Narrated by the excellent Mark Hamill, this sci-fi anthology of stories is inevitably going to be compared to Black Mirror. Its stories follow a familiar pattern, right down to the loading bar that greet you at the start of every episode. Unlike Black Mirror which regularly leaves a knotted ball of dread in your stomach, Dimension 404 takes a more light-hearted, almost camp approach to its storytelling. Its still thought provocative stuff though, with morals in almost every episode but its also tonally a bit hit or miss. The episodes range from excellent to average but overall, Dimension 404 nestles neatly between The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror as an anchor between the two, even if it can’t quite shake the shadow of its better known brothers.
There’s six stories here to enjoy including two focused around video gaming, a time-travelling superhero story and a self aware, emotional supercomputer. The array of stories is mixed and so too is the tone of each that range from dark tales dripping in horror and surreal imagery, right across to tongue in cheek humour emphasised by the upbeat string-heavy score. “You can’t relate of course, there’s no way you’d spend your life watching a science fiction show” Mark Hamill deliciously exclaims in one episode and you can’t help but smile. This self awareness spills over to every facet of the show, helping to elevate it above being a cheap knock off of its obvious inspirations.
To put it lightly, the show is simply a charming, welcome presence from start to finish. While it may not be as bold or dark as its older brother Black Mirror nor is it as famous and well known as The Twilight Zone, Dimension 404 is a show that defiantly carves its own place in this warped family putting its own spin on a familiar set up. The cast is also very good throughout, with surprise appearances from the likes of Sarah Hyland from Modern Family and Patton Oswalt gracing the screen for an episode. Ironically, this is actually one of the weakest in this collection of tales, with a story that drags on for a little too long and a morally weak message by the time the credits roll.
There’s a lot to like here and although it might not have the most impressive of budgets or be soaked in photo-realistic CGI, Dimension 404 manages to weave a mixture of clever camera angles, decent lighting and script work to make this a fine show to get into. Whilst it would be a disservice to say its a good appetiser before Black Mirror Season 4 hits, it also highlights one of the show’s biggest weaknesses, especially in a busy Autumn schedule. This show could easily get lost in the shadow of Black Mirror, depending on when it hits Netflix this year which would be a real shame as its worth investing the time to watch. Whilst it looks doubtful that it will hit before October, if it does it overshadows Dimension 404’s UK release which is penned for October 3rd.
Overall, Dimension 404 is a great show to get into. Whilst it pales in comparison to the other shows it imitates, there’s enough charm and differentiating from them that gives the show room to stand on its own two legs. The stories are told well, with a good pace to them and the majority are very well written and boast some good acting all round. With a modest production budget, Dimension 404 does a great job with its effects, using a good mixture of lighting and camera angles to really make the most of every scene. This charming anthology of sci-fi tales is great fun while it lasts but when its over, it does lack the dizzying lasting effect that The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror manage to achieve and for that, it does still feel like the lesser known cousin of the family.