following front page article appeared October 12, 2006 in the
Robby and B-9 Take
between Robby the Robot, the courtly and
groundbreakingly human automaton from the 1956 movie Forbidden
Planet, and Robot B-9, the barrel-chested mechanical
Man Friday with the clear-plastic noggin from the 60's
TV series Lost in Space, overheard by Tailpipe last week
in Boca Raton:
Warning! Starboard functionator is 11 seconds from
melt-down. O-rings on the teppezoid are failing. Unless
replaced immediately, the ship goes into deep-space
Robby: Say what?
Klingon death ship — approaching fast in the eastern vector.
Robby: Wake up,
B-9: Code Orange?
Death ship is now at oh-247 and accelerating.
Robby: Wrong show. This isn't
even TV Land, bubbletop. You're in some guy's garage. In Boca.
B-9: This does not
compute. This does not compute.
Robby: Exactamundo. Our
days as kitschy television technology icons are over, B-9.
People don't want to see robots with blinking flashlight bulbs
and tank-tread pedal extremities talking like mechanical
zombies. The movies are much too sophisticated for the likes
of us. The studios now have something called CGI.
Computer-generated imagery. They can swoop into a scene out of
the sky like a speeding bullet. You know. The bullet's-eye
view. They can turn a rural landscape into earthquake-racked
rubble in five seconds, morph a skyscraper into a parakeet,
make a human being fly like an albatross.
B-9: Morph? What's this
Robby: It'll take too
long to explain. You don't have enough 21st-century smarts,
B-9: I... I am a general
utility nontheorizing environmental robot.
Robby: Look, your movie days
are over, B, unless they start making campy spoofs of early
television shows. We're not even the originals of our
characters. We're clones. The originals — or what's left of
them — are in the hands of private memorabilia collectors.
This guy Rick Newman bought us for $50,000 from Fred
Barton, who built us from the ground up using original
blueprints from Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet.
Newman is a Boca Raton technophile who collects space
souvenirs. I guess that includes you and me, though the
closest I ever got to space was the vast empty distance
between your ears.
B-9: I am here to serve
Robby: Well, thank the
galactic force for that. Newman wants to use us to encourage
kids to study science. In December, he's sending us to the
South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach for an exhibit
of robotics. We're going to give the kids some face time. Tell
'em to study their science and eat their spinach. (Well, hold
the spinach for now.) For the moment, we're just about giving
dull old Boca a little glitter. We're a couple of ex-TV stars
in a town whose only celebrities are Marilyn Manson and
B-9: This does not
compute. I am —
Robby: Stuff it, B. They
could assign you to a SWAT team, you know. Make you the
hostage-sit crew's first robot through the door. You ever take
a bullet? Or maybe you want to be put back into mothballs.