25 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Dropped as a surprise release over Christmas last year, Black Mirror’s latest one-off special, Bandersnatch, made instant waves with viewers.
Or should that, rather, be players? Telling the story of a young man who develops a choose-your-own-adventure video game, Bandersnatch is itself a choose-your-own-adventure special episode of the show.
It’s no ordinary episode – where previously it’s all been down to the writers and directors, Bandersnatch asks Black Mirror fans to create their own misery from a series of options. Devoid of a typical structure, it’s instead up to the viewer to uncover all of the episode’s secrets.
Here are 25 secrets about Black Mirror: Bandersnatch that you might not have discovered yet.
25. There are five different possible endings
One thing that has proven divisive with viewers of Bandersnatch is the revelation that the episode isn’t as open-ended as originally promised.
Though the viewer makes decisions that impact the story, the episode forces the viewer down a set narrative track.
Which isn’t to say that Bandersnatch is entirely the same experience for everyone. For starters, there are five whole different endings.
One of these has Stefan being imprisoned for murdering his father, while another sees his completed game rated 5/5 stars on television.
A more poignant ending sees Stefan, as a young boy, catch the train with his mother, which promptly kills them both.
The most meta ending of the lot, meanwhile, finds ‘Stefan’ jumping out of his therapist’s office and onto a film set, where it’s revealed Stefan is an actor starring in a new Black Mirror episode.
24. One of these endings leads to a playable ZX Spectrum game
If you make all the right choices, Bandersnatch doesn’t just end with one of its five set endings.
In one of the scenes you’ll potentially stumble across, Stefan hears what sounds like white noise on his cassette player.
Avid Black Mirror fans have discovered that these meaningless sounds actually lead to a playable easter egg.
Running the sounds through a ZX Spectrum emulator reveals a code, in which there’s a clickable link.
Follow the link in the code, and you’ll be guided to a piece of downloadable content on the episode’s Tuckersoft website.
Holy shit guys for those who watched Black Mirror Bandersnatch, the game Colin was making is an actual playable game ?!! That’s like the neatest Easter egg ever ! pic.twitter.com/pL5AWJ4NPl
— Kevin✋ (@TakodaTiger) January 1, 2019
Nohzdyve, one of the games featured in Bandersnatch, will then be available for you to play at your leisure.
23. Bandersnatch was referenced in another Black Mirror episode years ago
Nohzdyve, as any Black Mirror fan will know, is an obvious reference to the 2016 episode Nosedive.
In a way, including this easter egg is just a way of Bandersnatch repaying the favour to season three.
That’s because, three years and two seasons of Black Mirror ago, Charlie Brooker was already referencing his choose-your-own-adventure special.
In one scene near the beginning of Playtest, also from 2016, the gaming magazine Edge makes a cameo in the apartment of Cooper’s Tinder date.
Anybody who can zoom in far enough will see a familiar-sounding game is reviewed inside the mag.
In the Black Mirror episode PLAYTEST from Season 3, the fake Edge Magazine mentions Bandersnatch on the cover.
— David Chen (@davechensky) January 1, 2019
Either this is some coincidence, or Bandersnatch was already in the development stages a whole three years ago.
22. Another easter egg allows you to rate your friends in a Nosedive-style app
Considering all the effort put into Bandersnatch, it’s understandable that season five of Black Mirror was pushed back to give the creators space.
It’s not just the complications of Bandersnatch’s choose-your-own-adventure plot or the weeks of shooting required to make such an idea reality.
There’s also the additional content, like the Nozhdyve video game and another side-feature most fans won’t have even realised is there.
Nosedive, the season three episode set in a future where star ratings decide a person’s social standing, now has its own app.
Head to the Tuckersoft website and you’ll be able to access it like so:
BLACK MIRROR EASTER EGG
Tuckersoft website – https://t.co/myF2w4OpT9
— Gee (@geetakesphotos) December 29, 2018
There, you’ll be able to rate friends and even find out your own star rating, Nosedive-style.
21. Bandersnatch was a real video game that was never completed
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s video game Bandersnatch, based on the invented book Bandersnatch, is entirely fictional.
There is, however, a real Bandersnatch video game. Or there would have been, if the production team had ever finished it.
In 1984, developers Imagine Software began hyping an apparently revolutionary upcoming action-adventure game called Bandersnatch.
In a case of life imitating art, the developers never completed Bandersnatch, which like the Black Mirror version was intended for the ZX Spectrum.
Unfortunately, Imagine Software went bankrupt before it could complete the ambitious game.
The remains of Bandersnatch were sold to Psygnosis, who eventually released a rushed version called Brataccas to poor reviews.
20. There may still be endings that nobody has figured out how to access yet
Despite internet detectives furiously trying to map out all of the episode’s many permutations, it seems not all of Bandersnatch has been uncovered by audiences yet.
According to David Slade, there are scenes that not even the creators of Bandersnatch know how to reach.
Slade told the Hollywood Reporter: “There are scenes that some people just will never see, and we had to make sure that we were OK with that.”
Slade went on to admit that the team had “actually shot a scene that we can’t access.”
This scene might just be a dream sequence featuring Jerome F Davies, one which prompted Netflix to step in and help out with a handy tweet.
In the sequence, which plays after you pick up the Butler family photo twice, Davies appears in Stefan’s dream, urging him to go back and pick up his book.
19. Playtest could have been the first multi-choice Black Mirror episode
Before Netflix even proposed Bandersnatch to Charlie Brooker, he had a multi-choice vision for another episode altogether.
Appropriately, considering it like Bandersnatch was video game-themed, Playtest was almost Black Mirror’s first choose-your-own-adventure episode.
At the end of Playtest, protagonist Cooper experiences several ‘endings’.
First, Cooper experiences the end of the virtual horror game, then leaves his own dream, revealing he actually died in the white room before the game began.
At first, Brooker considered making the choice of different Playtest endings available to viewers.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Brooker “had imagined doing it in “nightmare mode,” where a different version would play once viewers reached the end” – but he ultimately decided against it.
18. Will Poulter was bullied off social media by viewers who hated the episode
Will Poulter, an actor best known for award-winning films such as The Revenant and Detroit, appears in Bandersnatch as the paranoid, eccentric Colin Ritman.
Poulter’s a hell of a get for a series that hasn’t exactly spared on the acting talent. Still, it seems not every Black Mirror fan appreciated Poulter’s presence.
After Bandersnatch’s release, ‘fans’ who were disappointed with the latest Black Mirror turned to Poulter with more than just constructive criticism.
Ultimately, the comments directed at Poulter on social media were so harsh that the actor was driven off of Twitter.
In a statement, Poulter wrote: “In the interest of my mental health I feel the time has come to change my relationship with social media.”
With love… pic.twitter.com/JSm7oNLTsV
— Will Poulter (@PoulterWill) January 2, 2019
Referencing Bandersnatch, Poulter also added: “This is not the end. Consider it an alternative path.”
17. There were pop-up Tuckersoft stores
The Bandersnatch franchising doesn’t end at the Tuckersoft website, playable Nohzdyve game and new Nosedive app.
For those lucky enough to live near selected cities around the time of the episode’s release, Bandersnatch pop-up stores sprang up to tie in.
Called Tuckersoft’s Newsagent and Games, the 80s-style shops sold records, Black Mirror episode comics and posters for Tuckersoft games.
There were also retro video games in the store that appeared to be entirely playable.
Unfortunately for Black Mirror fans outside of Blighty, the stores were limited to the UK, with Tuckersoft shops only available in Birmingham and London.
Not that it mattered much: the stores were ultimately just for show, and remained closed to the public – a sign reading ‘Be right back’ hung constantly on the shopfront before the stores eventually disappeared again.
16. There are a trillion different versions of the story
As long as subscribers keep watching/playing in order to collect all the different versions, Netflix is going to get its money out of Bandersnatch and then some.
That’s because the episode offers literally billions of unique versions of itself.
In total, according to the episode’s creators, there are over a trillion different ways to play Bandersnatch.
Players can get through the episode as quickly as 40 minutes, or take much longer. Viewing time averages out at roughly 90 minutes.
Not all changes in your decision-making lead to mindblowingly different versions of the episode, however.
Changing your cereal choice at the beginning of the episode will only make an ad for your chosen cereal appear on television later on.
15. There’s more than five hours of footage to watch
Bandersnatch was such an enormous undertaking that Charlie Brooker had to temporarily put Black Mirror season five on hold.
Making a groundbreaking special episode that allows the viewer to explore one of multiple potential storylines will do that.
In order to make Bandersnatch a reality, Brooker and director David Slade had to shoot mountains of ‘playable’ footage.
In the end, Brooker and Slade between them created 312 minutes of TV, or more than five hours.
To put it in perspective, that’s more footage than in the first two seasons of Black Mirror combined.
Considering the last two seasons came in under six hours apiece, it makes sense that Brooker would have put season 5 on pause.
14. Bandersnatch’s news reports reveal new info about other Black Mirror episodes
Since the series moved on over to Netflix from Channel 4, Black Mirror has transformed from a bunch of vaguely related episodes to being its own interconnected universe.
In Bandersnatch, this is more evident than ever, with even the news in the 80s-set episode predicting the future seen in other editions of Black Mirror.
At one point, we’re shown a newspaper from 1984, which features some stories familiar to Black Mirror fans alongside a report on Stefan’s meltdown.
The news of the day is: software is being developed to match a person with their perfect partner (Hang the DJ); a third season of Space Fleet has begun to air (USS Callister); and the new series of Hot Shot talent show has started (Fifteen Million Merits).
There’s also a contemporary news report, where the ticker at the bottom of the screen references several Black Mirror episodes.
Apparently, The National Anthem’s Michael Callow has won Celebrity Bake Off and prototypes of Hated In The Nation’s pollinator drone have just been ‘unveiled’.
Also on the ticker: the cast of Space Fleet has reunited at the Emmys, The Waldo Moment’s Liam Monroe ‘enters Buckingham Palace’ and Crocodile’s memory recall device is in the testing phase.
13. Producers say Bandersnatch is a ‘Charlie Brooker biopic’
Though Black Mirror is largely all the work of Charlie Brooker’s pessimistic brain, it’d be a stretch to call much of it ‘personal’.
The Black Mirror world is set in a series of bleak alternate realities, often with a sci-fi angle – hardly the stuff of autobiography.
According to producers, Bandersnatch may be different. Annabel Jones called Bandersnatch “[Brooker’s] world”.
For the episode, the English 1980s youth that Brooker remembered was painstakingly recreated, down to visiting 59 different houses to find the right one for Stefan.
According to Wired: “Brooker was raised in Oxfordshire, not London, but like Stefan he had a ZX Spectrum and was obsessed with games and trying to work out how to code”.
Producer Russell McClean even went as far as to call Bandersnatch a ‘Charlie Brooker biopic’.
12. San Junipero and Black Museum’s sinister tech company also exists in Bandersnatch
In terms of references to other instalments of Black Mirror, Bandersnatch rivals even the easter egg-filled season four episode Black Museum.
One of Black Mirror’s most popular episodes, San Junipero, gets the easter egg treatment in Bandersnatch.
In the near future-set San Junipero, people can live their lives in a simulated reality called San Junipero – and it seems this is the same world that Bandersnatch is heading for too.
As eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out, the building Stefan heads to for therapy, St Juniper’s, sounds suspiciously like San Junipero.
It would seem that Tuckersoft is also a precursor to TCKR Systems, which features in both San Junipero and Black Museum.
And the name of Stefan’s therapist? Dr R Haynes, potentially an ancestor of Black Museum’s Rolo Haynes, who also works at St Juniper’s Hospital in New York City.
11. The ‘actor’ who portrays Jerome F Davies is a real-life Stefan
Of all its many mysterious characters, one of Bandersnatch’s most intriguing is Jerome F Davies.
In the Black Mirror world, Davies is the science fiction novelist who wrote Bandersnatch, the choose-your-own-adventure novel on which Stefan’s game is based.
Davies, who we discover later went insane post-novel and killed his wife, is largely glimpsed in Bandersnatch in photographs and old footage stills.
Interestingly, the actor playing the character, Jeff Minter, had never acted before – namely because he isn’t an actor at all.
Minter, like a real-life Stefan, is a British indie video game developer who made his name in the 1980s, designing ZX Spectrum games when he was still in his early 20s.
Now 56, Minter luckily didn’t go the way of Stefan or Jerome F Davies, and continues to (peacefully) work on video games today.
10. The Black Mirror: White Bear symbol is hidden throughout Bandersnatch
It may be six-years-old and from back before Black Mirror had even arrived on Netflix, but 2013’s White Bear is all over Bandersnatch.
The season two episode, one of the series’ most notoriously harrowing, features a repeating downward fork symbol.
The symbol also appears not unlike a white Tetris shape, and with Bandersnatch being all about video gaming, the same symbol appropriately appears throughout the episode.
It appears most prominently on Stefan’s computer after he asks for a ‘sign’, and in the prison ending as a glyph that Stefan draws on the wall.
Viewers are less likely to notice, however, that the windows in Stefan’s house are also the same shape.
The White Bear logo also appears in the background of several shots, on posters, in magazines and on a billboard that Stefan passes on the bus on his way to Tuckersoft.
9. There’s a Black Mirror: Metalhead easter egg you might have missed
It’s not just Playtest and Nohzdyve that Bandersnatch has links to; a whole host of other Black Mirror episodes are referenced in the latest episode.
Nohzdyve aside, one of Tuckersoft’s biggest games, Metl Hedd, sounds suspiciously like an episode from Black Mirror’s fourth season.
In the Tuckersoft offices, we see that the Metl Hedd poster depicts a familiar black-and-white image of a canine-like robot.
At one point in Bandersnatch, Stefan’s dad says that their dog “will be the death of us”, prior to the dog digging up the body later (if you choose that path, that is).
They’re all obvious references to the monochromatic season four episode Metalhead, in which Maxine Peake is chased across UK wastes by robot ‘dogs’.
Not coincidentally, Bandersnatch was directed by David Slade, who also helmed Metalhead.
8. Tuckersoft’s games are all based on previous Black Mirror episodes
Nohzdyve and Metl Hedd both get starring roles in Bandersnatch, but those are far from the only games in the Tuckersoft catalogue.
In fact, if you got chance to head down to one of Bandersnatch’s pop-up stores, you’ll have seen the company had a new game on release: Valdack’s Revenge.
Head on over to the Tuckersoft website, meanwhile, and you’ll see even more titles, like Pig in a Poke, Roachbusters and Rolling Road.
This being the Black Mirror-verse, these all make reference to previous Black Mirror episodes.
Valdack is of course the Star Fleet antagonist seen in USS Callister, while ‘roachbusters’ is what you might call the soldiers of season three’s Men Against Fire.
Cycling game Rolling Road is likely a nod to Fifteen Million Merits’ merit bikes, while Pig in a Poke could only refer to The National Anthem’s pig-poking PM Michael Callow.
7. It wasn’t Netflix’s first choose-your-own-adventure special
Though Bandersnatch is undoubtedly groundbreaking television, it isn’t the first of its kind.
Interactive entertainment has actually been around since the 1967 movie Kinoautomat allowed audiences to vote for the direction of the film at nine different points.
Even in terms of interactive entertainment on Netflix, though, Black Mirror was beaten to the punch by another series.
The first interactive Netflix show actually arrived in 2017, in the form of the animated Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale.
A spin-off of the Shrek-adjacent franchise Puss in Boots, Puss in Book, like Bandersnatch, gives viewers the chance to influence the story.
Where Bandersnatch is the first interactive Netflix entertainment made for adults, Puss in Book was intended for a much younger audience.
6. Netflix had to build new software just to run Bandersnatch
Much as the episode plays very much like classic Black Mirror, it wasn’t Charlie Brooker and his longtime producer Annabel Jones who pitched Bandersnatch to Netflix.
It was rather the other way around – Netflix wanted a choose-your-own-adventure story for adults, and they turned to Brooker and Jones to make it work.
At first, Brooker turned the idea down, thinking the concept too complicated.
Then, seeing the potential of the idea, Brooker changed his mind – which is when things became complicated for Netflix.
According to Wired, Netflix had to “work out a way of simultaneously loading multiple versions of each scene so viewers could follow different narrative paths without encountering the dreaded buffering circle”.
This meant building all new software, with the end-goal for Bandersnatch being “that nobody watching knows how migraine-inducingly complex the system that powers it is”.
5. It took eight months to create the episode
Evidently, considering all the many hours of footage and the web of storylines that make up Bandersnatch, the episode wasn’t put together overnight.
All of the Bandersnatch footage was shot in 35 days over a shoot lasting seven weeks.
In comparison, Metalhead, which like Bandersnatch was shot by David Slade, shot in 12 days – or a third of the Bandersnatch shoot.
The actual pre-production of the episode, with all the requisite planning, actually took much longer, however.
In all, Bandersnatch had a gestation period of eight months, which culminated with the creation of a 170-page script.
According to Charlie Brooker, making Bandersnatch felt like the equivalent of making four Black Mirror episodes at once.
4. You can watch Bandersnatch as a regular episode – as long as you don’t make any selections
With Bandersnatch, Charlie Brooker uses a choose-your-own-adventure format to give the idea of free will.
While the viewer/player has options, ultimately Bandersnatch guides its audience in a few set directions.
Those who want to experience Bandersnatch like a regular episode of Black Mirror can do so – as long as they don’t make any selections at all.
The version that plays out if the viewer approaches the episode this way is Charlie Brooker’s preferred take – a Bandersnatch director’s cut, if you will.
Simply hold off from making any choices, and Bandersnatch will guide you through to the episode’s meta Netflix ending.
So there you have it: Charlie Brooker’s definitive version of Bandersnatch is the one that ends with Stefan realising he’s been in a TV show all along.
3. The Tuckersoft logo is based on Sega’s
If you’re a Black Mirror fan, it’s no coincidence that Tuckersoft seems familiar.
Not only does Tuckersoft seem to be the forebear of TCKR Systems, the name of the company was teased back in 2016.
In the San Junipero simulation, the main bar is called Tucker’s – you can see the name in lights out front or behind the bar when Yorkie meets Kelly.
Tuckersoft should be familiar for another reason, however, which might have more to do with the company aesthetic.
Down to the colour and type, the Tuckersoft logo bears an undeniable resemblance to that of Sega.
Like Tuckersoft, Sega experienced a great deal of success in the 1980s when it got into the burgeoning home video game business.
2. Groundhog Day and Philip K Dick inspired the episode
Bandersnatch may be one of the most original episodes of television ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of influences and inspirations.
According to Brooker, one film that inspired Bandersnatch was the time-warp comedy Groundhog Day.
Says Brooker, Bandersnatch’s constant “cycling around” is reminiscent of the Bill Murray classic.
The special is also influenced by Philip K Dick, whose sci-fi novel Ubik is referenced in a poster on Colin’s wall.
The acid trip speech Colin gives to Stefan in his apartment touches on Dick’s thoughts on spirituality and the nature of reality.
Another more indirect reference point, going on the 1984 setting and all Stefan’s paranoia regarding lack of free will, is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
1. Lewis Carroll invented the Bandersnatch
Even if you’ve made it through every permutation of Bandersnatch, you might feel one question remains unanswered: what, exactly, is a Bandersnatch?
For that, we turn to the world of literature, and to Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll.
It was Carroll who first dreamt up a monster called a Bandersnatch, though his probably looked a little different from the Black Mirror version.
Carroll’s first mention of the Bandersnatch comes in Alice in Wonderland sequel Through the Looking-Glass.
The creature also appears in Carroll’s 1884 poem The Hunting of the Snark, where it’s described in detail.
Carroll’s Bandersnatch, unlike Black Mirror’s, is said to have a long extending neck, ‘frumious’ jaws and a reputation for being utterly savage.