Hang the DJ

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"Hang the DJ"
Black Mirror episode
Black Mirror S04E04 - Hang the DJ.png
Promotional poster
Episode no.Series 4
Episode 4
Directed byTim Van Patten
Written byCharlie Brooker
Featured music"Panic" by The Smiths
Original release date29 December 2017 (2017-12-29)
Running time51 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Hang the DJ" is the fourth episode of the fourth series of the British anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by Charlie Brooker and directed by Tim Van Patten. The episode first aired on Netflix, along with the rest of series four, on 29 December 2017.

Amy (Georgina Campbell) and Frank (Joe Cole) live in a walled-off society where people are required to be matched into romantic relationships; all the relationships come with expiration dates that can be revealed if both partners choose. A digital "coach" (voiced by Gina Bramhill) collects the data from the failed relationship and helps them find their "ultimate compatible other".

The episode received critical acclaim for its simple, satisfying storyline and Campbell and Cole's performances.[1] Critics praised the "Tinder-like" online dating service technology explored throughout the episode and its ending. Some compared the episode to the uplifting tone of "San Junipero".[2][3]


Within the walled "System", hundreds of individuals are paired by "Coach", a circular tablet each carry, to have various encounters for a fixed amount of time varying from minutes to years. The System collects data from these encounters to match the user with their "ultimate compatible other" on the user's "pairing day", which it claims has a 99.8% success rate.

Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell), members of the System, are assigned a 12-hour encounter. They have a pleasant dinner date, after which they are taken to a private cabin, where they converse and sleep side by side before parting ways on good terms. Separately, Frank and Amy are paired by Coach with numerous other partners. Neither of them finds these encounters as fulfilling as the prior 12-hour session. When Coach assigns them to have another encounter, they are so delighted that they both agree not to look at Coach to determine how much time they have been assigned. However, Frank becomes anxious and breaks this promise; his dishonesty causes the encounter time to drop from five years to 20 hours. Frank suggests they climb the wall to escape the System, but Amy blames him, and the two part.

Frank pines for Amy through his subsequent matches. Following a string of unrewarding relationships, Amy is told by Coach that her ultimate match has been found, and is given the opportunity to have one farewell meeting of her choosing. Amy quickly selects Frank. Amy and Frank meet the next day, finding they have only 90 seconds. Amy thinks that this must be a test, and that they should rebel against it. As they escape guards and climb the wall, the lights below them go out, revealing that the System was a simulation. They reappear on a virtual plaza with the number 998 above their heads, surrounded by hundreds of other similarly numbered duplicates of themselves. A digital counter announces that they have staged 998 rebellions out of 1000 simulations.

It is revealed that the System and its simulations are all part of an online dating app's matchmaking algorithm, which has projected a 99.8% match for the couple. The real Amy and Frank lock eyes with each other across a bar and smile as the lyrics "Hang the DJ" from the song "Panic" by The Smiths plays in the background. Amy begins to approach Frank.


Whilst series one and two of Black Mirror were shown on Channel 4 in the UK, in September 2015 Netflix commissioned the series for 12 episodes,[4] and in March 2016 it outbid Channel 4 for the rights to distribute the third series, with a bid of $40 million.[5] The 12-episode order was divided into two series of six episodes each.

Conception and writing[edit]

According to Annabel Jones, the series' co-creator, "Hang the DJ" was intended to reflect on the state of dating in the present day and the "general sense of loneliness".[6] The script for the episode was rushed because of its deadline at a busy point in the production cycle.[7]

The first idea for the episode was conceived by series creator and episode writer Charlie Brooker, who conceived of the Coach dating app by analogy with the audio streaming platform Spotify: it determines a "playlist" of relationships that one should have before settling down with a partner.[7][8] It was not obvious what storyline could be developed when the dating app users' experience was predetermined. According to executive producer Annabel Jones, variations upon the idea were considered over several months. The idea was conceived that the app could learn from each relationship. Amy and Frank being driven apart before reuniting was a desired narrative arc, which was able to be fulfilled when the twist of the episode was introduced.[7]

The episode can be seen as a "companion piece" to series three episode "San Junipero", as they have positive tones, in contrast to other Black Mirror episodes. Brooker was concerned about fans disliking the "light and playful comic tone" of the episode and he was initially reluctant to write a happy ending. However, he expected that people would enjoy Amy and Frank's relationship, having seen positive audience reaction to Kelly and Yorkie in "San Junipero". Both episodes reveal in a plot twist that the setting is a simulated reality.[7] One challenge with "Hang the DJ" was to keep this twist unclear until the very end while still providing enough detail to make the viewer aware that the setting is unusual.[6] In one scene, Frank and Amy suggest that the world is simulated, as a "double-bluff" from Brooker.[7]

Another the writers discussed was how long to have the semi-permanent relationship between Amy and Frank last. Brooker said their ultimate decision of five years is "a reasonable amount of time for a serious relationship", but Frank is disappointed to discover this as it means the relationship will end.[9] Frank observing the relationship time caused a structural issue in the script, but the scene was seen as important and so the script was reworked around this idea.[7]

The idea that the "experiment" of the simulation would be run 1000 times simultaneously was one first considered for previous episode "White Christmas". In the episode, a simulated copy of a person confesses to a crime. A person asked whether this would be admissible evidence, to which Brooker replied that the simulation could be repeated, but with the person in a different setting each time, to increase reliability.[7]

Casting and filming[edit]

American director Tim Van Patten directed the episode. Georgina Campbell was cast as Amy and Joe Cole was cast as Frank. The pair did a chemistry test before filming, to check they could build a rapport. Campbell found Amy to be "full to the brim with hope", with a "nervous excitement" about dating.[7]

The setting was based on Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, an expensive holiday area where production designer Joel Collins had visited for a birthday party. Collins described that an "electric milk float" transports people around their cabins and the various clubs and bars. After Collins described this to Brooker, the setting was rewritten—having previously been drafted as tower blocks—to resemble Soho Farmhouse, or a holiday village owned by Center Parcs. The geometric design of the world was Collins' idea, intended to resemble the inside of a mobile phone—where various copper and brass lines are arranged on a green plate. Hexagonal patterns and repeated design motifs are used in the scenery as the setting is an algorithmic simulated world.[7] The interface for the Coach app was first designed by Erica McEwan, a member of the graphics department of the production. Further development and animation was undertaken by Painting Practice.[7]

Some exterior filming took place at Painshill, including the Pairing Day ceremony at a folly in the form of a ruined abbey.

Some exterior filming took place at Painshill, an eighteenth-century landscape park in Surrey. One of the original remaining structures, a folly in the form of a ruined abbey, served as the backdrop for the Pairing Day ceremony scene.[10] In this scene, Amy was to kick Frank, but Campbell's fake kicks looked unrealistic. Van Patten told Campbell to kick Cole for real and she accidentally kicked him hard enough for him to bleed—this was the shot that was used in the episode.[7]

The plot twist is revealed in a scene where the simulated world disassembles pixel by pixel to be replaced by one thousand copies of Frank and Amy in a black void. This was only described vaguely in the script, so the production took inspiration from 2013 science fiction film Under the Skin, according to producer Nick Pitt. The cast were confused about the intention during filming for this ending, particularly the footage taken against green screens of characters looking "meaningfully into the middle distance". When showing initial cuts of the episode to their partners, Jones and Brooker found that they did not understand the ending. To establish that the episode's setting had been a simulation, disembodied voice and text reveal that Amy and Frank had "rebelled" 998 out of 1000 times, leading to a 99.8% match for the pair, and dialogue in the previous restaurant scene was simplified. Additionally, visual effects developments led to characters "dematerialising" by a "graceful leaving of their body" rather than "being broken, squashed or incinerated", according to Pitt.[7]


The instrumental soundtrack for "Hang the DJ" was created by Alex Somers, with two pieces contributed by Sigur Rós.[11]


In May 2017, a Reddit post unofficially announced the names and directors of the six episodes in series 4 of Black Mirror.[12] The first trailer for the series was released by Netflix on 25 August 2017, and contained the six episode titles.[13][14]

Beginning on 24 November 2017, Netflix published a series of posters and trailers for the fourth series of the show, referred to as the "13 Days of Black Mirror".[15] On 6 December, Netflix published a trailer featuring an amalgamation of scenes from the fourth series, which announced that the series would be released on 29 December.[16]


Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
2018 BAFTA Awards Best Single Drama "Hang the DJ" Nominated [17]
Best Actor Joe Cole (Episode: "Hang the DJ") Nominated
BAFTA Craft Awards Writer: Drama Charlie Brooker (Episode: "Hang the DJ") Nominated [18]
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series Georgina Campbell (Episode: "Hang the DJ") Nominated [19]


  1. ^ Gilbert, Sophie. "'Black Mirror': 'Hang the DJ' Explores Dystopian Dating". The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Review: Black Mirror season 4 episode 'Hang The DJ' takes Tinder to the extreme in unexpected ways". The Independent. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  3. ^ "In Black Mirror's bittersweet "Hang the DJ," it's technology versus loneliness". Vox. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  4. ^ Birnbaum, Debra. "'Black Mirror' Lands at Netflix". Variety.
  5. ^ Plunkett, John (29 March 2016). "Netflix deals Channel 4 knockout blow over Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror". The Guardian.
  6. ^ a b Turchiano, Danielle (29 December 2017). "'Black Mirror' Co-Creator Breaks Down Season 4: 'We Want to Be Surprising and Unpredictable'". Variety. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Brooker, Charlie; Jones, Annabel; Arnopp, Jason (November 2018). "Hang the DJ". Inside Black Mirror. New York City: Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 9781984823489.
  8. ^ Strause, Jackie (15 January 2018). "'Black Mirror': Charlie Brooker Reveals Inspiration for "Hang the DJ"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  9. ^ Hibbard, James (2 January 2018). "Black Mirror season 4, your burning questions answered". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  10. ^ Gamp, Joe (30 December 2017). "Where was Black Mirror Hang the DJ filmed? Charlie Brooker's dystopian dating episode is based just outside London". Metro. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  11. ^ Reed, Ryan (10 January 2018). "Hear Sigur Ros' Two New Ambient Songs From 'Black Mirror'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  12. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob (27 May 2017). "Black Mirror season 4 episode titles and directors revealed". The Independent. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  13. ^ Donnelly, Matt (25 August 2017). "'Black Mirror' Season 4: Teaser Trailer, Episode Titles, Directors and Stars Revealed (Video)". TheWrap. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  14. ^ Hooton, Christopher (25 August 2017). "Black Mirror season 4 Netflix trailer teases all six episodes and their titles". The Independent. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  15. ^ Strause, Jackie (27 November 2017). "'Black Mirror': All the Season 4 Details". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  16. ^ White, Peter (6 December 2017). "Netflix Reveals 'Black Mirror' Season 4 Release Date in New Trailer". Decider. New York Post. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Bafta TV Awards 2018". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  18. ^ Allen, Ben (23 April 2018). "Three Girls and Game of Thrones lead Bafta TV Craft Awards 2018". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  19. ^ For the award nominations, see "Voters Are "Sweet" On Queen Sugar". Foundation for the Augmentation of African-Americans in Film. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
    For the award winners, see "Black Reel Awards | Past Winners". Foundation for the Augmentation of African-Americans in Film. Retrieved 8 August 2018.

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