially awkward and is frequently ignored and ridiculed by his colleagues. The narrative of this episode revolves around the stark contrast between his actual helplessness and his virtual reality strength.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister
Another still from Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister

In the virtual world that he controls, Daly assumes the role of a godlike figure, exercising complete authority over the team’s lives without exception. This power display calls attention to the ethical implications that are associated with digital manipulation. Consequently, it raises important questions about how people can abuse advanced technology to exert control over other people, which could result in potential abuses in virtual settings. It is important to note that Daly’s actions serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of untamed authority and the moral responsibilities that come with the creation and management of digital worlds.

Escapism and Reality

In addition, “USS Callister” explores the concept of escapism in its narrative. The virtual world that Daly explores is more than just a pastime for him. It is also his escape from a life in which he feels helpless and unimportant. With the help of this digital fantasy, he is able to rewrite his reality, transforming himself from an introvert who is ignored into a respectable captain. On the other hand, the episode gives the impression that such escapism is associated with significant dangers.

Through the process of completely submerging himself in this artificial reality, Daly is able to blur the line between the virtual and the real. His preoccupation with the game causes him to become dangerously detached from the real world, which ultimately results in the game causing more problems than it provides solutions. The growing reliance that we have on digital entertainment and the potential repercussions that may result from losing ourselves in virtual fantasies are aspects that resonate with this theme.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister – Signs And Symbols:

The Starship USS Callister (USS Callister)

There is more to the starship USS Callister than just a setting. We quickly realise that it represents Daly’s desire to have control and authority over the situation. The starship represents his idealized version of himself in the virtual world. Through this representation, we see how he is a powerful and respected leader. When compared to his real-life personality, in which he is frequently ignored and ridiculed, this presents a striking contrast.

The Digital Clones

The digital clones in “USS Callister” are a representation of the more sinister aspects of technology and the ethical issues that such technology can present. Due to the fact that these clones, which were created without the consent of their real-world counterparts, retain the consciousness and memories of their counterparts, their existence constitutes a form of digital slavery.

The Virtual Reality Console

The virtual reality console in “USS Callister” serves as the portal through which the real world and the virtual world are connected. It is the instrument that enables Daly to break free from ordinary life and exercise authority over his virtual world.

Read More: 6 TV Shows to Watch if you like ‘Black Mirror’ on Netflix


Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Cast of Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister: Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson
Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 1, USS Callister Genre: Sci-Fi/Drama | Runtime: 76 minutes
Where to watch Black Mirror - Season 4

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