Terrifying Boston Dynamics robots, ‘Black Mirror,’ and the end of the world

Maxine Peake in the “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror,” season four.
Jonathan Prime / Netflix
Maxine Peake in the “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror,” season four.

If you’ve already binge-watched season four of “Black Mirror” and thought to yourself that it’s a good thing we’re far away from the technology shown, we’ve got something to tell you: The killer dog from “Metalhead,” the fifth episode — it’s real. And it’s made in the Boston area.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker shared that Boston Dynamics inspired one of his cruelest antagonists. Perhaps you’ve seen the company’s videos of faceless, ambulating, four-legged robots?

“With those videos, there’s something very creepy watching them where they get knocked over, and they look sort of pathetic laying there, but then they slowly manage to get back up,” Brooker told EW, explaining that he also looked to the Robert Redford film “All is Lost” for his vision.


“I wanted to do a story where there was almost no dialogue,” he said.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The results are harrowing.

The black-and-white episode, directed by David Slade, shows a barren post-apocalyptic world that’s basically devoid of human life. As a group of humans explore a warehouse seeking something to bring back to their hideout, the group is attacked by a robotic killer “dog” that relentlessly chases them, including the protagonist (played by Maxine Peake).

The robot “dog” is unforgiving. It tracks, it sees, it hears. It can push itself back to standing and adapt to specialized weapons. It recharges using solar power.

Running 41 tension-gripped minutes, “Metalhead” is among the shortest “Black Mirror” episodes in the series.


But for all its grit and horror (the soundtrack borrows orchestral cues from “The Shining,” according to EW), “Metalhead” stands as one of the series’s most attention-grabbing narratives. It drops you into the story, leaving the past and what happened to humanity a mystery — and clearly a lost cause.

It also, perhaps more than any other “Black Mirror” episode, stands as a perfect cautionary tale.

Boston Dynamics could not be reached for comment.

Watch the “Metalhead” trailer

Aimee Ortiz can be reached at Follow her on twitter @aimee_ortiz.