Monday, October 7, 2013

10 Totally Rad Robots From The 80s

by Megan S.

Is there anything more emblematic of the 1980s than robots? Well, probably, but those prolific little droids were everywhere -- in movies, on TV, gaming systems, your bedroom if you were lucky -- and they were FABULOUS.  It's hard to pick a favorite or ten from the multitude, but I managed to do the improbable in honor of our first ever S4 Loves The 80s week.  Did your favorite make the cut?*

10. Dot Matrix - Spaceballs

 Comedian cum QVC personality Joan Rivers played android Dot Matrix in the 1987 Star Wars spoof ,Spaceballs.  The golden robot was the overprotective companion of Princess Vespa who spouted off some of the goofier one-liners in the Mel Brooks comedy.

9. Max - Flight of The Navigator

I was never a big fan of Pee-wee Herman when I was a kid, but I did love actor Paul Reuben's Max in Flight of the Navigator.  He somehow managed to make what was essentially an eyeball on a stick a hilarious costar in the movie about a twelve year old boy and an alien spaceship working together to escape NASA's evil clutches.

8. Nintendo's R.O.B.

Meet the only robot I ever owned, R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) from Nintendo.  I'm pretty sure I never got R.O.B. to actually work with one of the two games designed to be played with the original Nintendo Entertaining System back in the mid 1980s, but he was still pretty awesome even if the games were beyond boring.  There's a good chance he's still somewhere in my parents' basement and I'd like to think he's the patriarch of an extended family, in a loving relationship with one of my also abandoned Cabbage Patch dolls or that weird giant Barbie doll head I had to practice styling hair.

7. Synergy - Jem

Jerrica Benton and the hologram programmed by her father were indeed truly, truly outrageous.  Synergy, a holographic artificial intelligence, was designed to act as a mentor to Jerrica and her sister after their father's passing.  The robot (I might be stretching the definition of robot here a little because she's not technically ambulatory. Whatever.) and the accompanying hologram-projecting earrings also allowed Jerrica to transform into Jem, the mysterious front woman of the internationally popular band, Jem and the Holograms.

6. Tik-Tok - Return to Oz

Awww, how could you not love a kind-hearted robot who looks a heck of a lot like President Teddy Roosevelt?  Mechanical man Tik-Tok accompanied Dorothy on her second adventure into Oz, as she confronted the terrifying head-swapping witch Mombi and freed the Emerald City citizens.  I was obsessed with this movie when I was a kid; it was so dark and horrifying.  I mean, really, what kind of children's movie has the heroine committed into an insane asylum and strapped down to receive electro-shock treatment?  My favorite kind, obviously!

5. Teddy Ruxpin

I'm not going to lie.  Teddy Ruxpin still creeps me out.  The plush robot was designed to tell children stories that varied depending on the cassette tape inserted in its back.  Teddy's eyes rolled around in his bulbous head and his toothless maw open and closed in a sick parody of a loving guardian reading a bedtime tale, lulling children to sleep.  Why did people buy this thing?

4. D.A.R.Y.L. - D.A.R.Y.L.

CALL MY NAME, BASTIAN!  CALL.  MY.  NAME.  Wait, wrong movie.  Let's start again. I watched D.A.R.Y.L. and one of my other favorite movies, Teen Witch, every time they were on TV.  The titular cyborg was a sweet little boy with no memory of being designed for the military as a super soldier.  He, his foster parents, his best friend Turtle, and the scientist who designed him all played a part in rescuing D.A.R.Y.L. for good from the evil clutches of the U.S. military.

On a related note, anybody else notice the U.S. government and it's tendency to clutch evilly when it comes to little boys in 1980s science fiction movies? D.A.R.Y.L. and David from Flight of the Navigator were not alone in being pursued by the Feds.  It was the same story for Elliot and E.T.

3. R2D2 and C-3PO - Star Wars

It pains me to rank Artoo and Threepio third on this list but I gotta be real, yo.  There are two others who deserve the top spot.

2. Vicki - Small Wonder

Dude.  Do you remember the sitcom Small Wonder?  The show was the epitome of a metaphorical train wreck.  The humor fell flat and the story lines were ridiculous and super creepy, yet I couldn't stop watching.  In Small Wonder, little girl Vicki was actually Voice Input Child Identicant, a robot being raised in secret by the Lawsons and passed off as their daughter.  She lived in a closet in her "brother's" bedroom, spoke in a monotone, and performed chores around the house while trying to learn how to be more human. The ick factor was high with this one.

1. Data - Star Trek: The Next Generation

There's no question, the number one spot on the list goes to Lieutenant Commander Data of Star Trek:The Next Generation.  The android and his quest to become more human was one of the best story arcs of the show.  Data's Tin Man-esque role made him the heart of TNG.

*If your favorite is a Transformer or KITT from Knight Rider, then the answer is a resounding no.  First of all, I don't care what their theme song claimed, Transformers were evolved alien lifeforms and don't try to change my mind with facts.  Second of all, KITT might have been voiced by a younger, snarkier Mr. Feeny, but he was still pretty lame.
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  1. A mostly excellent list. You left off some important ones though.

    Johnny 5
    The robot aliens from .batters not included
    Optimus Freakin' Prime

    And while I realize this wasn't a top 10 list I still think any of the three should get a mention over Tik-Tok.

    1. Well, I will give you this. I did like the little robots in *batteries not included. :-P

    2. But no love for Johnny 5? Disassemble? No disassemble.

  2. I too was obsessed with Return to Oz...

    1. Yesssss! You obviously have wonderful taste.

  3. I'm ashamed to admit that I had no idea that Paul Reubens was the voice of Max. And I LOVED Flight of the Navigator when I was a kid. Compliance!

    1. Working on 80s week has me nostalgic for all those great movies from when we were little. I gotta add some to the Netflix list.

  4. Wait, wait, wait. "KITT might have been voiced by a younger, snarkier Mr. Feeny"
    What? *googles*..
    WHAT THE FRAK!!? How did I now know this!?

    1. "I endure harassing that is the reason I will battle for my backing as long as I live."

  5. We ought to tune in to their accounts too, and not judge them hurriedly.