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For a long time, fans have wanted to know more about TCKR, the enigmatic company that invented San Junipero in Season 3 of Black Mirror. And now we’re getting our wish. Thanks to the episode Black Museum, we’re learning more about TCKR than we knew before. But fans are still left with a lot of unanswered questions. This is a rundown and analysis of every detail about TCKR that we’ve learned through all four seasons. Of course, there will be major spoilers for San Junipero and Black Museum in the analysis below, along with some spoilers from USS Callister. So only continue reading if you’ve seen these episodes already.
TCKR Created San Junipero
OK, we know this already from Season 3, but it’s worth repeating again. TCKR created San Junipero, the immersive afterlife reality seen in the episode “San Junipero.” We also learned in that episode that TCKR’s reality universe is also used as nostalgia therapy for the elderly, but they’re only given five hours a week because it can be so addictive.
Fans have been wondering for a while: Is San Junipero tech really moving the consciousness into an afterlife, or could it simply be creating a copy? Well, Charlie Brooker says in an interview with Nerdist that the San Junipero couple does end up together and gets a happy ending, so we’re supposed to believe that their consciousness really does transfer over. One sign could be that they can’t actually enter San Junipero (aside from the brief visits that they do for a few hours a week) without dying in real life. Until they die, they don’t fully experience the true immersion of the technology. But I’m not completely convinced they’re OK, and I’ll explain more about this by the end of the story.
Rolo Haynes Worked for TCKR, Experimenting on People
TCKR experiments with all sorts of cutting edge tech, but the ethics of what they do to get there is very questionable. Nothing demonstrated this more clearly than Black Museum and Rolo Haynes, who used to work for TCKR. He was a recruiter, and as he explained, many low-income hospital patients would agree to participate in experiments in exchange for free healthcare.
Haynes worked in the field of “medtech” out of Saint Juniper’s. He described it as being “like” a university hospital, located in New York. He said he worked as recruitment, not a scientist, for “the guys up top.” He never actually clarifies who these people are. We’re assuming they’re the CEOs of TCKR, but it’s altogether possible that they’re actually part of the federal government or some other entity.
As we learn later in the Black Museum episode, at least one of TCKR’s technologies was later outlawed by the UN. And Dr. Peter Dawson, who once had a promising future, was destroyed by TCKR’s tech.
Before San Junipero, TCKR Uploaded People in a More ‘Low-Fi’ Method
We got to see a step-by-step process that eventually led to the digital afterlife we see in San Junipero. It all started with the Sympathic Diagnoser that Dawson used. It was a neural implant receiver planted in his brain, coupled with a “helmet” that patients wore. This let Dawson experience all his patients’ sensations and diagnose them. It worked great until he was hooked up when a patient died, and then all his senses got mixed up and he started experiencing pain and pleasure. He eventually became addicted to the tech and ended up in a permanent coma. (Interestingly, when San Junipero is used as nostalgia treatment, elderly patients can only experience five hours a week because of how addictive it becomes.)
We learned in Black Museum that TCKR adapted and fine tuned the tech used with Dawson and finally created digital consciousness transfer. “What they call cookies today,” Rolo explained. He said it was similar to when they “upload old people to the cloud,” but much earlier in time. Before they had a VR environment, they transferred consciousness in a more organic, almost low-fi manner. They were able to upload consciousnesses into other people’s brains, and eventually even into inanimate objects. But the UN made it illegal to transfer human consciousness into limited format. The new format must be able to express at least five emotions. “Human rights for cookies,” he commented.
Interestingly, it’s also illegal to delete a consciousness. So this means we don’t have to worry about the consciousnesses in San Junipero being deleted (although we did learn in Season 3 that they can choose to delete themselves if they want.)
The one question bothering me is: Why would anyone choose a “lower-fi” way to transfer their consciousness, with only five ways of expressing emotions, when they could enter San Junipero? Is that not available to everyone? Is it too expensive? And if someone is transferred in a different way, can tehy eventually be sent to San Junipero anyway?
TCKR Had a Brief Mention in ‘Playtest’
In Playtest, we see TCKR featured in an article preview on the cover of Edge magazine, saying the company plans to turn nostalgia into a game. This is an obvious reference to San Junipero and a sign as to where the episode falls within the show’s timeline.
Maybe this was included so we wouldn’t think that Shou Saito’s immersive game in Playtest wasn’t a true precursor to San Junipero, since both were being worked on by separate companies at the same time. It seems that immersive gaming was being invented by many people simultaneously.
The Name ‘San Junipero’ Came From Saint Juniper’s
If you ever wondered why the immersive digital afterlife, San Junipero, had its name, we found out during the Black Museum episode. Saint Juniper’s is the name of the hospital where TCKR did many of its human experiments and groundbreaking technology work. Many tests and experiments done at Saint Juniper’s eventually led to the San Junipero technology, starting with Dawson’s Diagnoser, and then the low-fi consciousness transfer, and finally San Junipero. So the name of the immersive afterlife is just a new take on the name of the hospital where it all began, Saint Juniper’s. And now, TCKR has huge facilities like this one:
TCKR has made some amazing strides in technology, but it’s also flaunted ethics and not really cared about experimenting on humans in the process. So that makes you wonder: is TCKR truly transferring someone’s consciousness to an afterlife and “uploading old people to the cloud”? Or is it just another immersive world, like we’ve seen in USS Callister and Playtest? With the way TCKR seems to play fast and loose with ethics when money is at stake, there may not be a compelling reason at this time to believe that San Junipero’s Kelly and Yorkie weren’t ultimately just digital cookie copies. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.