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Robots in Movies

This post was inspired by Doug Gross’s CNN article at http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/19/tech/innovation/robots-pop-culture/index.html. The first nine robot writeups below are from him. Although they don’t have feelings, some important movie robots have been overlooked, so I’ve appended them below.  Enjoy.

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Rossum’s Universal Robots

“R.U.R.”

“Rossum’s Universal Robots — was a Czech play that premiered in 1921. It is believed to be the first time the term “robots” was used to describe artificial people (who, in the tale, are made in a factory from synthetic material). In Czech, “robota” means forced labor. As happens in these cases, the cyborg-like creations in the play seem perfectly happy to serve humans, until an uprising ends in the extinction of the human race. Can’t win ’em all. The play was a huge success and, by 1923, it had been translated into 30 languages.

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Maschinenmensch

Maschinenmensch

The first movie robot wasn’t far behind. In 1927, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” became the first feature-length sci-fi film, painting a picture of a dystopian future that would be echoed decades later in movies like “Blade Runner.” In it, rich industrialists deploy a female robot to impersonate Maria, a woman they fear will organize the workers they oppress. Pop artists from Queen to Nine Inch Nails to Madonna have made music videos either inspired by “Metropolis” or using clips from it. A half-century after “Metropolis,” the appearance of “Star Wars” droid C-3PO would be largely inspired by the robotic Maria.

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Asimov’s Three Laws

The short story they come from, “Runaround,” was written in 1942, but would become more widely known when the story appeared in science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s 1950 collection, “I, Robot.” Before Asimov, most robot stories followed a similar pattern: Scientists create robot; robot goes haywire and attacks its creators. Bored with that, he set up new rules of the robotic road. His Three Laws are:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

• A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

• A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

It wasn’t that things would always go well from there. Many of Asimov’s stories, and the stories and films that his laws inspired, focus on trouble that arises when robots have trouble knowing how to obey the laws in tricky real-world situations. But they are also credited with helping create the “lovable” robot in science fiction: an archetype popularized in TV and movies, from “Lost in Space” to “Star Wars” to “Short Circuit.”

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Robby the Robot

Robby made his first appearance in the 1956 movie “Forbidden Planet.” From there, he became arguably the silver screen’s first mecha-celebrity. In old Hollywood’s great tradition of over-the-top, and often misleading, ballyhoo, the movie’s poster showed Robby manhandling a maiden, but he’s actually a helpful robot with a dry wit to boot.

After “Forbidden Planet,” Robby, or sometimes just the vaguely humanoid suit, went on to appear in dozens of movies and television shows, from “The Twilight Zone,” “Lost In Space” and “The Addams Family” to the much later “Mork & Mindy” and “Earth Girls Are Easy”.

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HAL 9000

“2001: A Space Odyssey” was Stanley Kubrick’s epic, groundbreaking film from 1968, and HAL 9000 was unquestionably its star. Represented by an impassive, disembodied voice but able to mechanically control the spaceship Discovery, which he’s tasked with running, HAL represented our fears of technology gone awry as the Space Age dawned.

Instead of obeying Asimov’s Laws, HAL, first and foremost, is devoted to making sure his ship’s mission is a success. And that command has a deadly, and near-disastrous outcome. Some argue that since he didn’t have a physical form (at least by the strictest standards) HAL is not really a robot. But Carnegie Mellon thought he deserved to go into the Robot Hall of Fame with its inaugural class in 2003.

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R2-D2 and C-3PO

It’s hard to argue anyone did more to propel robots from hardcore science fiction into the wider public consciousness than these two when they hit the screen in 1977. Full of personality, gallant and always helpful, the pair have appeared in all six “Star Wars” films to date. Creator George Lucas has said that R2-D2 is his favorite character from the movies.

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Terminator

Mention any major advance of robotics, technology or artificial intelligence and, to this day, you’ll inevitably hear something like this: “Skynet just became self-aware. Skynet is the system that leads to the Terminators, the titular robots of the series of movies (and later TV shows) which began in 1984. A new embodiment of our worst fears, the robots of “Terminator” are time-traveling killing machines — and it’s all because the people in charge let what we can do get ahead of what we should do.

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Data

Call Data the “anti-Terminator.” The android from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is a creation that science has made so painfully close to human that his hyper-powered mind can’t help but yearn to be one of us. The bad jokes weren’t enough. Ultimately, an “emotion chip” granted Data’s Pinocchio-like wish to become “real.”

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Wall-E

The idea of a friendly robot with a ton of personality was well established by the time “Wall-E” came along in 2008. But the Academy Award-winning film is arguably Pixar’s best, and a huge reason for that was Wall-E’s wordless yet emotionally moving “performance.” Like much great science fiction, “Wall-E” also tackles larger societal issues like rampant consumerism and environmental waste, while still offering up a robot who connected with millions of viewers, young and old, on a personal level.

I’d like to add the following honorable mentions that failed to make Mr. Gross’s list:

Bishopinhalf

Bishop from Aliens

Lance Henriksen plays the creepy “synthetic” Bishop, who is good at mumbly-peg, fixing radios, distracting Alien queens, and speaking after he’s been torn in half by said Alien queen.

From Wikipedia: Aliens is a 1986 American science fiction action film co-written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, and Lance Henriksen. It is the sequel to the 1979 film Alien and the second installment of the Alien franchise. The film follows Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley as she returns to the planet where her crew encountered the hostile Alien creature, this time accompanied by a unit of Colonial Marines.

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Gigantor

Yeah, sure, it was a TV show, not a movie. But a giant robot!? That could fly!? One of my favorite shows growing up.

From Wikipedia: Gigantor is an American adaptation of the anime version of Tetsujin 28-go, a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama released in 1956. It debuted on U.S. television in 1964. As with Speed Racer, the characters’ original names were altered and the original series’ violence was toned down for American viewers.

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Iron Giant

You don’t want to get this robot mad. He makes Optimus Prime look like a sissy.

From Wikipedia: The Iron Giant is a 1999 American animated science fiction film using both traditional animation and computer animation, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, and based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. The film was directed by Brad Bird, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel.

optimus

Transformers

C’mon, who wouldn’t want a Camaro like Bumblebee? Firepower AND street cred.

From Wikipedia: Transformers is a 2007 American science fiction action film based on the Transformers toy line. The film, which combines computer animation with live-action, is directed by Michael Bay, with Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer. It is the first installment of the live-action Transformers film series. It stars Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, a teenager who gets caught up in a war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, two factions of alien robots who can disguise themselves by transforming into everyday machinery.

austin

Fembots from Austin Powers

C’mon, who wouldn’t want a Fembot or two? And bra-mounted machine guns!?

From Wikipedia: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is a 1997 American action comedy film and the first installment of the Austin Powers series. It was written by Mike Myers, who also starred as both Austin Powers and the antagonist Dr. Evil, Powers’ arch-enemy. The film co-stars Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, and Michael York. Will Ferrell, Mimi Rogers, Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Rob Lowe, Christian Slater, Cheri Oteri, Neil Mullarkey and Burt Bacharach made cameo appearances.

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Golden Army from Hellboy II

Um, yes, I would like an army of indestructible golden steampunk robots, thank you very much. And may I just add that the sword fight in the Elven throne room is the best cinematic fight scene of all time.

From Wikipedia: Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a 2008 American supernatural superhero film based on the fictional character Hellboy created by Mike Mignola, starring Ron Perlman. The movie was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro.

westworld

Westworld

Again with the robots we don’t know are robots? Those are the scariest kind.

From Wikipedia: Westworld is a 1973 science fiction-thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton and produced by Paul Lazarus III. It stars Yul Brynner as an android in a futuristic Western-themed amusement park, and Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as guests of the park.

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Blade Runner

No list of movie robots is complete without this film. It has some of the best movie quotes of all time (see my favorites).

From Wikipedia: Blade Runner is a 1982 American dystopian science fiction thriller film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. The screenplay is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered organic robots called replicants—visually indistinguishable from adult humans—are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation.


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Infographic: Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Movies Related to The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books, and I was thinking about the movie version. It struck me that many of the actors in “The Lord of the Rings” also appear in other speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy & horror) movies. Hugo Weaving plays Elrond, but he’s also Agent Smith in “The Matrix”. Christopher Lee plays Saruman, but also appears in “Star Wars” and billions of other movies. You get the idea.

Then I recalled the Six Degrees of Separation theory. So, starting from the Tolkien fan epicenter that is “The Lord of the Rings”, I plotted out how tightly connected by their actors speculative fiction movie are. Below is an infographic that shows an initial answer. I intentionally limited the scope of my inquiry. One could easily expand the network to be more inclusive.

Instructions:
1. Click on the image below to expand the infographic. If it’s still too small, use the View-Zoom In feature of your web browser.
2. Start in the center at “The Lord of the Rings” & “The Hobbit”. Move either right or left to the actor of your choice. Then keep moving horizontally right (or left) to see how these actors link to other speculative fiction movies, and so on.
For example, Karl Urban played Eomer in “The Lord of the Rings”. He was also in “Star Trek”, as was Zoe Saldana. She was in “Avatar”, as was Sam Worthington.  And Sam was in “Clash of the Titans”.

Caveats:
1. I don’t doubt that there are mistakes or omissions. There is no need to email me and remind me of my fallibility. There is no money-back guarantee. Well, since this is free, I guess I can offer a full refund if you’re not fully satisfied.
2. A single asterisk denotes that I couldn’t help myself, and included a few select TV shows. Whatcha gonna do?
3. A double asterisk denotes that I couldn’t help myself, and included a few non-speculative fiction movies. So sue me.
4. As in any network, there can be more than one path to get from one node (movie) to another. I’ve just shown single paths.
5. This infographic is in NO way represented as exhaustive, although creating it was exhausting.
6. If you enjoy it, kindly Retweet (@Nimpentoad) or otherwise share the link with friends you think would appreciate it (or send it to enemies who would not appreciate it, but who you wish to annoy).

Click on the image below to expand it.

LOTRinfographic


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Interview with ‘Star Wars Craft Book’ author Bonnie Burton @bonniegrrl

Author of the books ‘The Star Wars Craft Book’ (Random House), ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Planets In Peril’ (DK Readers), ‘Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ (Klutz Books), ‘You Can Draw: Star Wars’ (DK Children), ‘Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean To Each Other And How We Can Change’ (Zest Books) and ‘Never Threaten To Eat Your Co-Workers: Best Of Blogs’ (Apress). She edited/wrote for comic book anthologies ‘Womanthology: Heroic and Womantholgy: Space’ (IDW Publishing). Bonnie also written for Wired, Star Wars Insider, Geek, Bust, Craft, and Organic Gardening, CNN.com, Huffington Post and has a column in SFX magazine. Hosts web shows “Geek DIY” for Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, “Vaginal Fantasy” Book Club on Geek & Sundry, & her vlog “Ask Bonnie.”

BurtonBonnie

For what age audience do you write?

Most of my books are for children of all ages and teens. Though I am branching out into YA fiction soon.

Tell us about your latest craft book.

I love making crafts ever since I was a small child. Puppets fascinated me, as did making my own toys. Later, I loved making original art for my room whether it be embroidery, watercolors, mobiles, string art — you name it. When I started working at Lucasfilm 10 years ago, I thought it would be nice to have a craft section on StarWars.com for kids to make things like pet toys, holiday decorations, art, puppets and other crafts but with a Star Wars touch. The section became so popular that parents asked for a book. I created ‘The Star Wars Craft Book’ for Random House from years of crafts that I had developed for the site, as well as new crafts that I thought would be fun. It became quite a hit with fans, so much so that I’m often asked to do craft tutorials at conventions like Emerald City Comicon, New York Comic Con, Geek Girl Con, Stan Lee’s Comikaze and San Diego Comic-Con International. It’s been so much fun to see fans send me photos of the crafts they’ve made from my book over Twitter and email.

What got you interested in crafts?

Growing up. My family didn’t have a ton of money to spend on toys, so I often found myself making my own puppets, or dolls, or furniture for my dollhouse. I was always interested in arts and crafts thanks to my parents who were rather crafty as well. My mom loved to macramé, knit and crochet. My dad loved to doodle and sketch while he was talking on the phone. I had my own craft room growing up so I would spend hours and hours in there drawing, sewing, scrapbooking, journaling, painting and making puppets. I was in my own little world full of felt scraps and glitter — it was glorious.

Henry: I glued and painted monstrous plastic models – Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula. No Cthulhu or Rancor models were available at the time, however.

How did you become such a Star Wars fanatic?

My childhood was spent in Kansas in rather rural areas, so I spent a lot of my time daydreaming and writing stories. When I first saw Star Wars, I was a kid in the ’70s. So this is way before video games, the Internet, and the sorts of activities most kids are used to by now. We were expected to go outside and play, or stay indoors to read, play piano or craft. So after seeing Star Wars, I was obsessed with space, robots and of course saving the galaxy from the likes of Darth Vader. I was a big fan of sci-fi throughout my childhood thanks to Doctor Who (which was shown on our local PBS station) as well as the original Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. But Star Wars resonated with me the most because I suppose I wanted my own Wookie best friend, I had a mad crush on Han Solo and I desperately wanted to be as sassy as Princess Leia. In fact, I demanded my mom put my hair up in those iconic buns for numerous holidays, school photos, church, ballet lessons and other special occasions. Star Wars was always a favorite movie for me, and still is. It’s message that even a farm boy can become something great is something that strongly resonated with me being a kid from Kansas.

Henry: Well, who hasn’t put their hair up in Princess Leia buns, or donned a shiny gold bikini. Oops, TMI.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging, and why?

Honestly, just beginning is the worst. Starting a project is always difficult. Once I start writing, I’m fine. But just trying to get focused at the start is almost impossible. I’m the Queen of Procrastination. So it’s rather embarrassing to admit, but I try to do everything other than write. But once I start typing, I can’t stop and that’s worth it all.

Henry: Interesting. I find it easier to start than to stop, which makes me the Duke of Distraction.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Don’t try for perfection. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves. We try to be Hemingways and Kafkas right from the start and we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. We cross out more than we should. We yell at the computer. We hate ourselves for not being bestselling authors. And worst of all, we’re horrified at the thought of failing, of being thought of as talentless hacks, and just not adding up to the brilliant novelists we think we should be. Patience is something I still struggle with.

Henry: Let he who has not punched a monitor or keyboard cast the first stone.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I think the rush of adrenaline one gets as a writer when you finish writing a book, an article, an essay or a short story. It’s a weird energy that keeps you going ’til the next project pops up. I can’t really explain it, but you feel like you accomplished something. Even if no other soul reads it, you know you finished writing something and that means a lot. I suppose it’s not just one experience but also a combination of them. I’ve become close friends with other writers, and that kinship is also something very special to me. It’s like belonging to an elite club of talented people who make you want to strive for greatness.

Henry: I get a rush when I’m holding my book proof in my hands. An idea that’s come to tangible fruition.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. No matter how many people tell you your dream is impossible. No matter how many rejection slips you get from publishers. No matter how many times you must edit and rewrite a piece over and over again. DO NOT GIVE UP. A lot of becoming a successful writer is about persistence. Keep with it. Write EVERY DAY. Even if one day it’s a poem about your dog. And the next day it’s a short story about an elephant that wants to time travel. And the next day is a grocery list written as a sonnet. Just do it. Challenge yourself to write different styles and genres. But always, ALWAYS be writing.

Also read read read. Read a book outside your normal comfort zone. Read biographies, memoirs, mysteries, romances, horror, dramas, young adult novels, comics, and anything else you’ve never tried reading. Read a page from the dictionary once a week. Read foreign best-sellers. Read the newspaper. The more you read, the more styles of writing you’ll be exposed to. The more you read, the better the writer you will become. I promise you.

Henry: Grocery list as a sonnet!? How do I love thee, Boston Creme Pie, let me count the ways.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I think my favorite quotes are all summed up in author Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech that he recently gave at a college. It was called “Make Good Art” and it’s brilliant for any writer or artist to listen to.

My favorite quote is the ending: “Make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

Henry: We would be remiss if we did not also mention: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I love having music on. But frankly I do warn against having the TV on as background noise. I get caught up in shows too easily and end up using it as a procrastination tool instead of a driving force to get any writing done. I also prefer to write when there are no distractions, usually very late at night.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To be able to put anyone to sleep instantly, not out of boredom mind you, but just put them into a very deep sleep so they stop yelling at bus stops, or drunkenly making a ruckus at 3am on my street, or fight with their boyfriends and girlfriends. I want to just say “sleep” and have them collapse where they stand into a deep, peaceful 8-hour snooze. I’d be like Sandman! Of course, I’d like to be able to give myself a good night’s rest as well. I tend to suffer from insomnia quite a bit, which probably explains why I write so much late at night.

Henry: Very innovative, and it offers a way to stop war.

If you could have three movie stars over for dinner, who would it be?

I could just pick movie stars I have crushes on, but then I suppose I would be too nervous to eat so why have dinner at all. But here goes! Sir Christopher Lee because he’s got so many amazing stories to tell that usually begin with “I remember when Errol Flynn and I…” I’d love to chat with Tom Baker because he was always my favorite Time Lord in Doctor Who, and he has such an inviting laugh that I know he must have some rather interesting tidbits to share from his acting days. And if she were still alive today, I would be honored to chat with Dorothy Parker. She’s eat me alive with her wit, but I imagine she would be quite the dinner party attendee just from her legacy of the Algonquin Round Table.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Unicorn! I’ve always been fascinated with them and what they represent. But who’s to say they were ever fictional. They’re mentioned in the Hebrew and Christian Bible numerous times, as well as present in various Chinese legends. I’d like to think they just became extinct from overzealous hunters looking to gain some kind of medieval powers. Two of my favorite movies – Blade Runner and Legend use the same unicorn film footage, and it’s always stayed with me.

Henry: Wait, there was no unicorn reference in “And the Lord did grin and people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orang-utans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and…”

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Craft! Procrastinate! Play with my dog! Procrastinate some more! Watch British TV mysteries like Sherlock and Marple! Procrastinate again!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“I told you I was sick!” hahahaha… no. Actually, maybe I would use that. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Or maybe “See you on the flipside” — that way I cover both bases. I don’t want to assume I’m headed to one destination over the other.

Where can readers find your work?

I write a monthly column for the British entertainment magazine SFX. You can find all my books on Amazon, and I’m redesigning my website – so check back there soon!

As always, I can be found hourly if not more on my Twitter.
Also, I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con, and have quite a few panels on writing, so be sure to say hello if you see me!

Henry: We’ll be wandering the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, proudly wearing our Nimpentoad t-shirts. We hope to see you there.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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The Ultimate Spaceship Face-off, courtesy of Slate

A highly speculative search for the fastest ship in science fiction, by Chris Kirk from Slate at http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/map_of_the_week/2013/05/star_trek_enterprise_vs_star_wars_millennium_falcon_which_ship_is_fastest.html

The aptly named Chris Kirk, clearly has too much time on his hands with this clever graphical demonstration of the relative speeds of space ships from science fiction franchises. Well played, sir.

Star Trek is all about interstellar travel. It’s right there in the title. “Warp 6!” or “Warp 9!” captains bark, sometimes following with a pedantic “point four” and punctuating with a “do it!” or “punch it!” or “engage!”  The numbers give the impression of a well-defined system of speed, but that’s misleading, and in this regard Star Trek is a good example of a recurring theme in popular science fiction: the obfuscation of distance and speed. When characters need to get from Point A to Point B with a speed that seems to defy existing rules, science fiction invents wormholes or slipstreams or other anomalies or allows captains to “risk” the ship by pushing it to a speed at which “she can’t take much more of this!” Or, worse, writers simply ignore the rules and leave it to fans, struggling to make sci-fi as real as possible, to explain away the inconsistencies for themselves in so many forums and wiki discussion pages.

It’s a little odd that a genre about science, the field of precision, can be so imprecise. The truth is that spaceships almost always fly at the speed of the plot. But, for those who refuse to accept that, this is a definitive guide to ship speeds, based on highly scientific computer simulations and highly unscientific speculation.

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Enterprise: Nerds at Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, have already arrived at a sprawling explanation that employs multiple warp scales associated with different eras of Star Trek’s fictitious history. The short version: As determined by a writers’ guide for the original series, the Enterprise of the original series, going at maximum, slightly unsafe warp, can reach Alpha Centauri in about three days. Although this conflicts with the apparently short trip the ship takes from Earth to Vulcan in Star Trek (2009), we’ll defer to the original series on this one. Later ships are faster, but even Voyager, one of the fastest Federation ships in the Star Trek universe, expected to take several decades to cross the galaxy and return home.

Millennium Falcon:  When Luke and Obi Wan first meet Han Solo in Mos Eisely, the first thing the smuggler does is brag about his ship. “You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?” Han asks. That’s when A New Hope makes its infamous technical blunder. “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” Han says. A parsec is, of course, a unit of distance, not time. Unfortunately, even the elaborate explanation of later material offers no more clues about the Millennium Falcon’s actual speed than the original flub. “She’ll make point five past light speed,” Han will later brag, but what does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean 1.5 times the speed of light speed, because it would still take the ship several years to move between stars.

The Skywalker gang travels from Tatooine to where Alderaan is supposed to be in a matter of hours at the most, and the two planets, if this star chart is to be believed, are half a galaxy apart—though that wouldn’t jibe with a Star Wars role-playing book that suggests it would take several months to cross the galaxy. Crossover comics notwithstanding, the characters never make voyages to other galaxies, though this is apparently due to a disturbance at the edge of the galaxy. And a question I posed to the Star Wars subreddit yielded mixed answers.

Here’s my conclusion: In the films, the characters travel among Tatooine, Alderaan, Yavin, Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin, Naboo, Coruscant, Mustafar, and Geonosis, and never does it seem as if months or even weeks have passed. Every time a Star Wars character travels, it appears no more than the Star Wars equivalent of a short road trip, so we’ll conclude, assuming Han can get the hyperspace engine working, that the Millennium Falcon could reach the galactic center in mere minutes.

TARDIS: “All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was,” the Eleventh Doctor says in a trailer for Series 5. In the 797 episodes of all the series, the TARDIS is seen at times instantly rematerializing in new galaxies or universes or times, usually accompanied with its signature noise. At others, it hurtles through space or chases down cars. We’re going to stick with its fastest mode of travel and assume it can travel to any place and any time, virtually instantaneously.

Planet Express Ship: The Planet Express Ship’s dark matter drive, which pulls the universe around it at 200 percent fuel efficiency, allows it to routinely make trips to other galaxies, such as the Galaxy of Terror, as well as, on one “morning off,” the edge of the universe. Its regular intergalactic flights make it easily one of the speediest ships in science fiction.

Heart of Gold: The Heart of Gold runs on the infinite improbability drive, which, according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is “a wonderful new method of crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second.” The only caveat: “you’re never sure where you’ll end up or even what species you’ll be when you get there.”

Jupiter 2: The ship of the lost Robinson family was to reach Alpha Centauri in 5.5 years, according to the aired pilot.

Serenity: Travel in the Verse is strictly interplanetary. A production manual suggested Malcolm Reynolds’ Firefly-class ship takes 16 days to travel one astronomical unit, or the distance between the Earth and the sun, although whether this is canonical is debatable. Material tied to the Serenity Role Playing Game suggests the planets of the Verse are arrayed among four very close stars that span, if this “Complete and Official Map of the Verse” is to be believed, a couple of hundred AU. Even with Wash at the helm, Kaylee in the engine room, and Malcolm spouting Chinese curses the whole way, Serenitywould need a few decades to travel to another star system.

Battlestar GalacticaGalactica travels through space skipping from one location to another in instant jumps of a few light-years. The maximum range of each jump is obscure, but seems to be about 16 “Colonial light-years,” which I’m going to equate to light-years over the objections of possibly hundreds of nerds. The duration of the cool-down period is similarly elusive, but it’s “brief,” so let’s say five minutes. That’s about 4,600 light-years in a day, which means, excluding any structural damage to the ship, Galactica can travel to center of the galaxy in about six days doing one jump after another, with Cylons on their heels the whole way.

Voyager 1: The real-world space probe, launched in 1977, is traveling away from the sun at 38,600 miles per hour. That’s about 0.00005 light-years per year. If the probe were heading in the direction of Alpha Centauri, it would take several thousand years to arrive.


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Classic Quotes from Blade Runner

Here are some great quotes from the movie Blade Runner.

BladeRunner
Batty: Questions… Morphology? Longevity? Incept dates?
Hannibal Chew: Don’t know, I don’t know such stuff. I just do eyes, ju-, ju-, just eyes… just genetic design, just eyes. You Nexus, huh? I design your eyes.
Batty: Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes!
—–
Deckard: [narrating] I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.
—–
[Batty wants Tyrell to extend his lifespan]
Tyrell: Would you… like to be upgraded?
Batty: I had in mind something a little more radical.
Tyrell: What… what seems to be the problem?
Batty: Death.
Tyrell: Death; ah, well that’s a little out of my jurisdiction. You…
Batty: I want more life!
—–
Tyrell: [Tyrell explains to Roy why he can’t extend his lifespan] The facts of life… to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it’s been established.
Batty: Why not?
Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutation give rise to revertant colonies, like rats leaving a sinking ship; then the ship… sinks.
Batty: What about EMS-3 recombination?
Tyrell: We’ve already tried it – ethyl, methane, sulfinate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen; it created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before it even left the table.
Batty: Then a repressor protein, that would block the operating cells.
Tyrell: Wouldn’t obstruct replication; but it does give rise to an error in replication, so that the newly formed DNA strand carries with it a mutation – and you’ve got a virus again… but this, all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.
Batty: But not to last.
Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy. Look at you: you’re the Prodigal Son; you’re quite a prize!
Batty: I’ve done… questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things; revel in your time.
Batty: Nothing the God of biomechanics wouldn’t let you into heaven for.
—–
Tyrell: I’m surprised you didn’t come here sooner.
Batty: It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.
—–
Roy: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.