Monday, January 16, 2006

Name Your Favorite Robot Sidekick!

Okay, last week about this time, readers on the blog selected their favorite science fiction movie or television spaceship, our "fantasy" vehicle or conveyance.

It seems that the winner there, by the way, was the movie version of the starship Enterprise, the version featured in the six original feature films (1979-1991) starring Star Trek's original cast. Very cool.

This week, we begin adding our fantasy crew. An absolutely essential crewmember for any fantasy adventure is our robotic girl/boy friday, or droid sidekick. Let's leave out humanoid androids for the moment (like Data or REM) but pick one of those cute, diminutive robots that always seems to save the day.

The only place to start this selection is with one of the greatest, most-famous droids in cinema history, an "astromech" constructed on Naboo, named R2-D2. Artoo (as he is known sometimes) starred in all six Star Wars films, and though he speaks in whistles and beeps, is really the go-to guy for any intrepid hero battling an evil empire.

R2 can even fly (as we saw in Attack of the Clones), pilot fighters, and repair spaceships on their hulls during battle (Phantom Menace). Of course, he's more useful even than that because he can interface with any computer system in the galaxy (as depicted in A New Hope and on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back). R2-D2 also has a heart of gold, and is famous for his last minute rescues (like repairing the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive).

In the same vein, there's another robot "companion" who is so useful to his master that he was eventually taken off his own show! Yes, K-9, the Doctor's long-time friend and robotic pup, became such a crutch for writers on Doctor Who, that producers had to get rid of the cut little Time Lord helper. Good news is, K-9 got a pilot (with Sarah Jane Smith) for a spin-off. Anyway, K-9 can do virtually all the same things that R2 can, but - of course - he speaks English. So there's no language barrier to contend with there.

The Black Hole's robot star, V.I.N.CENT (voiced by the late Roddy McDowall) is also a pretty darn useful droid. He also can perform all the same tasks as R2 can (including flying...), and more than that, this robot's not afraid to use his front-mounted laser weapons against bad guys (like Sentry robots and the evil Maximillian). Even better, V.I.N.CENT has a "psychic" link with some humans (like Dr. Kate McRae), which makes human-droid communication easier, and at important moments, clandestine.

And on and on our choices go. Muffit on the original Battlestar Galactica was a cybernetic daggit, or "dog." Although he doesn't possess all of Artoo Detoo's accoutrements, Boxey's pet is certainly a loyal friend. In a pinch, he can crawl through air-ducts ("Fire in Space") and carry back air-masks to imperiled crewmembers. He's also got a great little mechanical bark...

Of course, we must also make some mention of the prototype robot sidekick, Forbidden Planet's (1956) Robby the Robot. He not only obeys Asimov's three laws dictating robot behavior...he can mass-produce alcohol for parties! He's the perfect robot butler.

If Robby isn't your speed, there's the bubble-headed booby from Lost in Space, who can warn the Robinson family of "danger, danger!" There's Bubo the mechanical owl, perhaps the first robot in history (from Clash of the Titans). Then there's little Peepo, the Space Academy's resident sidekick, built by Commander Gampu. And - god forbid - don't forget about the ambuquad of Buck Rogers; that little guy named Twiki. He can wisecrack with the best of 'em ("eat lead, sucker!" "let's boogie...") If you choose Twiki, I'll even throw in his bling, Dr. Theopolis.


So you're captaining your spanking new Constitution class starship, and you get to choose your robot sidekick from any production in history. Who's it going to be? Though I'm tempted to select R2 right off the bat, it's actually a close race. I've always loved K-9...


  1. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Skeetz, sidekick of Booster Gold (from Justice League Unlimited. Seen there in the top left, next to the traffic light.
    It's a little robot but it's actually a great funny character (voiced by Billy West) and has some great lines in the "Booster Gold" episode.


  2. Anonymous1:38 PM

    My pick is a robot sidekick of another robot so I hope that's ok. I'd pick Rumble, the funniest of Soundwave's cassette tapes from Transformers. He has great lines like "No one calls Soundwave unchrasimatic!" and "First we crack the shell . . . then the nuts inside." But if I had to pick a robot that was the sidekick of a human, I'd have to pick R2-D2. No other cinematic robot even comes close to him.
    -Chris Johnson

  3. Despite his over-cuteness, I've always liked the design and functionality of V.I.N.Cent, one of the few bright spots of "The Black Hole." And, responding a bit late, add my vote for Enterprise-A as well.

  4. Wow, these are some great robot choices! I 'm not familiar with either of the first two, however!

    But seeing people choose them, I see I left a few out.

    And I just remembered H.E.R.B.I.E., who replaced the Human Torch as one of the Fantastic Four on an animated series back in the late '70s. Like VINCENT and R2, he could hover and dart around in the air.

    And Howard, I totally agree with you about VINCENT. He's a strong candidate on my list as well. Even though - in some odd fashion - he reminds me of Cartman on South Park (at least in terms of design; not vocabulary...)