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What is a Bandersnatch and What Does It Tells Us About Black Mirror?

The feeding frenzy that is everyone’s interest in season 5 of Netflix’s Black Mirror started anew this month with the “leaked” title of one of the episodes.  While the tweet in question has since been deleted the name and questions remain.  What is a Bandersnatch?  What does that title mean to the greater dystopian hyper-technological world of Black Mirror?  Bandersnatch is rumored to be released December 28th.  Just in time for the holiday slugfest that is the week between Christmas and New Years.  I have spent many a post-Christmas day(or three) glued to my couch with a snuggly blanket.  While the uber-bleak Black Mirror does not usually shout holiday spirit, it sure does lure me in for a good binge. 

 Photo Courtesy of Netflix

First, lets all have our sophomoric moment and giggle a little at that name.  Oh, so many jokes…..  Okay now that that is out of way, what the heck is a Bandersnatch?

The Bandersnatch is a category of massive imaginary(I hope) beasts first written about in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.  They make subsequent appearances in The Hunting of the Snark and Alice in Wonderland.  The Bandy is ferocious, strong, clever and furious.  This is not a cute dude like the white rabbit or even an enigmatic but somehow charming Cheshire Cat but an honest to god monster alongside the terrifying Jabberwocky.  None of the works describe the beast in as much detail as some of the more beloved characters but a picture does come into focus when combining all the descriptors together.

They have long muscular necks, yellow eyes, snapping jaws full of sharp teeth, poisonous pointed claws, and are incredibly fast.  In Carroll’s works they are always unpredictable and menacing.  Additional descriptions from Anna Matlack Richards A New Alice in the Old Wonderland give them long legs and tails and the ability to fly.  The Bandersnatch is a type of creature as opposed to being a singular being.  There could be thousands of them living in the world behind the looking glass.  In post 1960’s fiction by Larry Niven and Roger Zelazny the Bandersnatch is segmented like a millipede, a heavy-gravity being that is often seen hissing, drooling persistently and always pissed off.  Although if you encountered one that did not appear furious they may be harmless.  In film and television adaptations the Bandersnatch can be helpful and can speak.  In the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland the Bandersnatch is an ally of Alice that is furry and enslaved by the evil Red Queen.  A prominent figure of the Final Fantasy game series delivers yet another example.  Even Resident Evil gets in the act with the Bandy being the Big Boss that must be defeated in Code Veronica.

Most interestingly, of all the instances of the creatures presence, there is one computational complexity theory called NP-Complete and one unpublished game that could provide the biggest clues to the episode’s plot.  The Bandersnatch in NP complete theory is a particularly hard problem that can not be solved by a computer algorithm.  This is a very simplistic definition for some seriously higher level math.  NP-Hard generally means there is a solution in polynomial time where NP-Complete means no solution in polynomial time currently exists utilizing either Deterministic or Non Deterministic Turing Machines.  The biggest takeaway is, if one problem has NP-Complete status than all problems would.  With the comp-sci heavy theories and the inclusion of the father of AI theory this could easily be some sort of reference to time travel, The AI start date known commonly as The Singularity or the God equation.  All of these things could make for some really dark and interesting hard science additions to Black Mirror.  

The unpublished game Bandersnatch was developed in the early 80’s by Imagine Software in Liverpool.  The game was never released under that name and the company went out of business in 1984 under mounting debt.  In the UK this was a spectacularly public failure.  The Thames Television did a documentary on one of Imagine’s developers and owners Mark Butler.  The game was slated to be the flagship of the company and would include role playing components and computer enhancing add-ons that would enhance your computational power.  The game was later released under the name Brataccas by Psygnosis for Atari ST, Amiga, and Macintosh formats in 1986.  It is a science fiction action game with roll play elements.  With the promised choose your own adventure style story ever present(no pun intended) in everyone’s mind this could be the most obvious clue yet.  It was hinted earlier this year that one of the episodes would be somehow interactive and what better way to do that than through a RPG video game themed episode.  Charlie Booker, the writer of Black Mirror has at least heard of this game as he has tweeted out a promotional picture of the original game.  It’s also a really eerie bit of creepdom that the year the company went under was 1984, as in George Orwell.

 Photo Courtesy of Netflix

With so many possibilities and all of them being fertile ground for Black Mirror fodder an entire season instead of just one episode could have been developed on this name alone.  The series has always put their dark side forward but has shown a real penchant for the more fantastical and unexpected themes like San Junipero and Hang the DJ.  Whether they give us one Bandersnatch or a whole herd of titans I will be sure to tune in December 28th.  Netflix you crazy leviathan you, no matter how many How It Ends you give me I always come back to be scared and depressed by Black Mirror.  Charge your phones and boot up those computers because one things for sure regardless how many times we are warned about technology we never pump the brakes, close the app, or turn off devices.  

UPDATE 12/20/2018 1:05

It looks like Bandersnatch could be a full length movie.  The smart reddit user PhoOhThree did some sleuthing around to see its listing on Netflix.