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Recap / Black Mirror: USS Callister

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Series Four
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Nanette: This is a dream. ... It has to be.
Walton: It's more like an eternal waking nightmare, from which there is no escape.

Capt. Robert Daly of Space Fleet presides over his crew with wisdom and courage as he battles the enemies of peace and progress across the galaxy. When a new recruit comes aboard, she soon finds that Daly is not the virtuous captain he first appears and that she is trapped in a deadly game with only one rule: serve Daly's every whim, or face unspeakable consequences.

Starring Jesse Plemons as Captain Daly and Cristin Milioti as Lieutenant Cole.

Trailer here.


Tropes related to USS Callister:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: It doesn't make sense that harvested DNA can create fully sentient clones in Infinity that come outfitted with feelings and memories, and which can move and act independently of Daly's player character, rather than have them be simple and non-sentient AIs that can mindlessly do his bidding while still giving him the benefit of torturing his disliked coworkers, but it works for the episode's premise.
  • Accidental Misnaming: When Nanette is first introduced to the USS Callister, she asks if it's based on the "Space Thing" show that Daly likes. He looks uncomfortable when correcting her, but smiles because she's obviously unfamiliar. Later when she gets it wrong again and it's heavily implied to be a deliberate misname, he is not so accommodating.
  • Adult Fear:
    • At the heart of it, the plot is about a man with a serious abusive streak, and what he'd do to anyone that he feels can't fight back, or what he will do to somebody that tries.
    • The computer Nanette has to blackmail her real-life counterpart with nude photos to get her to help steal back the crew's DNA, and real Nanette has no idea who's doing the blackmailing.
    • The way Daly was able to break Walton was by murdering the copy of his child right in front of him. Sure, it's not his real son, but the fact that Tommy has all his memories and full consciousness makes it painfully real, as when he screams for his dad to help him.
    • The episode shows how easy it is to obtain genetic material from anyone. While in real life it's impossible to access personal memories from it like Daly does, there's plenty of sensitive information that can be extracted from one's DNA, which can be dangerous if it ends up in the wrong hands.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Justified. Just like in the original Star Trek universe, the planets Daly and his crew beam down to are conveniently suitable for human life and don't require them to wear spacesuits.
  • Alternate Personality Punishment: Daly creates innocent copies of his coworkers to torment them for perceived slights.
  • And I Must Scream: So many examples:
    • Daly enacts the literal version on digital Nanette, removing her face so that she can only scream through her missing mouth. Just in case you missed the episode is a wholesale homage to the original I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, with Daly channeling AM as the malevolent God creating hell for his hated subjects.
    • Those transferred to the virtual world cannot fall unconscious (including sleep), die (unless Daly kills them himself), or copulate. Even seemingly impossible things to hold consciousness through, such as being disintegrated by engine thrusters, will not end their suffering.
    • Those who misbehave badly enough are turned by Daly into Arachnajax, huge insectoid-like creatures who are forced to endure all of the above in addition to being stuck in monstrous bodies. They are also dumped on empty planets, meaning that they have to suffer alone. At the end of the episode, Shania is transformed back by the removal of the Space Fleet mod, but those left behind on the planets are looking at Cessation of Existence at best.
    • May apply to the ending, where Daly is unable to escape the deleted game, though it's not stated what happens if his body expires.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Nanette knows that Daly has kidnapped her and tortured her friends, but what ultimately makes her want to beat his slimy guts is the fact that he took away her genitals. It's not exactly a light crime (it was painless, but still horrible and a major violation), but it's not nearly as serious as the others.
    • Among all the other horrific tortures, one of the things the crew hate Daly for is that he removed their ability to defecate along with their genitals and anus. They don't actually need to anymore of course, but even that simple act of biology would have been a relief.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The Fake Action Prologue is shot in 4:3, deliberately making it look like an old science fiction show. The rest of the episode is shot in 16:9.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Justified because this is a game obstacle.
  • Authority in Name Only: Daly is the company's CTO, but Nanette is alone in treating him like a boss.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Invoked by Daly. The digital clones in the Space Fleet mod have no genitals or anus because Space Fleet is a "wholesome universe". They all become anatomically correct again once they are reborn in Infinity.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Both Shania and Nanette are dressed in 1960s Bridge Bunny outfits that show most of their midsections, but not their navels.
  • Batman Gambit: Digital Nanette's plan involves manipulating Daly's ego and self-image to create an opportunity for the crew to escape the mod while he's distracted role-playing his favorite Space Fleet tropes. Daly falls right into it.
  • Between My Legs: Digital Walton sheds his pants and the camera frames Digital Nanette between them. He does so to reveal that the clones don't have genitals.
  • Billions of Buttons: The panels on the bridge of the USS Callister are adorned with plenty of buttons to match Space Fleet's old-timey futuristic appearance. When Daly barks an order that Nanette has no idea how to follow, Lowry mentions that it's all for aesthetic.
    Lowry: Just press any button, they all do exactly the same thing.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Early on, Daly takes a hit at Netflix, and the show's move to the platform, by saying he has the VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray versions of his favourite TV show and snarks that it doesn't matter since "everything's on Netflix now".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Robert Daly is trapped in his own mod, which is later erased, presumably rendering him brain-dead. If he is indeed dead, it might inflict a terrible toll on the real Nanette (as she truly admired Daly and didn't know about the digital crew's plans). However, the digital clones end up in the updated Infinity game. Moreover, despite not being able to return to the real world, they are having a much better life than living in Daly's mod. Also, the untold number of other digital-clone slaves that weren't so lucky to be transported to Infinity were presumably erased along with the mod, but at least their suffering is over.
  • Blackmail:
    • The digital copy of Nanette blackmails the real Nanette to go along with their plan for freeing them with some X-rated photos in her cloud account (since, as a digital copy, she knows the password).
    • Daly forces Walton into submission by threatening to kills his son's digital copy over and over.
  • The Blank: Daly does this to Nanette, and can do much worse at any time. This is a reference to "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" and a possible Shout-Out to both movie version of "It's a Good Life" and the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Charlie X", where a woman's face is also removed by a misanthropic Manchild with godlike powers.
  • Blofeld Ploy: When Digital Nanette is able to send a message to real Nanette which tips Daly off and has him screaming at the crew, she steps forward to take the blame for it. Daly is about to inflict a punishment until Digital Lowry steps in, begging Daly to take it easy because Nanette is new. He spares Nanette, but turns Lowry into a monster.
  • Blue Is Heroic: An early sign that Nanette and Walton are the heroes is their blue shirts, especially when the crew shirt colours don't have anything to do with their role.
  • Body Horror: What happens to Shania and other victims, who are turned into Arachnajax.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The episode ends with Nanette looking right at the camera and smiling.
  • Broken Pedestal: Nanette is a huge fan of Daly's, thinking he's the best coder ever—it's the reason she took the job at Callister Inc. in the first place. Needless to say, digital Nanette gets her shiny image of him shattered big time.
  • Call-Back:
    • The virtual reality technology in this episode is very similar to the ones in "Playtest" and "San Junipero."
    • The way the clones get real Nanette to break into Daly's house is essentially a copy of the plot of "Shut Up and Dance", albeit from the perspective of the hacker, and slightly more sympathetic to the blackmailers in this case.
    • The digital clones are like the cookies in the Christmas special "White Christmas", mainly for being sentient, not initially knowing they're not their original selves and being entirely at the mercy of their creator.
    • While gaming, the user's iris turns blank à la the technologies in "The Entire History of You" and "Men Against Fire."
  • The Cameo: Both Kirsten Dunst and Aaron Paul appear as cameos in the episode, with Dunst being a Freeze-Frame Bonus and Paul voicing Gamer691. Dunst and Paul worked with Jesse Plemons in Fargo and Breaking Bad, respectively.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is the crew's goal, to escape the living hell of the game, and going into a wormhole which represents the update patch will do it. However, since Daly can just copy them again, they blackmail the original Nanette into stealing his DNA samples too. It turns out they are left alive and free.
    Nanette: We would cease to exist, that's true. But we'd be free. We'd be ... FREE.
  • Character Shilling:
    • Forcibly invoked by Daly, who under the threat of inflicting more suffering upon them, makes his captives constantly sing his praises whenever he comes up with or excutes a plan, no matter how clichéd or uncreative it is, much to their chagrin.
    • Done by Nanette at the office as she repeatedly praises Daly's coding skills.
  • Christmas Episode: The climax takes place at Christmas, though it's not especially relevant besides making the experiences of the crew (and Daly's probably real-life death) that much worse. There's also the fact that "Silent Night" is very appropriately playing in the background when Daly's mod of the game is being deleted, and continues over to seeing him in reality right after. The fact that it's Christmas also makes what happened to Daly more horrifying, as Callister Inc. was on a ten-day Christmas break and it's implied that no one really cares about Daly outside of work, meaning that no one will notice that he's gone for at least ten days and he will die.
  • Christmas Rushed: Callister, Inc. doing this In-Universe with the new patch of Infinity gives important details about several things, including why Daly thinks that Walton treats him badly, that Daly's real personality being so weak that he can't enforce the deadline on his direct subordinates, and also is used as more significantly plot-worthy in that it basically screws Daly within his mod at the end.
  • Clones Are People, Too: A dark example with digital clones. At first, it seems like the digital crew in Daly's Space Fleet Infinity mod are hollow projections of their real-world counterparts. However, we then see them act with realistic fear when Daly is choking Walton for a mistake, then find out 100% when Nanette is scanned that they're fully aware of their situation. Daly uses the fact that they basically ARE their real-world counterparts (just digital) to take his frustrations out on them.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The two planets visited in the episode are "Rannoch B" and "Skillane IV", names of the characters Iain Rannoch and Victoria Skillane from "White Bear."
    • Daly drinks "Raiman's" branded-flavoured milk. Raiman is the name of Stripe's squadmate in "Men Against Fire", who mentions that her family owns a farm.
    • A poster for the SaitoGemu video game Skinned Alive, last seen in "Playtest," is seen in Daly's apartment.
    • Daly orders takeout from Fences Pizza, a company that later also appears in "Crocodile."
    • Elena is seen using the dating app on her phone that uses The System algorithm from "Hang the DJ."
  • Corralled Cosmos: It seems like the asteroid belt is in its place to create an effective barrier between the universe that is to be explored in Daly's mod and where the updates happen, to very literally prevent travel into an Infinite universe .
  • Could Say It, But...: An unusual example. During their last confrontation, Walton tells Daly that he feels like he should say that he's sorry for the way he exploited and insulted Daly in the real world ... and then clarifies that he feels like he should say that, but he's not going to, because after all that Daly has done to him he's not the least bit sorry anymore.
  • Cruel Mercy: When Daly shoots him, Valdack asks to Get It Over With. Daly says that killing in cold blood is against the Space Fleet code, but he didn't kill him because he is another digital clone and it would free him from his "And I Must Scream" state.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: A rare aversion for this series. A few moments after the spaceship crew finally escape through the black hole and realize they're free from Daly's torment, their bodies are complete again and they can freely roam the Infinity universe, they run into another player, "Gamer691", who asks them to pay him if they don't want to be destroyed. Given how they just recently got out of a standalone simulation the viewer assumes they most likely have no means to pay and will be destroyed, turning their escape into merely a Hope Spot. Instead, they simply resume control of the ship and fly away, leaving Gamer691 to his own; the only cruel twist being the crew may be free of Daly, but they are not quite free from annoying nerds with god complexes just yet. However, none of those nerds are capable of even a fraction of the cruelty Daly exhibited and the crew can just fly away from them.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of Video Games as power fantasy. How much of a monster would a person have to be to inflict Video Game Cruelty Potential on video game characters who are smart enough to pass the Turing Test?
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The show's parody of Star Trek at first deconstructs it by making the central captain figure an embittered, privileged toxic fan using the show and its trapping to fulfill his petty revenge and power fantasies. Then it switches the perspective to Nanette, a new "recruit" into said fantasy, who does everything in her might to escape and by the end of the episode, earns by the merit of her wits, dedication and Team Mom tendencies the capitancy of the USS Callister, effectively reconstructing the type of character usually associated with the captain of various Star Trek vessels.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Watching the beginning of the episode, you could be forgiven for thinking Daly is the focus and we are meant to empathize with his plight as another sad sack pining for a girl he lacks the nerve to approach and bullied by his peers. Once the digital version of Nanette awakens, it becomes obvious she is the real protagonist, and Daly is the monster she and the crew must overcome.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: Infinity and Daly's Space Fleet mod both uses a technology that allows a deeper level of immersion, similar to two other episodes of the previous season.
  • Denser and Wackier: This is undoubtedly one of the more comedic episodes of Black Mirror after "Nosedive".
  • Despair Event Horizon: James Walton was the first digital clone, and he resisted having his will broken no matter what Daly did to him. He finally gives in when he's Forced to Watch his son's digital clone get thrown out the airlock, with the promise of yet even more if he steps out of line.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In addition to Walton, who was the first victim over stealing Daly's brainchild from him, Robert also punishes those who don't give him the respect he feels entitled to by turning them into digital slaves for his own amusement:
    • Putting Kabir in is especially cruel as Kabir, unlike the rest of the Space Fleet crew, was never mean to Daly and seemed to respect him as a boss, even asking his permission before going ahead and updating the game. Yet Daly still put him in as he once reset admin permissions for 14 minutes, which mildly annoyed Daly enough to eternally torture him.
    • He also puts in Nanette for no reason at all: she's always nice to him, and actually admires him, while at the same time not being attracted to him. Then, when the digital Nanette understandably has a Freak Out on realizing her situation and calls out Daly for the violation of privacy, he removes her face.
    • Elena was apparently put in the game for "insufficient smiling" (and possibly for making him ask for permission to enter his own office). The thing is, Elena doesn't really smile at anyone, just naturally having an Emotionless Girl disposition, and is simply bad at her job. So Daly essentially put her in the game, torments her, and made her blue because he simply didn't like her face.
    • Poor Packer was put into the torture game because he innocently made Daly the wrong sandwich once, even though he makes coffee and sandwiches for all his colleagues.
  • Distract and Disarm: Parodied. Daly and his crew are held at gunpoint by Valdack. Daly distracts Valdack by saying "Look! A naked lady!" which... works (Valdack asks "where?"), and enables him to attack back and disarm Valdack, who begs for death. In fact, this is because Valdack is another captive clone and he is neither capable of nor interested in hurting anybody. The absurdity of the premise is to show Daly's petty control of the clones and his obsession with remaking tropes from Space Fleet.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • Daly trips and falls over Valdack's gym bag in the office because he was too busy ogling Lowry to watch where he was going.
    • Also invoked in the simulation by Daly against Valdack, who has no choice but to play along.
  • Dominance Through Furniture: In the second gaming session in the episode, Daly throttles clone Walton half to death, then forces him to kneel on the floor while Daly props his boots on top of him - and Walton's reaction indicates that he's done this before. In the process, Daly illustrates both his power over the virtual setting and the fact that his shy exterior is just a mask for a Psychopathic Manchild.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Even though Space Fleet, like the Federation from Star Trek that it is a clear Expy of, is, by Daly's own admission, intended to embody all that is good and noble in the universe, Daly never recognizes the dissonance between the ideal organization he's supposed to represent in the game and the loathsome reality of what he's doing to the other characters. He even goes out of his way to lecture the others on not understanding the series at one point, compounding the irony.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Digital Nanette needs to sit down when she learns about where she is and what Daly is doing. She refuses initially, and after the first few bombs are unloaded on her, but eventually has to be lifted onto one.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The crew survives their attempted suicide and is left with an entire virtual galaxy to explore. Though blunted a bit as the final minutes of the episode show they're not entirely out of having to deal with entitled Jerkass gamers, but at least now they can just leave and move to the next area.
  • Easter Egg: The ultimate fate of survivors and their ship, the USS Callister, is being an easter egg inside the Infinity MMO game - an NPC ship named and modeled after an old, in-universe sci-fi TV series. Gamer 691 probably didn't even realised that yet, adding to how out of depth he is.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: After everything he did, Daly did not (yet) go to the levels of low of his prototype AM, considering sexual abuse and bloody torture of the crew something that has no place is his mod, and at least having the decency to kill Tommy after he's done, which is a luxury not allowed to adult victims. Not that it's of any consolation to them.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: A downplayed example. When the USS Callister is hit by enemy fire in the prologue, there is smoke coming from the control panels.
  • Expy: While some of the characters are relatively original, there are numerous Star Trek: The Original Series expies given that Space Fleet is a homage to the Trek franchise.
    • Valdack is clearly based on Khan Noonien Singh from "Space Seed" and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
    • Lieutenant Lowry is heavily based on Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, being a near-perfect stand-in before being turned into a monster.
    • Helmsman Packer, an intern in the real world, is the stand-in for Ensign Pavel Chekov.
    • Captain Daly speaks like Captain James T. Kirk and has his hairstyle from the 1966–1969 series. (Jesse Plemons reportedly had a vocal coach assigned to him to help him emulate William Shatner's voice.)
    • Daly is basically a Badass Normal Anthony from The Twilight Zone S3 E73 "It's a Good Life". They even bear a slight resemblance to each other.
  • Fake Action Prologue: The opening action scene on board the USS Callister turns out to be a simulation.
  • Fantastic Fragility: For some reason, Daly's Reality Warper powers inside the simulation is limited in range. This flaw is exploited by the crew who manage to get out of his grip while the game is on pause. This is possibly due to Daly's attention to detail. He's obsessed with making everything as "realistic" as possible, even going so far as to realistically program what happens to a body in space, so he's created self-imposed limitations for immersion's sake.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Any of the clones due to how cruelly Daly treats them.
  • First-Episode Twist: The twist that Callister is a virtual reality game is revealed only four minutes in.
  • Flashy Teleportation: Characters glow golden during transportation.
  • Forced to Watch: Walton when Robert has Walton's son sucked into deep space through an airlock, with his body decompressing and freezing.
  • For the Evulz: The digital copies of people could easily be blank slates who play along with Daly fine. Even if DNA contains memories in this story, Daly is a God-tier programmer who could have wiped those memories clean. That every new copy of someone thinks they're a real person and has to be "broken" to cooperate when they don't want to implies Daly savors breaking people in this fashion.
    • Confirmed when he changes Lowry into an Arachnajax and responds to Nanette's horror with the line, "You know what makes me happy? The look on your face right now."
  • For Want of a Nail: If Daly hadn't been distracted by Walton flirting with Nanette, he wouldn't have unintentionally authorized the update patch to be delayed until Christmas Eve, giving the crew of the Callister enough time to plot a way to escape.
  • Freak Out: Digital Nanette understandably has one when she realizes the gist of the situation. She runs off and tries to find an exit, banging at the doors until Daly transports her back to the control room.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In every scene she's shown, real Elena is wearing teal lacquer on her fingernails. It's the same shade as the skintone of her digital, space-babe copy.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Walton says this outright when he admits that he probably is part of why Daly is so angry and bitter — and then points out that Daly still murdered a clone of his son purely to get him to cooperate, so "fuck you to death!"
  • Funny Background Event:
    • When the game is paused, the Arachnajax monster is seen nodding her head and blinking in frustration, shortly before the reveal that she is one of the victims as well (Gillian from Marketing).
    • When Daly turns Lowry into an Arachnajax and has her escorted off the bridge, she visibly bumps her head on the elevator door frame due to her inhuman size. Might double as a Shout-Out to the famous filming mishap in A New Hope where the same happened to a stormtrooper.
    • Right before the end of the episode when the crew break through into the online version of the game and their character models update, Helmsman Packer can be seen checking his trousers for genitals and grinning at what he finds. Even better — he and Lowry then smirk at each other.
  • Game Mod: In-universe. Daly has modified the Infinity MMO he developed so that he can play it offline and as the captain of the ship from his favourite TV show.
  • Genetic Memory: The digital copies of those in Daly's Space Fleet mod of Infinity are created from DNA, rather than tech that can copy the brains/memories of their originals like we've seen before. Despite this, the copies somehow retain the memories and personalities of their originals.
  • Genre Deconstruction: In almost any other solidly sci-fi movie, the Daly character would be written as the sympathetic underdog whose boss stole his dream creation from him — but this episode instead shows how a character like Daly can be just as bad as the people who have tormented him. This is explicitly referenced when Walton tells Daly that he feels like he "should" apologize for how he treated him, but then refuses because Daly threw his son out of an airlock.
    Walton: I should say that, but you threw my son out of an airlock, so fuck you to death.
  • Get It Over With: Valdack asks for this after Daly defeats him, who refuses. It also becomes the goal of the crew to release themselves after they find out it's possible (usually they can't die unless Daly allows this). However, they are saved at the end.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Nanette's photo album is apparently ridiculously sexy, so much so that the crewmates can't even decide which one would be best to be used as blackmail material. That said, she's not nude in any of the pictures the viewer gets to see.
    Walton: Really, any of the last nine would do.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Taken to the logical extremes and deconstructed. Daly in his mod makes himself the handsome, heroic captain, but also deliberately tortures his "crew" and forces them to idolize him on threat of torture. Nanette is having none of it, especially since she's not physically attracted to Daly and she didn't ask to be copied into his mod.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Walton volunteers to go down to the chamber and fix the jet fader manually before Daly catches them and/or the vortex closes, knowing that it'll come on immediately and he'll be incinerated as it flames. Even worse is the fact that they can't die, so he knows he'll suffer through deadly pain for a while rather than go quickly.
  • Homage:
    • The fictional television series Space Fleet is this to Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • The crew's functional blue uniforms in the updated game is a nod to Star Trek: Enterprise.
    • The bright, white Lens Flare aesthetic of the live game matches the look of Star Trek (2009).
    • The episode inverts the premise of Harlan Ellison trope maker for the And I Must Scream. In that story a mad AI torments a group of humans, whereas in the episode a mad human torments a group of AIs.
    • The face removal scene also channels a memorable moment from the original Star Trek episode Charlie X, where villanous God-child Charlie Evans uses his powers to do something almost identical to one of the USS Enterprise crew.
  • Hope Spot: When Nanette manages to send a "help" message to herself, it looks like this could bring Daly's simulation down, but things take a different turn. The real Nanette thinks it's a spambot after showing it to Daly, and doesn't open the attachment because it could be a virus.
  • I Die Free: The digital clones' plan is to reach the wormhole that represents the virtual environment's connection to the internet in order to be deleted by the firewall. Subverted in that the firewall only deletes the Space Fleet mod, leaving them free to roam the Infinity universe.
  • I Have the High Ground: Valdack makes his presence known to the crew from a clifftop.
  • I Have Your Wife: A variant. Daly not only has access to all the digital crew's DNA (to make new clones even if they die), he has DNA from Walton's son Tommy.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The entire crew, but especially Walton, are prone to go for a drink once Daly is out of sight. It's one of the only things they can do to cope. Walton has even grown accustomed to drinking alien phlegm and has been hitting the bar for so long that he didn't even think about how the extraterrestrial choices (which apparently included actual poison) would freak out Nanette.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Played for Drama. This is how Daly expects all the female Space Fleet members to act, putting them in revealing clothes, chastely kissing them without tongue, expecting them to adore and desire him. However, he's completely freaked out and lost when Nanette takes off some of her clothes and gets in the pool to distract him.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: All the Americans in the cast have starred in shows/films where Jesse Plemons or Cristin Milioti were main characters before, adding to the postmodern romp of the episode. Plemons and Milioti were both in Fargo, Jimmi Simpson was in How I Met Your Mother with Milioti, Billy Magnussen was in The Brass Teapot with Milioti and both Bridge of Spies and Game Night with Plemons, Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad with Plemons (where he was a larger character) and Kirsten Dunst in Fargo, too.
  • Ironic Echo: In the opening scene, Daly suggests piloting the ship into a gas cluster, which Walton warns would be suicide. The AI characters later end up deliberately piloting themselves into a wormhole in an attempt to be deleted.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: In Infinity, Shania attempts to help Nanette after Daly has discovered and foiled Nanette's plan to escape (and take the others with her). Daly is threatening to torture Nanette horrifically, but instead, after Shania tries to help, he turns her into a giant bug.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The real Walton gets angry at Daly for not having the update ready in time, but Daly had promised to get it done. Also, Walton isn't super-angry, just firm about how they need to keep the customers happy. He's just doing his job, while Daly in this instance isn't.
  • Just in Time: The crew manages to get to the wormhole just before the update window closes, saving them but trapping Daly as he follows seconds later after it's closed.
  • Karmic Death: Daly's rogue video game and his actions lead to him having his mind trapped in the oblivion of a deleted video game and probably dying in the real world, thanks to an update.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: When Daly accepts the pizza Nanette ordered, he shuts the door in the deliveryman's face without tipping, promptly activating a "do not disturb" sign. Come the end of the episode, once his mind is trapped in the game, the sign ensures that, since his company has just gone on a 10-day holiday break, no one will find his body before he dies.
    • One could also interpret his selection of victims as this. His coworkers at least did wrong him in some way in real life, and even if it's Disproportionate Retribution, Daly did torment them for something. It's when he duplicates Tommy (a mere kid whose only crime is having a jerk of a dad) and Nanette (who's not only done nothing to Daly, but idolized him) that he loses all sympathy he had and his payback actually comes for him.
  • Lens Flare: Almost omnipresent in the original, unmodded version of Infinity, continuing the Star Trek (2009) parallel.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • It isn't the first episode not to end in soul-crushing tragedy, but moments of humor are peppered through the episode, somewhat unusually.
    • And while what happens to the digital clones is certainly disturbing, the only actual human who is harmed in the episode is Daly.
  • Logical Latecomer: Nanette in the space crew points out immediately how wrong the situation is. Daly responds by removing her face and suffocating her.
  • Longing Look: Daly cannot take his eyes off Nanette at the office, which is noted by Lowry as him getting "stare-y." This takes a darker turn as Lowry reveals he put her in the game for calling him out on his staring.
  • Look Behind You: Daly manages to distract Valdack this way. Though it's suggested that 'Valdack', or the poor worker with the gym bag playing him, knows the drill and lets himself get distracted as he's playing along with Daly's often-immature story.
    Daly: Over there! A naked lady!
    • Despite Valdack playing along, he also breaks character for a second and says "Oh, really?" He's so bored of the endless monotony that even the possibility of seeing a naked woman, no matter how likely it is to be false, makes him excited.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The video games in this universe, or at least those made by Callister, seem to be exclusively highly-immersive virtual reality that uses this kind of technology.
  • Low Clearance: Packer navigates the USS Callister through a narrow gap between two asteroids that immediately collide behind them. Notably, the special effects of this event are lower-quality than the rest of the episode, making it a greater homage to the cheesy close calls of old action sci-fi.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Nanette calls Daly's sci-fi simulation "Space Force bullshit". He reacts in a Fandom-Enraging Misconception way that it's "Space Fleet" — like angry nerd fandom gatekeepers who get offended at people who don't remember if they like Star Trek or Star Wars (that is, assuming they like only one of them rather than neither or both).
  • Matrix Raining Code: This can be seen on Daly's monitor at his office and at home, though it looks more like a screensaver than anything, possibly being a little in-universe allusion by Daly to by-then "historic" coding.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The crew's mutiny is a result of Daly constantly mistreating them. With that said, Nanette has to convince them because Daly had broken them so thoroughly.
  • Narm: Invoked. The digital clones have hammy, over-the-top reactions to Daly's "adventures" in the Space Fleet mod. After all, they are just his office co-workers, and being made to act under threat of force besides.
  • Neck Lift: Daly does this to Walton in the game when he wants to humiliate Walton for doubting him. This is when the digital clones visibly change from looking like lifeless copies to terrified of their captor.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Zigzagged. Averted with Nanette, a computer programmer, who is shown to have sexy pictures and boyfriends. Played very straight in Daly's case (who is also noted to be the most intellectual member of Callister), although he also has many other potential reasons to be a virgin still.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Daly putting Nanette into the game ends up proving his undoing. Unlike the others, who have been conditioned into playing along with his sadistic games, Nanette is a Plucky Girl and Logical Latecomer. She also refuses to go down passively and resorts to dirty means to help everyone escape.
    • Daly pushing back the deadline on the update patch to Christmas Eve allows the crew enough time to conspire against him. In addition, the real Shania Lowry mentions that the office is closed for ten days. If the digital crew had trapped him in his own mod at any other time, there's good odds Daly would be missed quickly and potentially rescued. The delayed deadline dramatically increases the odds that his physical body will die before anyone even realizes his mind is trapped in a broken mod.
  • Nobody Poops: In true Star Trek fashion, and actually justified. Daly has invoked the trope, by taking away the digital clones' genitals and anuses to make sure his mod is "wholesome" like Space Fleet.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup:
    • Defied by Daly. The crew tells digital Nanette that even if they escape and die, then Daly could still use their DNA to bring them Back from the Dead and do worse. So she has to get the real Nanette to steal the DNA, to prevent that scenario from happening.
    • He also has a backup disc for his mod, allowing him to get back in the game faster than the crew expected.
    • However, in the end, this is what comes to bite him in the arse: consumed by his god complex, he did not install anything to wake him up or at least call for help if the immersion goes wrong. Maybe he did not expect for his mod to be deleted by the server, yes, but what if anything as simple as power outage, a programming error or falling asleep made him trapped inside the simulation?
  • No Sense of Distance: The update wormhole was a "parsec" away, over three light-years, an absurd distance for a Stern Chase by a shuttle. The navigation screen showing a shortcut through an asteroid field is also badly scaled: asteroid fields are not multiple light-years across. Justified since this is a computer game.note 
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: An interesting case: the "leads" here are copies of characters in the real world; they break out of Robert Daly's mod of Infinity and into a way better game (the real one with an update applied). However, the real Nanette is probably paranoid as hell on account of "the blackmailers" who probably have her naked photos to use again anytime. If Robert Daly dies, she will probably be devastated (she idolized him), along with investigated since she called a pizza to his house and left prints getting the digital copies' DNA. This is not to mention the potential damage to the company (since Robert Daly's genius was the backbone there). All in all, the digital crew's win is good only for them, although there is a possibility that Daly's actions can still be exposed.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: The wormhole is actually a representation of the Infinity game content update.
  • Painful Transformation: Shania seems to be in pain when changing into an Arachnajax.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Defied by Nanette. The password of her PhotoCloud account is "Y998gb7TY&4", which, as Dudani points out, is a secure choice. However, it doesn't help real life Nanette's case, since her digital copy obviously knows it as well.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: Walton volunteers to manually kick-start the engines after the Plot-Driven Breakdown.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Right before the USS Callister exits the Asteroid Thicket, it brushes an asteroid and suffers engine failure. Cue Walton's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Power Fantasy: Daly's Space Fleet mod is his way of coping with the humiliation he experiences every day at the hands of his colleagues. If Daly had grown a backbone and stood up for himself at work (after all, he was the man responsible for the company's success), he probably wouldn't feel the need to clone his colleagues digitally order to torture them in his own virtual reality.
  • Procedural Generation: In-universe, Infinity is an infinite procedurally generated universe.
  • Red Shirt: This wouldn't be a Star Trek homage without it:
    • Shania wears the red outfit and is the first one to suffer Daly's wrath on-screen. She gets better, however.
    • Daly himself wears a red jacket and gets stuck in a potentially inescapable situation.
  • Retraux: The Fake Action Prologue sampling the exploits of the Callister crew is shown in grainy, low-quality video that would not be out of place when Star Trek first came out.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: This is part of Robert Daly's revenge on his co-workers. He uses their DNA to create online avatars of them that he tortures, but he also forces them to act out mini-plots that involve them, especially his hated CEO, being made to look like fools and/or enemies that repeatedly praise him.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The real life Shania Lowry suspects that something is not right about Robert Daly, so she warns the real life Nanette Cole to be careful around him. Lowry obviously has no idea what Daly does outside of work (if she did, there would be no trash in the office), but she is correct in believing him to be unsettling.
  • Saved for the Sequel: When Captain Daly destroys the enemy ship, he lets Valdack escape so he can finish him off in his next mission.
  • Screen Shake: Happens when the USS Callister is hit in the opening scene, accompanied by sparks and smoke coming from the control panels.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: The USS Callister is shiny and white; par for the course of all Star Trek Federation ships.
  • Shout-Out: Besides Star Trek, Charlie Brooker has said in interviews that Toy Story, of all things, has been an inspiration for this episode, with the digital clones being a very dark take of the toys that only gain life when the kid is absent. The shot with the crew holding hands when hurtling toward possible oblivion may be even a specific shout-out to Toy Story 3's famous scene.
  • Show Some Leg: In Infinity, the digital Nanette invokes fanservice by stripping down to her underwear and inviting Daly to a bath with her in a nearby lake, in order to distract him long enough for the others to enact their escape plan. While the first example only results in some ridicule for Daly, the second one plays an important role in his ultimate downfall.
  • Smooch of Victory: Invoked. After a successful mission, Daly urges all the female members of the crew to kiss him as a reward for "saving the day". Of course, it is very creepy, but it also hints at Daly's arrested development; the kisses are closed mouth and the digital copies have no tongues or genitals, so the smooches are really just power plays for him.
  • Space Is Cold: Justified since it's in a game which has been programmed for what people expect, not what is real.
    • Walton tells Nanette the story about his son being Thrown Out the Airlock and freezing to death.
      Walton: Have you ever seen an unsuited body compress in space? They freeze ... and crack like a porcelain doll.
    • This is also why Nanette rolls her eyes at the "damsels in mini-skirts" on Daly's Space Fleet poster, as she believes that outfit would more realistically be chilly in space.
  • Space Is Noisy: In the opening scene, there is an impact sound when the USS Callister's proton bolts hit the enemy ship.
  • Space Isolation Horror: What Daly's mind experiences at the end, and theoretically will exist in forever unable to leave or die. You can also tell how the Infinity crew were scared of this happening, albeit with much greater freedom, by how relieved they are at hearing Gamer 691.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: This is a Galaxy Quest with horror elements.
  • Spiritual Successor: To two The Twilight Zone episodes. The antagonist is a blonde Reality Warper with the mind of a child like in "It's a Good Life." Also, the main characters are sentient non-humans like in "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."
  • Stacked Characters Poster: The episode's poster looks like an homage to the Star Wars posters with all the characters stacked into a column with the villain right in the center.
  • Stylistic Suck: The horrible acting of the digital-copy crew within the 'storylines' of Daly's mod. They are not happy to be there, and it shows. Even the Netflix subtitles make this clear, as when Walton is crying about how they're "all gonna die" when confronted by Valdack, the subtitles say "[fake sobbing]".
  • Take That!: Daly is an obvious shot at current entitled nerd culture, with many taking their newfound social acceptance to the point of being just as bad as the people who used to torment them.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Daly threw a digital copy of Walton's son Tommy out the airlock to break Walton's spirit and force him to comply with Daly's orders.
  • Trapped in Another World: What Nanette in the simulation goes through. Except that she and the others cannot return to the real world because they are copies of their real world selves.
  • Vehicle Title: The titular "USS Callister" is the ship piloted by Daly et al. in his simulation. It's named after the same ship from Space Fleet, and is also the name of Daly and Walton's company.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: If Daly ever had any other use for the Space Fleet mod, he now seems to use it largely to punish people that frustrate him in reality. Deconstructed by showing that this isn't much different than a Cosmic Horror Story if the characters are sentient.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • We never learn what happened to Gillian from marketing, nor any of the other workers Lowry mentions are littered throughout the in-game universe. Since they weren't on the ship, they presumably didn't escape. One can only hope they were deleted when Daly's mod collapsed.
    • We also don't see Walton after the ship passes through the wormhole, which leaves his fate uncertain: did he survive along with the rest of the crew (and if so, is he still horribly burned?), or was he deleted?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Invoked and played for drama throughout. Daly forces everyone on USS Callister to comply with his 1970s-era fantasy of the Space Fleet's Narm Charm world against their will. Nanette tries to trick him throughout more modern means, but ultimately succeeds by invoking Daly's favourite tropes.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: When Daly tasks everyone on the bridge, the last one in line is Packer whom he tells to get coffee. Serves as a punishment for Packer for not getting him coffee at the office. With that said, that's the mildest thing Daly does.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: It's heavily implied that the real Daly is going to die from his mind being trapped in a deleted video game. The crew show elation at this, and though he imprisoned and tortured them, he's still a person.
    • This or he simply dies from dehydration in his chair during the 10-day break from work.