Ok Here goes, epic post time. This has cost me sleep. I have so much ground to cover. There is no pattern to my recollections of Robots past. I will probably go for a loose chronological order but don’t hold me to it! All I will say is I will give each a believability score between 1 and 10. I may or may not tell you why. This last proviso is just there because if I explain it all I’ll be sitting here all weekend and I have the Grandkids tomorrow.
1951 but repeated many times in my youth, the film ‘The day the Earth stood still.’ is released. The plot centres on Klaatu and his 8 foot Robot Gort, the Robot being a cop of sorts. Klaatu is here to observe and report if man should be allowed to live or be wiped out before he becomes a danger to the Galaxy. Gort is to dispense that death sentence. He has no lines and does little except lurk menacingly but when the eye shields open and he disintegrates anything he chooses you suddenly respect him a lot more. Man gets a temporary reprieve but in true sci-fi style Klaatu delivers an ultimatum, get your act together or else. You just know Gort can do it too. Surprisingly the remake is fairly good too. 8/10 for menacing silence.
1956- a film is released called ‘Forbidden Planet’ It stars a ridiculously young Leslie Nielson. It is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’ I wasn’t actually around then but I saw it many times growing up. The main thing about it for our purposes was that it featured a Robot. It was called Robbie (Yes it was an obvious and childish name but this was 1956 and 50’s ‘B’ movie.). He was there for mainly for light relief in a fairly intelligent but heavy handed plot. He could synthesize anything from any sample, had an excitable nature and was incredibly naïve. He was basically unable to process the dishonesty man is prone to and believed everyone was straightforward and good. I don’t know about you but that is what I would expect a Robot to be like without the experiences and filters that shape us. He was also immensely strong, again standard spec for a Robot. This was my first real memory of a humanoid android in a main role.
Robbie later starred in many sci-fi shows and films, He was the first mechanical superstar. See more Here 7/10.
In 1963 Dr Who hit our screens in the U.K. By the time I was an avid viewer in the 70’s it featured Robots like those above. I don’t count the Daleks and Cybermen as they are partly living creatures. Being honest the Robots like those above were basic plot elements creating a problem that the Doctor would solve. in all honesty they were charicatures. The one top right actually grew and shrank at will. That and it’s look meant I could not, even as a youngster, take it seriously. The ‘Robots of death.’ were wasted. They looked better but were involved in a basic plot about a rogue android and was, effectively, a whodunit. These were the two memorable ones but there were more that were even less believable. The new incarnation does not seem to feature them as much and takes itself far too seriously anyway. So, with Dr Who robots being taken as a whole it’s 3/10.
This is Thunderbirds Idea of a Robot, they didn’t appear often and were crap anyway. I could have knocked them down with a punch. 1/10.
Strangely one of the greatest Sci-fi series ever, Star trek TOS, was also low on Robots. The only one I can remember is in the episode ‘I Mudd’ It was played for laughs and the Robots were normal actors with flashing necklaces to give the idea they were receiving or transmitting information. The robots were the villains and were defeated by overloading their leader and hub with illogical behaviour. Not one of the best episodes and the crew overacted like mad. The Robots deserved better such as they were. 0/10 for being silly.
Robot B9 from TV’s lost in space. Very much in the mould of Robbie, another naïve android constantly being manipulated by Dr Smith. This was the first Robot in TV to have human traits attributed to it. This is a shame but was required by the plot as it tries to adjust to a human ‘Family’ of differing ages and gender. It was also mainly used for comic plots, again a shame. Aside from that it fitted the bill as a Robot. All the things I expected like great strength, intelligence and technology are there. More Here 5/10
1973. Westworld. Set in a futuristic theme park, the titular Westworld, it allows visitors to indulge in card games and shootouts with outlaws and cowboys or sleep with bar girls. They are played by Robots who can be killed but cannot Kill. All the fun with no consequences. Then for no adequately explored reason a Robot not only goes rogue but is suddenly able to kill. It is played by the great Yul Brynner and he is suitably evil without saying a single word You get the impression that it is not personal he just kills as he is programmed to do but his ammo is now live. He is suddenly all but indestructible. It is a bit linear but you really believe in the scenario and the character. More Here.8/10
Wow this just keeps getting bigger and bigger and now real life calls. I think this will have to be ongoing. I had forgotten how many Robots have populated my imagination. More next time……
Still to come….Blade runner, Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Transformers, Data and more