The Waldo Moment
|"The Waldo Moment"|
|Black Mirror episode|
Jamie (Daniel Rigby) in front of a screen depicting Waldo.
|Episode no.||Series 2|
|Directed by||Bryn Higgins|
|Written by||Charlie Brooker|
|Featured music||Original Score by|
|Original air date||25 February 2013|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"The Waldo Moment" is the third and final episode of the second series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker and directed by Bryn Higgins, and first aired on Channel 4 on 25 February 2013. The episode originated in an idea for Nathan Barley, an earlier TV show by Brooker and Chris Morris.
The episode tells the story of Jamie (Daniel Rigby), a failed comedian who is the voice actor and digital puppeteer of a blue cartoon bear named Waldo, who comically interviews politicians and other authority figures in an insulting manner. Jamie's TV channel owner (Jason Flemyng) decides to make Waldo enter the ongoing election to become the town's Member of Parliament, as a way to get public attention; however, the joke takes unexpected proportions. Chloe Pirrie and Tobias Menzies co-star as the candidates representing the Labour and Conservative parties, respectively.
While the episode received moderate reviews on its first broadcast, journalists saw more relevance in the episode following the events of the 2016 United States presidential election.
Jamie Salter (Daniel Rigby) is a failed comedian who performs the voice and movements (via a remote manipulator called a Waldo) of a vulgar, blue cartoon bear named Waldo, who interviews politicians and other authority figures. The interviewees are fooled into thinking the Waldo interviews are for a children's TV programme, when they're actually for a late-night, topical comedy show. Waldo the bear is extremely popular with the British public, and a pilot for his own series is commissioned. Despite the character's success, Jamie is depressed and unsatisfied with his life.
During a brainstorming session for the Waldo pilot, TV channel owner Jack Napier (Jason Flemyng), who owns the rights to Waldo, jokingly suggests that Waldo should compete against real politicians in an upcoming by-election in the town of Stentonford, so he can stand against one of his past interviewees, Conservative candidate Liam Monroe (Tobias Menzies). Jamie reluctantly agrees, worried about entering the world of politics. The production company head off on a campaign trail, projecting Waldo onto a screen on the side of a van and driving to wherever Monroe is campaigning, so Waldo can publicly humiliate him. During the campaign, Jamie meets Gwendolyn Harris (Chloe Pirrie), the by-election's Labour candidate who, despite having no chance of winning, is entering the by-election to further her political career. Jamie and Gwendolyn sleep together, but Gwendolyn is warned by her campaign manager to keep away from Jamie during the campaign. Jamie doesn't understand her avoidance, feels personally snubbed, and develops a disdain for career politicians.
Aggravated by Monroe's attempt to mock him in a hustings, Jamie issues a rant against the artificiality of politicians, exposing Gwendolyn as a career politician in the process. This rant goes viral on YouTube, and Waldo's following grows, while Gwendolyn's campaign quickly falters. Despite Waldo's popularity, Jamie wants to quit, but Napier threatens to take over controlling Waldo if Jamie does not continue. Jamie and Napier meet with Jeff Carter (David Ajala), an agent of an unidentified American agency who claims that, because Waldo is not a real person, he has the potential to become a popular face of otherwise unpopular global authority. Jamie resists this idea. He tries to apologise to Gwendolyn, but she angrily turns him away, saying that Waldo has only further secured Monroe's win. On the final day of the campaign trail, Jamie breaks character and begs the public not to vote for Waldo, leaving the van and trying to smash the screen, but Napier takes over Waldo's controls and incites the public to attack Jamie. Jamie watches the by-election's results from a hospital bed; Monroe wins, with Waldo (now voiced by Napier) coming second and Gwendolyn coming third. Waldo prompts the audience to riot.
During the end credits, Jamie is homeless in the future. Waldo is plastered on screens, showing that the American agent's vision of a palatable face on authority has come to fruition. He tries to destroy the screen in anger, and is tasered by the police.
The episode originates from an idea by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris, conceived when the pair were writing Nathan Barley in 2005. They imagined a politician based on Gorillaz. When Brooker came to write the episode, British politician Boris Johnson was "very present in [his] thoughts", and Ali G was also an inspiration. Jón Gnarr, a stand-up comedian who became mayor of Reykjavík, was another reference point, and after the episode idea was conceived, a candidate dressed as a penguin and campaigning under the name "Professor Pongoo" beat the Liberal Democrats in the 2012 Scottish local elections.
Brooker said that the episode is "asking what satire's about". Some of Jamie's dialogue is based on Brooker's own perspective from his career, such as co-presenting 10 O'Clock Live, a political comedy which ran from 2011 to 2013.
Brooker commented that the episode was rushed due to time constraints, as he was busy rewriting drafts of another series two episode, "White Bear". He had wanted to do more research, though he did consult with his sister-in-law Rupa Huq, a Member of Parliament. Brooker said in 2018 that the idea should have been executed in a longer format, such as a two-part episode, miniseries or movie. He also wanted Jamie to be in more jeopardy, and to further develop the idea of Waldo as a "lightning rod for dissatisfaction with politicians". He expressed regret at rejecting the idea of having Gwendolyn and Jamie be ex-partners.
Brooker based Waldo on Ratz, a virtual cat from the 1990s children's show Live & Kicking. As Waldo was controlled live during filming, using very modern live animation techniques, several months of pre-production work was done at the design studio Painting Practice. Staff at Passion Pictures worked on animation, having recently developed the animated meerkat Aleksandr for the advertising campaign Compare the Meerkat.
Bryn Higgins directed the episode and Daniel Rigby plays Jamie Salter. Describing the comedy as "implicit", Higgins aimed to film the episode in the style of a "fairly slick modern thriller". The technology shown in the episode was not too far beyond what was possible at the time, as Brooker wanted the episode to veer away from science fiction. The rig used mapped the emotions and facial movements of the performer onto the Waldo character, and it is seen in the episode. As well as Rigby, four puppeteers controlled Waldo, assigned to the roles of his eyes, his mouth, his body and the rest. Brooker requested Waldo's animation to be purposefully clunky so that the viewer would believe that Jamie was controlling him live.
The Waldo van was taken to High Wycombe, a town in southeast England. Members of the public were involved in interacting with Waldo. Due to legal concerns, Waldo's penis was not shown in public. Following Liam Munroe's line "He's making the whole system look absurd. Which it may well be, but it built these roads", it was planned for the car to go over a pothole, but this was cut as it looked like a camera mistake.
The A.V. Club rated the episode a C+, concluding: "There's just not enough there to suggest that Waldo's moment would last much longer than 15 minutes, and the show doesn't help by having all of its characters agree." Den of Geek concurred, stating: "This was a lesser episode of Black Mirror, then, but that's partly because the quality of other entries has been so high. 'The Waldo Moment' was still full of keenly observed scenes (the toe-curling job interview was one highlight, and the gleeful demolition of a disgraced MP on a topical comedy feels like a pointed jab at the humour in his own current affairs show, 10 O'Clock Live)". The Telegraph gave the episode 3/5 stars, and wrote: "Brooker didn't over egg it, at least not until the end, which descended into a hammy dystopian vision of Waldo becoming a means of universal mind control."
Several news reports, including one by Chris Cillizza, political reporter for The Washington Post, compared Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign to the episode. In September 2016, episode writer Charlie Brooker also compared the Trump campaign to "The Waldo Moment" and predicted Trump would win the 2016 election. Brooker said in an October 2016 interview that at the time of its production, he felt "The Waldo Moment" was "one episode that I didn't really nail, didn't get the stakes right. But if you look at that now, it’s really quite terrifying. It’s more prescient than I realized. He’s an anti-politics candidate who’s raucous and defensive, and that’s all he is, and he offers nothing. He insults everyone and they lap it up because they’re so sick of the status quo. And then you look at Trump..." On the night of the election, at the hour when Trump's victory was becoming clear to the nation, Black Mirror sent out a tweet proclaiming: "This isn't an episode. This isn't marketing. This is reality."
Commentators also found that "Animoji", emoji-style avatars that were animated based on tracking facial movements of the user, introduced in iOS 11 alongside Apple's iPhone X in September 2017 had been predicted by "The Waldo Moment".
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