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Charlie Brooker on Hitchhiker’s Guide and other inspirations for Black Mirror

'[It] was the perfect mix of Pythonesque humour and intergalactic road movie.' From Stephen King to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Charlie Brooker shares some of the books and TV that have influenced his groundbreaking series, Black Mirror.

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

The granddaddy of all anthology shows: Rod Serling’s allegorical tales are still as powerful today as they were when they first aired over fifty years ago. It was sci-fi / fantasy in appearance, but was really dealing with contemporary concerns such as intolerance, McCarthyism, cold war paranoia and so on. And sometimes it just goes all-out to spook you.

The Year of the Sex Olympics (BBC, 1968)

This was a weird and wonderful satirical one-off TV play written by Nigel Kneale, the genius behind Quatermass (I could also have chosen Quatermass and the Pit, incidentally, as a brilliant piece of sci-fi-horror). The Year of the Sex Olympics is set in a dystopian future in which the population is kept in a state of docile laziness by perpetual exposure to willfully mindless entertainment. Our Fifteen Million Merits episode was heavily influenced by this.
 

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s saga continues with a full-cast dramatisation of Life, the Universe and Everything, the third book in Douglas Adams’s famous ‘trilogy in five parts’

‘The pitch here at Lord’s is blackened, lightly smoking down towards square leg – and two men have just materialised on a Chesterfield sofa...’

And so the scene is set for the Tertiary Phase of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the phenomenon which began life as a BBC radio series and went on to spawn a bestselling series of novels. With this full-cast radio dramatisation, the Guide returns to its original medium with its original cast.

Stranded on prehistoric Earth, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect find escape in the form of a time-travelling sofa. But as eleven homicidal, bat-wielding robots proceed to blow up Lord’s Cricket Ground, it seems that Arthur is far from Home and Dry. In fact, he is not even Home and Vigorously Towelling Himself Off. Soon he is on an explosive quest to save the Universe, equipped with only a rabbit bone, a worn dressing gown, and a spaceship which looks remarkably like an Italian bistro.

Simon Jones returns as Arthur, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Stephen Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android. William Franklyn is the Book, the late Douglas Adams himself appears in the role of Agrajag, and guest stars include Richard Griffiths, Chris Langham, Joanna Lumley and Leslie Phillips.

This extended CD edition features 20 minutes of material not heard on BBC Radio 4.

Duration: 3 hrs 10 mins approx.

On Writing

By Stephen King

One of the best books about writing I can think of. King wrote it while recuperating from an accident that almost killed him; it’s part-memoir, part-how-to guide: really practical, bullshit-free advice from a proper master. A big long pep talk that leaves you itching to hit the keyboard.

On Film-Making

By Alexander Mackendrick

A great companion piece to On Writing. Mackendrick directed Ealing comedies including The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers before crossing the Atlantic to make The Sweet Smell of Success. This book is a truly brilliant overview of the entire process of making films, from conception, to screenplay, to where to place the cameras – the whole shebang. Not enough people have heard of this book. But now you have, so you can run along and bloody well buy it.
 

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