Hello, welcome to your ongoing series exploring fictional Robots and whether they are believable to a vintage human in the twenty first century. I chose the first image to illustrate what you won’t find here. That is robots which are Disneyesque or in the type of film Walt would have made. Walt made his millions grafting human traits onto anything. The robots in these (Admittedly mainly for kids!) films could be anything as long as it was cute. I include some films in this category which are marketed for older kids and have a sci-fi scenario but still contain cute Robots which have human personality grafted on. I am thinking ‘Black hole’ and ‘short circuit’ here. There is nothing wrong with things like this but I can’t really take them seriously in the context of this post.
In 1972 Ira Levin wrote this book and it was filmed in 1975 (And again recently.). I won’t dwell on this but it is included because all the wives in Stepford are perfect lovers and housewives. It won’t be giving anything away to tell you that the reason for this is that a sinister group of local men replace them with Robots. 3/10 for novelty value.
In the 1977 film ‘Alien’ one of the characters is, to all intents and purposes, Human. His name is Ash but, as you can see from the picture, his end is somewhat messy and proves he is a company spy on the ‘Nostromo’. The fact that his internal structure is not Human also proves he is a Robot. If he could pass for Human and still be a believable character after the revelation of his mechanical nature he gets 5/10.
In 1978-9 we were introduced to Battlestar Galactica, It was the story of a fleet of humans from a long lost colony destroyed by their enemies, They were fleeing in ancient space ships led by a surviving military/diplomatic vessel, the Titular Battlestar.
Luckily for me the enemy were the Cylons. They were cold killing machines led by pointy headed wizard like Robots and a renegade human. They pursued the humans relentlessly and attacked them at every turn. Needless to say they were beaten by the heroic underdog every time. There did not seem to be any malice in them, and they killed dispassionately as you would expect from machines but it was never explained why dispassionate Robots would make war at all nor why they picked the Humans.
There was a new series in the last few years but it wasn’t a patch on the original. The war on humanity may have been explained there but I couldn’t really be bothered to watch it. Given that they acted as you would expect them to, killing anything they had orders to without compunction or emotion, they were believable. Even if their warlike nature wasn’t explained they get 7/10.
Blade Runner (1982). This was perhaps the most believable dystopian future in film and the most believable of the Robots. Yet there was no metal exoskeleton, no flashing lights and no tinny voices. They were made by bio engineering, creating organs identical to, but better than ours. One character tells a Replicant (The name given to such Robots.) that he made eyes.
These Robots are Known as skin jobs and it is illegal for them to be on Earth. They are only to be used on Earth colonies and spacecraft. They were designed according to their role. They can be warriors or miners. One is described as a basic pleasure model. You can guess what she did.
The only way to tell a Replicant was a series of emotional and psychological test questions because their responses were different to ours. The Blade Runners were given the job of killing Replicants who managed to get to Earth. The other important thing about these manufactured Humans was that they had only a 4 year lifespan.
The story centres on a Replicant who doesn’t know she is and the Blade runner who (Wait for it. wait for it.) Falls in love with her. It seems these Robots are quite capable of emotion but you believe it because they are organic. The film is well worth a look. 9/10 because it offers answers to the question of whether robots can have emotions. and how it would be possible.
Also in the early 80’s ‘Knight rider’ appeared on our screens. Michael Knight was a cop who was badly injured in an incident and his face disfigured. He is rescued by a rich philanthropist, Wilton Knight and put to work for his Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG). Micheal goes around righting wrongs. He has a partner in all this do good-ing, a late model Pontiac Trans-am with a personality and near invincibility. The personality is that of a curmudgeonly middle aged man allowing for much comic banter. The Car/Robot is called K.I.T.T (Knight industries two thousand.) and is possibly my favourite ever Robot. I really believed that this could and would happen. We also got K.A.R.R (Knight Automated Roving Robot.). He was also a Trans-Am and had an (Mwahahahahah) evil personality. He of course was KITT’s Nemesis.
For a petrol head and Robot fan this was heaven. 9/10
Last in this roundup is one Robot we can all sympathise with. From the late, great Douglas Adam’s ‘Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy’, Marvin the most depressed and paranoid Android in history.
He is a prototype of his manufacturer’s attempts to give Robots ‘Genuine people personalities.’ He got depression. He constantly whined about the pains in his Diodes and complained that no one listens to him. His voice was low pitched and monotone. He complained when asked to do a menial task…. ‘Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction, ’cause I don’t’. For more Marvinisms go Here. I love this guy but not very believable so 5/10. For the sheer genius of his creator and his having made me laugh out loud at his books several million/10
That’s about it this time but next time we will fill hopefully see Transformers and the one film which has more robots than you can shake a stick at. Also any that come to mind that I might have missed so far.