Continuing here our rundown of my 60 Favorite Fictional Artificial Intelligences.
This means things like robots, holograms, sentient computers, and so on from movies, TV shows, comics or books.
So, to continue…
Orac was a portable super-computer built by the dying genius Ensor, who debuted in the closing story of the first season of Blake’s 7. After that, Orac became a staple fixture for the show, and along with the Liberator allowed Blake and Avon to keep one step ahead of their enemies in the Federation. At times, Orac was even the prize that the evil Servalan was seeking in her pursuit of the rebels.
Orac was voiced mainly by Peter Tuddenham (who also performed the show’s two ship computers, Zen–see #47–and Slave), and looked like a clear plastic box about the size of a small fishtank, with various bits of futuristic tubing and wiring inside–so he was portable, but not necessarily convenient to carry around. Orac had a dispassionate personality that bordered on snarky at times. His abilities included the power to access any other computer in the Federation, and even to remotely control them, making him a valuable piece of hardware indeed.
35. Roy Batty
As I was trying to jiggle around the numbering on this countdown, I almost put Roy Batty and Ash (#59) down in a single listing. I know these are actually two completely separate characters from two separate films, but they actually have a lot in common: they’re both synthetic humans in reasonably dark and dank environments from films made by Ridley Scott during the same time period (only three years apart). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Blade Runner and even though this might be blasphemous amongst film aficionados, I don’t really like it that much. But even I recognize Roy Batty for the iconic character that he is.
Roy Batty is the movie’s primary antagonist. He is one of many synthetics deployed to off-world combat, but he is one who rises up in opposition to his creators and leads a group of androids back to earth in order to demand a longer lifespan from their creator (they are programmed to only live for four years). Roy Batty is driven and cruel, but you can still understand where he is coming from. He is memorably played by Rutger Hauer with great style and gravitas–I’m sure a lot of others would rank him much higher than this on their version of this list.
34. Agent Smith
The Matrix trilogy (original)
Like Roy Batty, above, Agent Smith is a character from a popular science fiction movie that I think is a bit overrated (as in, I liked The Matrix, but I didn’t think it was the greatest science fiction movie ever made, in the same way that some of my friends did). And like Roy Batty, he’s memorable thanks to the writing but especially thanks to the performance. Hugo Weaving deliciously chews the scenery of the trilogy bringing the computer program to life with bitterness and brimming anger all contained in a steely gaze and a snarky monotone.
In later films of the original Matrix trilogy, Smith frees himself from the computers controlling the Matrix, and instead becomes more of a free agent with the ability to replicate himself, akin to a computer virus. Things get more complicated as they go along, and frankly, I don’t remember where it goes all that well. But his initial presence as part of the security programming protecting the Matrix from threats is enough to give him a place on this list.
33. Deep Thought
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its many forms, millions of years ago a race of pan-dimensional beings set out to discover the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. To this end, they built a fantastic super-computer known as Deep Thought, who upon activation immediately introduced himself as the second greatest computer to ever exist. He calculated the problem posed to him for 7.5 million years, before announcing that the answer was in fact, forty-two, and that the disappointment people felt over this was because nobody knew what the actual question was that it answered.
Revealing that the determination of this question was too great a problem for him to tackle, he offered to design his successor, the greatest computer ever to exist, which would calculate the question over 10 billion years, and whose operation was so complex that life itself would form part of its operation. The name of this computer? The Earth.
Anyway, that’s a big part of the plot of Douglas Adams’ absurdist science fiction masterpiece, which has been adapted many times in many media. Originally, Deep Thought was played on radio by Geoffrey McGivern (who also played Ford Prefect). Later he was voiced by Valentine Dyall on TV and on record, and in the 2005 feature film the computer was performed by Helen Mirren, and visualized a bored looking humanoid who seemed to like to watch TV.
All the Terminator models that were introduced in the later movies were built on much more impressive special effects (see the T-1000 at number 56), but they don’t hold a candle to the T-800 as far being iconic. The T-800 is the franchise’s original relentless killing machine about which Kyle Reese says, “It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity of remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.”
Like all the Terminators, the T-800 was created by T-800, the first of their killing machines to contain living tissue layered over its mechanical skeleton. Multiple versions of the being appeared throughout the franchise, with it being an even bet whether the one from the original Terminator or the the reprogrammed one from Terminator 2 is the more classic. Either way, they are all played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who can be a bit of a silly actor, but is certainly cool.
31. D84 & the Kaldor androids
Doctor Who – The Robots of Death
In the Kaldorian society originally shown in the Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death (1977) by writer Chris Boucher, robots of a variety of types were in broad usage to fulfill various labor and service positions. The Fourth Doctor originally encountered them on the Storm Mine 4, a sandminer searching through a desert world for minerals. Kaldor anroids were divided at the time into three main categories which performed different sorts of activities–mute Dums, speaking Vocs, and a singular controlling Super-Voc. They were different colors but all had a genteel and luxurious appearance that was befitting of the society they are from.
Of particular interest is D84, played by Gregory de Polnay, who is actually a unique android working undercover as a Dum, trying to track down the criminal Taren Capel and stop his plans to lead a robotic revolution. D84 was a hero of his sole television appearance–The Robots of Death–when he sacrificed himself to activate an anti-robot transmitter that helped the Doctor to defeat the Taren Capel.
Ender novels, starting with Speaker for the Dead
Does Jane count as an artificial life form? She is certainly the most complicated being to appear on this countdown. Explaining her will take a bit of effort, but let’s try.
Taken from an Ender’s Game wiki on the fandom website:
Jane was an Aiúa called upon by the Formic Hive Queens to serve as a link between them and Ender Wiggin, in hopes of trying to understand his human mind…After the Xenocide, this Aiúa existed as a single philotic ray between Ender and the Mind Game. Eventually, [the Mind Game was connected to the Ansible network] where the Aiúa began to grow and develop into Jane.
Does that make sense? Not completely? That’s okay. Practically speaking, Jane was basically a being that lived inside the Ender’s Game equivalent of the internet and had immediate access to all of its resources and communicated to Andrew Wiggin by a special earpiece. Eventually, Jane gained a physical body in the form of a duplicate of Andrew’s sister Valentine that was formed accidentally from his memories on a journey outside reality
Some pretty far out concepts from author Orson Scott Card, which results in one of the most unique A.I.’s on this list.
A bit less unique, but no less notable, is K9, the high-tech robotic dog that the Fourth Doctor often referred to as his second best friend. K9 was created by Professor Marius of the Bi-Al Foundation , whom the Doctor met during an attack by the Swarm in the year 5000. K9 was instrumental in helping to defeat the infestation in the 1970’s story The Invisible Enemy, and then was given by Marius to the Doctor.
Later, K9 stayed on Gallifrey with Leela, only for the Doctor to reveal that he had built a near-identical K9 Mark II, who continued to travel with him until he left with Romana when she opted to stay in E-Space rather than return to Gallifrey. A K9 Mark III was given to Sarah Jane Smith and co-starred in in K9 and Company, a Doctor Who spin-off that didn’t make it past the pilot stage. He later appeared in the revived TV series where he was destroyed and rebuilt into K9 Mark IV, who continued to aid Sarah Jane Smith in her adventures. The original K9 also found himself on earth in an Australian TV spin-off series (entitled simply K9), where he regenerated into the highly redesigned K9 Mark 2.
In whatever form, K9 was a highly advanced, independently mobile super-computer capable of advanced calculations and outfitted with a powerful laser beam in its “nose”. He had a well-mannered and submissive personality which bordered on condescending. K9 was created by writers Bob Baker & David Martin. He was usually voiced by John Leeson, who was apparently passionately committed to the role; but when Leeson stepped out of the role for a short time was replaced by David Brierley.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
V’ger (or V’Ger or Vejur as it is sometimes written) was the powerful mechanical entity that threatened earth and the entire Federation in Star Trek‘s first voyage to the big screen, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But though devastatingly destructive, V’ger was not evil–instead, it had been on a mission to gain knowledge and to return that knowledge to its makers, and was now seeking understanding on its own identity and to transcend its limitations by merging with its “creator”.
The revelation that comes is that V’ger was originally Voyager 6, a 20th century earth probe that was sent out to gather data, but which eventually encountered and was augmented by a planet full of intelligent machines into the being seen in the movie. In some extended media, this was revealed to be the Borg homeworld (while in at least one account, the Borg were created by V’ger rather than the other way around).
V’ger was ultimately was only able to recognize humanity as its creator (rather than an infestation to be destroyed) by merging with a person and evolving into a being that could understand emotion and intuition as well as logic and reason. This was achieved thanks to sacrifice of Will Decker, who merged with the artificial being and in so doing allowed V’ger to move on, thus saving the earth.
The whole concept of V’ger is very similar to Nomad, another earth space probe in the Star Trek universe, that was sent out to explore and returned transformed and confused about its origins. It appeared in the television episode of the original series, The Changeling.
This part of our countdown includes some of the stranger artificial beings that we’re going to see. Rover was the security system of The Village, the bizarre isolated community that the spy who came to be known as Number Six was involuntarily brought to after he attempted to resign. Rover was a large white, rubbery ball that floated up from the bottom of the sea and would chase, herd, incapacitate and even smother people who were trying to escape or were otherwise non-compliant.
Rover was immensely strong and often issued a muffled roar as it attacked. It could move rapidly on land or on sea, and at one point even appeared to sub-divide itself. It was an intimidating presence in the Village–often its mere appearance was enough to ensure that things went as it or the masters of the Village wanted. Nothing about Rover was ever explained in the series which just adds to its mystique. It’s not absolutely clear what degree of intelligence Rover actually had, but it was never seen being controlled by anyone, other than just being unleashed.
26. The Director
Travelers was a TV show that run ran from 2016-2018 about a program of time travelers from the future coming into the present (overwriting people who otherwise were fated to die) to alter events which will eventually have a devastating consequences for the earth. The whole program was developed and run by a mysterious off-screen figure known only as the Director.
For most of the first season of Travelers, it was not clear who or what the Director was, but eventually it was revealed to be a sentient super-computer in the future, tasked with safeguarding the human race. Describing itself as “a sentient multi-zettaflop quantum frame,” the Director could only communicate to its agents in the past via special “Messenger” programs that would temporarily inhabit children or dying adults. It displayed a cold and calculating personality, ruthless with its enemies and determined to ensure it’s own survival as the only means to save the human race.
In the end, the Traveler program was halted before it began, due to the rogue actions of the original traveler in triggering nuclear armageddon prematurely, and the subsequent response by the traveler within Grant MacLaren to stop him. This did not seem to put off the Director, however, who was last seen initiating “Traveler Program Version Two….”
Star Wars franchise
A humanoid protocol droid with a specialty in human-cyborg relations, C-3PO is fluent in over 6 million forms of communication and is notable for being the character to utter the very first line of dialogue in the Star Wars franchise–“Did you hear that?” Along with the diminutive and non-humanoid R2-D2 (who just might show up on this list later), C-3PO was one of the original trilogy’s “point-of-view” characters, and one of the most ubiquitous presences in the whole franchise. He shows up in all nine Star Wars “episodes”, as well as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, plus multiple episodes of Clone Wars, an animated Droids spin-off from the 1980’s, and of course endless comics and other extended media.
In pretty much all instances C-3PO is played by Anthony Daniels, who gave the character a fussy and perpetually fretful personality. C-3PO has often been given some of the franchise’s silliest jokes, but he remains a beloved and popular character, to the degree that his potential death was specifically teased in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker in order to pull on fans’ heartstrings. Of course, it didn’t happen, leaving the droid free to appear in future projects.
And that is Part Three! We’ve had some of our most far-out A.I. concepts on this one, especially with Jane, V’ger, the Director and Rover. There are only three characters on this list who look fully human and all of them are primary villains of their franchises (at least until the T-800 is reprogrammed).
Coming soon: Part Four!