PKD’s works such as A Scanner Darkly and “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (which became Total Recall) have been translated to screen, and his best known work is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was published in 1968 and then, nearly 15 years later, made into a little movie you might have heard of called Blade Runner. The book and movie give PKD a venue for pondering the same questions that occupied Alan Turing, about an artificial intelligence’s ability to think and pass for human. Turing’s test involved conversational skills — if a human could converse with a machine and not know it was a machine, the machine passed the Turing Test (a current version of this test is conducted in the annual Loebner Prize competition). While PKD remained interested in machine capability, he thought Turing was a bit short-sighted, since it focused solely on intelligence. Dick believed that a true test of humanness involved emotion and empathy, rather than sheer smarts, so he reimagined a Turing Test that gauged those qualities — Electric Sheep’s Voigt-Kampff test.
Yet again, the Internet has served up something I didn’t even know I needed. We’re forever discovering new and creative ways the artists of the world are riffing, remixing, and referencing some of the beloved films of our very favorite genre, and it should surprise no one that we’re really quite infatuated with the stylish stained-glass makeover designers Van Orton gave classic ‘80s flicks including RoboCop, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, and more. I’m tempted to build a cathedral just so I can commission real glass versions of these. I’ve always wanted to start my own church. Look out, world, here comes The First Orthodox Church of the Immaculate Robot!
It’s one of those ideas that just sounds odd at first blush, but the blends of spectacular color do make for some striking images, especially if you imagine them rendered in actual glass, with sunlight cutting through in multi-hued shards. Hell, that RoboCop one up top is easily a more impressive visual than any of the actual movie posters for the upcoming reboot.
If someone offered me the chance either to be wealthy or to be Han Solo, I would take a few minutes to give the decision some heavy consideration. And then I would have to stop writing because my money stacks had temporarily blocked out the sun. And if I had the money, I could blow a large chunk of it just to look like Han Solo. In a certain light. From a certain angle. If you’re drunk. One thing that would help sell the illusion? If I had Han’s sidearm strapped to my hip. His iconic blaster is going up for public auction on December 21 at a Hollywood Auction by Profiles in History, and the presumably one-of-a-kind weapon is expected to bring in $200,000 – $300,000. But for those not willing to spend that much, the same auction will also have a stunt version of Rick Deckard’s blaster from Blade Runner that shouldn’t cost nearly as much.
Commissioned from a private Star Wars collector, the Solo blaster was an on-camera prop for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and is thought to be the only one of its kind that exists, as the one used in the original film doesn’t seem to exist anymore. This version was custom molded using the casting of the original version and even bears the same serial number.
Actress Daryl Hannah has played a ton of roles over the course of her career, including Kill Bill’s one-eyed Elle Driver and Splash’s mermaid Madison. To me, however, she’ll always be Pris from Blade Runner. Part of that may be the fact that Blade Runner is one of the best movies of all time, but Hannah’s performance, which ranges from childlike innocence to calculated manipulation to acrobatic homicidal rage, is easily one of her most memorable. Hannah celebrates her 53rd birthday today. Let’s hope there are no Blade Runners on their way over to enforce her “retirement.”
The rest of the science fiction landscape is pretty bare today. There are a couple of noteworthy DVD releases, including one that isn’t technically science fiction, but which does have a bit of science fiction history at the center of its storyline. The Ben Affleck-directed Argo follows the real-life story of a CIA operation to rescue American embassy workers from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. The CIA’s solution was to enter the country in the guise of filmmakers scouting locations for an upcoming science fiction film, the Argo of the title. While the details aren’t included in the movie, the background of that fake science fiction movie is almost as interesting as the movie itself, involving comics legend Jack Kirby, Planet of the Apes makeup/effects wizard John Chambers, scientist/futurist Buckminster Fuller, and SF writers Roger Zelazny and Ray Bradbury. The new Argo: Declassified Extended Edition hits shelves today.
Being one of the lead roles in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a feat any actor would be proud to have on their resume. Even though it wasn’t a financial success and earned mixed reviews at the time, its reputation has only grown as the years passed, and now it’s widely regarded as one of the best science fiction film of all time. For actress Sean Young, the role of the unwitting replicant Rachel has defined her career from that moment forward, which has got to be a blessing and a curse. She’s continued to appear in films and TV in the years since, but none of those roles have pulled her out from under Rachel’s long shadow. Still, the fact that people still remember and connect with that role some 30 years later, that’s an accomplishment few performers can claim. Young turns 54 today, and GFR wishes her a happy one!
J.J. Abrams and former Fringe exec producer J.H. Wyman hit it out of the part with this week’s two-part Almost Human premiere, launching a show that already looked to have serious potential all the way to the top of our must-see-TV list. Karl Urban and Michael Ealy make a great pair as John Kennex and Dorian, a haunted cop distrustful of synthetics and his atypical android partner, respectively. Hopefully the show will beat the odds like Fringe did and settle in for a long and fruitful run.
But in the meantime, we got to thinking about what we would do if we were in Kennex’s position. If we had to pick an android partner, who would we want watching our back as we were out there protecting the world from dangerous cutting-edge tech and ruthless criminals? Here are our top picks.
Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
Sure, the Terminator series provides several options when it comes to pairing up with a capable and combat-ready synthetic partner, but our vote has to go to Summer Glau’s Cameron from Fox’s short-lived Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And not just because she looks like Summer Glau. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 has the versatility of that whole liquid metal thing, but frankly even if the IT department assured us he had been reprogrammed, we’d never feel comfortable turning our back on the thing. Arnold’s T-800 model proved that it could be just as good a protector as a killer, but he sort of stands out in a crowd. I mean, so does Summer Glau, but in a very different way. Arnold Schwarzenegger is many things, but “subtle” is not among them. Part of the advantage of having an android partner is the element of surprise, and if you were to ask a random person to describe what a murderous cyborg might look like, you’re likely to end up with a sketch of T2-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the other hand, the bad guys would never see it coming when Cameron lifted them over her head and tossed them out a window.