Greetings Manic Fans. Les here to talk about computer-generated intelligences in film and television. You know, those characters who are built on artificially created consciousness. Frequently they can be just as emotional or more so than you or I. Frequently they can strive to be more human. Frequently they can have superiority attitudes. However, they always are utterly fascinating to watch as they discover their world like a newborn child(with advanced computing skills in their brains), or watch over their human companions. And so, here are my top 12 favorite AI personalities in Science Fiction. Why 12? Because I like to go one step beyond one step beyond. These are not ranked.
Warning: Some spoilers and amazing artificial intelligence ahead…
Mr. Data(Brent Spiner-Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Created by Dr. Noonien Soong(Brent Spiner), Mr. Data is an android with a positronic matrix for a mind and superior strength/speed abilities. He also can mimic other voices. What makes him interesting is his emotionlessness, but almost childlike yearning to be more human. Itâ€™s an amazing acting job Brent Spiner pulls off, but he does, time and time again. Heâ€™s the concept of Pinocchio taken to the 24th century. Eventually, he gets an emotion chip and integrates genuine feelings into his life but seeing him at any point of this series and films is endlessly fascinating.
The Doctor(Robert Picardo-Star Trek: Voyager)
What started out as an EMH(Emergency Medical Hologram) on the Starship Voyager, soon became a full-on character in the show when the ship is thrown 176 light years into the Delta Quadrant and the actual Chief Medical Officer is killed. Through the run of the show, he grew a personality and sentience that was enhanced when they acquired the Mobile Holo-Emitter from the 27th Century and he could explore the Universe beyond the confines of Sick Bay. In the final episode of the show(30 years later) Heâ€™s married a non-hologram woman and adopted the name â€œJoe,â€ after her Father. Not bad for what began as a Medical Database and holo-technology, right?
Andrew Martin(Robin Williams-Bicentenial Man)
Hereâ€™s a really underrated film….somewhat justifiable in the way it obviously over-emotes to pull at our heartstrings while weâ€™re watching it. However, this Android and story from Isaac Asimov, portrayed by Robin Williams has an amazing character arc through 200 years of existence(Hence the title of the film….). He starts out as a servant droid who obeys the 3 laws of robotics. After an accident, his mind develops creativity and a personality and he spends the rest of the film attempting to become human(even to the point of inventing new bio-medical technologies to convert his metal body into flesh). Taking the final step accepting mortality, he dies as a recognized human.
Robby the Robot(Marvin Miller-Forbidden Planet)
One of the first cinema robots, and still one of the very best(He was so popular they gave him his own movie(The Invisible Boy), and heâ€™s had cameos in dozens of tv shows(Lost in Space, The Thin Man, The Addams Family, Wonder Woman, Mork & Mindy, etc…) and films(Gremlins, Looney Tunes: Back in Action). Design wise, he was a huge advance in film robots that had, up to that point been, more or less, boxes and tinfoil. Every part of him is fascinating to watch in a â€œlava lampâ€ kind of interesting quality. He has gears, gyros and moving circuits you can see through his glass head. When he speaks, a series of neon tubes light up like a modern digital speaker system. Using the voice of Marvin Miller really gave him a depth of personality that wouldnâ€™t be matched again until 1965â€™s HAL-9000 in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, he moved so convincingly that MGM was able to convince people he was an actual robot, and not a guy in a suit. Robby was the first cinema robot who looked plausible.
H.A.L.9000(Douglas Rains-2001: A Space Odyssey/2010: The Year We make Contact)
And, speaking of which…this was one of the first cinema computer AIs that came across as personable, yet still artificial at the same time. The Heuristic ALgorith-9000 computer was created to reproduce(though some experts used the word â€œmimicâ€) many of the functions of the human brain but at incalculably greater speed and accuracy. Most computers before HAL had a mono-tone quality that lacked any personality. HAL always speaks at the same level, but has undeniable personality while heâ€™s doing it. Itâ€™s a really amazing job by voice actor Douglas Rains.
Holly(Norman Lovett/Hattie Hayridge-Red Dwarf)
Portrayed by the head of actor Norman Lovett for series 1, 2, 7 and 8 and the head of actress Hattie Hayridge for series 3, 4 and 5 and (Explained as him undergoing a head sex change operation in the show)on a black screen, Holly is the computer for the Jupiter Mining Deep Space Transport Vessel Red Dwarf. Boasting an IQ of 6,000(the equivalent of 6,000 High School PE Instructors), Holly ends up keeping chicken soup machine technician Dave Lister(Craig Charles) in a punishment time stasis field for 3 million years to save his life after a lethal radiation accident results from a faulty drive plate repair that kills off the rest of the crew. In 3 million years, however, Hollyâ€™s reliability and efficiency becomes questionable and he plays it off like a lovable eccentric bloke with a Cockney accent and computer senility.
Vic Fontaine(James Darren-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
A lounge singer in 1960â€™s Las Vegas…created in the Holosuite on Deep Space Nine, this particular character has advanced and unorthodox programming thatâ€™s resulted in sentience and one of the coolest personalities ever created. He was Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Steve Lawrence rolled into one guy. This character also revitalized James Darrenâ€™s singing career(I bought both albums he recorded after taking on this role, and theyâ€™re fantastic-he sounds like a smoother singing Tony Bennet with a Sinatra-like orchestra behind him).
Marvin, the Paranoid Android(Alan Rickman-The Hitchhikerâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy)
And hereâ€™s the exception…the robot who is bi-polar depressed(without ever having the other end of the bi-polar experience). Eternally glum, bitter and sarcastic, Marvin has a brain the size of a planet(or so he claims…) but can never seem to enjoy life. Iâ€™m actually really disappointed that the film didnâ€™t do better, because Marvin has some of the funniest lines and moments in â€œThe Restaurant at the end of the Universe,â€ and â€œLife the Universe and Everything.â€…now THAT is depressing….
Roy Batty(Rutger Hauer-Blade Runner)
A brilliant acting tour de force by Rutger Hauer brought this Nexus 6 Replicant to life to seek out his creator to desperately try and upgrade past his 4 year life span. Heâ€™s childlike in his mood swings between wonder and fascination and furious anger over being about to die.
Kryten(Dave Ross/Robert Llewellyn-Red Dwarf)
A series 4000 mechanoid, Kryten is the sole survivor of the Nova 6 spacecraft who is blissfully unaware that his crew are skeletons! He just keeps cleaning the ship, watching his favorite tv show, â€œAndroidsâ€ and attempts to feed his crewmates, until the â€œcrewâ€ of the Red Dwarf find him and break the news to him. Dave Lister(Craig Charles) then decides to help him break his programming by teaching him to be more human, or the lowest common denominator of a human, as he tries to get him to lie, cheat and be unpleasant and insulting. The results are hysterical.
Take a garbage compactor robot and leave him alone on Earth for 700 years to collect nick knacks and watch a VHS copy of â€œHello Dolly,â€ and itâ€™ll develop a personality that makes him one of the most lovable robots ever realized in a film. When you watch him, thereâ€™s no doubt in your mind that he has genuine emotions and a yearning to love and be loved.
K.I.T.T.(William Daniels-Knight Rider)
The Knight Industries Two Thousand was an amazing AI put in an indestructible super 1982 Pontiac Firebird. He couldâ€™ve taken inspiration from HAL-9000 with one exception: His humanity. He had undeniable warmth and attitude of personality thanks to the voice of actor William Daniels(Mr. Feeney to any â€œBoy meets Worldâ€ fans out there….or Dr. Mark Craig to anyone old enough to remember â€œSt. Elsewhereâ€…). He was the car partner of Michael Knight(David Hasselhoff) and as absurd as that sounds on paper, they pulled it off.
And thatâ€™s my top 12 favorite AIs in Film and Television. Did I miss any of yours? Iâ€™d love to hear what AIs you loved, my friends. Peace.