There have been some mean machines in cinematic history-from killer cyborgs to computers with twisted minds of their own. But on the flipside, some robots do seem to have goodness hardwired into their circuitry. We’ve put together the following roundup of machines both naughty and nice.
Version 1.0 The T-800 – The Terminator (1984)
“Listen! And understand! That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with! It can’t be reasoned with! It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear,” says Reese of his nemesis in the sci-fi actioner that made Arnold a star and “I’ll be back” his most enduring catchphrase. As the fearsome T-800, the indestructible killing machine sent back from the future, Arnold blasted his way into box-office gold and had moviegoers glancing nervously at their Commodore 64’s and calculator watches.
Robocop – Robocop (1987)
In Robocop, Peter Weller is “Part Man. Part Machine. All Cop.” After being shot full of holes by the baddies, Peter Weller’s mind is erased and he’s given a robotic body. He is now Robocop, a stoic, armor-plated crime-fighter invincible to both corruption and bullets. But as the plot unfolds, the question arises: Can even Robocop stand up to corporate greed and downtown Detroit gone mad?
Bad to the Bone R2-D2 – The Star Wars Saga
At first glance, you may be tempted to open his lid and line him with an extra-tall garbage bag. But in every Star Wars film, R2-D2 proves he’s more than a bucket of bolts. Unlike the weak-kneed C3-PO, R2 braves laser fire and worse to help the cause. Whether it’s flying as co-pilot in Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing or infiltrating enemy computer systems under heavy fire, R2 always has his comrades’ backs.
Hal 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
HAL 9000, the spaceship Discovery’s artificially intelligent onboard computer, proves as flawed as its human creators. When this “infallible” supercomputer commits an error, it attempts to cover up for itself by disposing of the Discovery’s crew. In HAL, the late, great Stanley Kubrick embodied his anxiety about man’s blind faith in technology decades before the machine-ruled apocalyptic vision of The Matrix (1999).
He said he’d be back The T-1000 and T-800 – T2: Judgement Day (1992)
This time, Arnold’s back to save the day. When the computers send back the liquid-metal T-1000 to liquidate Sarah Connor and her savior-to-be son, John, the future John Connor sends back the outdated T-800 to battle the T-1000. When version 1.0 clashes with version 2.0, the ground trembles, buildings shake and the future is re-written all over again.
David – A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
In A.I., Haley Joel Osment plays David, an artificially intelligent android child. When he is abandoned in the woods by Frances O’Connor (who programmed him to view her as Mom), David then goes on a quest for his humanity. He wants to be a “real” boy, so Frances will take him back. Though the film’s message regarding Artificial Intelligence is muddled somewhere between Stanley Kubrick’s original vision and Steven Spielberg’s completion of the project, David’s story still proves universal and fundamental: he just wants to be loved.
Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)
In this now-classic sci-fi noir, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) leads a renegade crew of space-mining Replicants back to Earth to meet their maker, the scientist-entrepreneur Tyrell. In a performance that is both terrifying and sympathetic, Hauer manages to make the audience fear his fury and yet understand it, too-he is as good as alive, but like all Replicants, he is designed to expire soon after his inception. “I want more life, father,” he says to Tyrell, when they finally meet face-to-face.
Number Five – Short Circuit (1986)
Short Circuit stars Number “Johnny” Five, a robot struck by lightning and rendered as “sentient” as its human creators. Number Five is found by Ally Sheedy, who thinks the machine is of extraterrestrial origins and begins loading Number Five’s memories with music, movies and all manner of pop culture-15 years before the I-Pod! Inevitably, the U.S. military gets wind of this smart and generally affable machine and wants to destroy it.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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