In season 4, episode 1 of Black Mirror (titled USS Callister), Jesse Plemons uses DNA from his coworkers and creates virtual "copies" of his coworkers inside his own private virtual world.

I can grasp the concept of using DNA to create a simulated version of a person (physical attributes and even some personality traits). But the "copies" of these characters in this episode also had the memories of the original person (up to the time when they were copied).

In another episode (Black Mirror S3 E4 - San Junipero), something similar was done. Users entered a virtual world as an avatar with all their memories intact. But in San Junipero they had wires attached to their head which did some sort of brain scan (transferring their memories). However, in USS Callister there was no brain scan performed. In fact, the DNA was extracted from a foreign object (such as a used coffee cup or lollipop).

How did the copied characters retain the original's memories?


2 Answers 2


This is not answered in the episode but there is an obvious answer:

He uses his credentials as the Callister CTO to copy the mental part (mostly memories) of the cookie (copied person) from the user's Infinity gaming profile. The CTO could have instant access to the game data and anyone in the system would likely have used Infinity. We can assume that game requires the same kind of brain scanner he uses to play his version of the game. The DNA, therefore, would only be required to make an facsimile of the players body (before alterations) while the mind was simply downloaded.

The alternative hypothesis would have to be extracting memories from DNA and that seems too far fetched for a Black Mirror episode.

  • The claim was not stated in canon. I would, therefore, usually post such a theory as a comment but I think this answer is supported enough it is a good answer. If it should be moved to a comment, please let me know.
    – kaine
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:16
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    Oh, and it is also possible that gamer's profiles are bioencrypted to prevent exactly this but that is even more speculation.
    – kaine
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:18
  • That's a good hypothesis. I didn't think about the originals being hooked up to Infinity previously. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:18
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    @kaine, I don't like this answer and I was very disappointed with this episode. Why would such a company exist if owners can have access to the entire memories of their costumers? No one really thought about security measures? There is no point in using DNA to construct these people. Besides, you can't exactly determine how a person would look from their DNA. Why not just scan their faces?
    – Miladiouss
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 2:23
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    @Miladiouss I think you're thinking too hard about it. Black Mirror is pretty soft as sci-fi goes, and it's far less about the technology than the exploration of the human condition. It's kinda like being disappointed in Rick & Morty because Hep C isn't actually that great of a guy. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 19:13

I'd like to point out, that the user's knowledge is 100% intact, even to the point that the second Nanette actually knows Real World Nanette's PhotoCloud password. This is truly a detailed mental fascimile. I don't think that even within the universe of the story, we are expected to believe that a DNA scan reproduces this level of information. At the most, it seems to be left as a (probably known) plothole.

My opinion is that the writers probably knew of this but needed the plot device of the DNA in a fridge as a way to ensure that it seemed possible to somehow terminate their existence without the threat of them simply being recreated again. Without this, half the story can't move forward because it's futile. A better explanation would have been nice, but they didn't have one, and presumably decided it wasn't necessary.

You'll notice that if it were based merely on a brain-scan, then there's nothing to stop Robert from reproducing everything again. (But also why can't he simply aquire DNA again?). So even within the confines of the story, it seems the writers decided that story and suspension of disbelief comes ahead of nitpicking.

  • I disagree. Cookies were a central plot device in multiple episodes and Black Museum directly implies that all these stories occur on the same timeline. And Special White Christmas shows us that the tech exists to directly "clone" consciousness with memories intact, to the extent where Greta didn't even realize she was a clone. Assuming this tech was involved isn't exactly leap of faith. To your last point, their goal wasn't to stop Robert. Stopping him was an unintended consequence of their actual goal, to stop existing. Any new clones wouldn't be them, hence, not their problem.
    – arkon
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 10:22

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