Apocalypse Week: Danger Analysis For the Techno Apocalypse

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

We all know what the real apocalypse will be. Not zombies and not giant mutant ants: One day, our toasters are going to rise up in arms and destroy us. We dodged Y2K, but we are not going to make it through unscathed. In preparation for that day, when machines try to slice us into little cubes, here is my danger analysis for the techno apocalypse: ten artificial foes from science fiction movies. Hopefully, it will assist you in determining how to fight off the computer lurking in the lobby.

Terminators

Source: The Terminator

Not all Terminator units are created equal. Some suck. The TX was annoying and Terminator Salvation? Best not talk about that one. On the other hand, the original played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and the second Terminator, the T-1000, were pretty damn cool. And what about Catherine Weaver from The Sarah Connor Chronicles? She was frakking amazing! The Terminator units are usually pretty hardcore and guaranteed to put up a fight to the very end. Some of the more advanced units – like Weaver – are even trickier and able to pass themselves as humans. On the other hand, there are good Terminator units that complicate things. The character played by Schwarzenegger, John Henry from the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Marcus Wright of Terminator Salvation all side with the humans. So, it’s a mixed bag of candy.

Weakness: Liquid nitrogen, hydraulic presses, big guns. Anything that can cause a lot of damage, really. But be careful. They’re tough.

Danger Level: 7. Though resistant and crafty, they haven’t been able to eliminate John Connor. A single man. That’s a bad success-to-failure ratio.

Nexus-6

Source: Blade Runner

Loosely inspired by the Phillip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner introduced us to some of the most poetic androids in existence. I mean, who can forget Roy Batty’s speech at the conclusion of the film? The replicants of the Nexus-6 line come in all shapes and sizes. Some are smarter than others (Roy is the brains of the pack, for example) but they all exhibit superior physical powers and can be tough to kill. The replicants’ most important skill is their ability to blend in with humans. If it weren’t for the Voight-Kampff Machine, we would be basically unable to identify them. Even with the machine, Rachel proves hard to identify. On the downside, the replicants have four-year lifespans that cannot be extended. They’re also not as tough as some of the other androids on this list. For example, a Terminator unit would prove more resistant than a Nexus-6. Then again, the Nexus-6 are genetically engineered and do not have machine components.

Weakness: Bullets. Any kind of weapon. But you’ll have to catch them first. Also, age.

Danger Level: 5. Although physically stronger than a human, a lone blade runner is able to finish them off.

Cylons

Source: Battlestar Galactica

The Cylons of the original Battlestar Galactica were metal robots. The Cylons of the reimagined series are more akin to the Nexus-6 than their metal forefathers. The Centurions of the reimagined series, however, bear a close resemblance to the ones of the original show. The fleshy Cylons of Battlestar Galactica are able to interface directly with technology. They are also restricted to a specific number of models, meaning they can have only so many faces. The models exhibit different personality traits and eventually splinter off into factions. The Cylons of the new Battlestar Galactica, for all their talk, are actually rather inept and disorganized when you take a step back. More neurotic than the Terminators or the Nexus-6, the Cylons are probably the least dangerous of the androids lurking in this list, due to their divided front.

Weakness: The airlock is a fail-safe killing mechanism. Radiation. They also tend to backstab each other quite a bit, so you might be able to make them kill each other.

Danger Level: 4. They never manage to kill all the humans, after all, and for an advanced robotic race, sure bicker a lot.

The Borg

Source: Star Trek

The Borg are a race of cybernetic organisms that get to travel around the Delta Quadrant in nifty-looking cubes. They are literally a blend of human and technological components. Their motivation is the pursuit of perfection through forced assimilation of other species. They are relentless in this pursuit. They are organized in a collective manner, although they do have a Borg Queen (She’s the sexiest torso in existence). They share a collective consciousness. Unlike other androids on this list, the Borg do not seem to manifest emotion and are very dangerous due to this lack of empathy. Seven of Nine is one of the few “good” Borgs around. That is only because she was separated from the Collective Consciousness and most of her mechanical implants have been removed.

Weakness: Few! Especially since they travel in groups.

Danger Level: 9. Resistance is futile.

The Daleks

Source: Doctor Who

Though funny-looking, the Daleks are the Energizer Bunny of sci-fi. They just won’t give up. They were first introduced in 1963 and have proven hugely popular ever since. The Daleks are cyborgs – organic creatures integrated into a metal shell – bent on conquest. The only emotion the Daleks understand is a perpetual anger and they seek destroy all non-Dalek organisms. This gives them an edge over other characters on this list. They’re not adverse to using firepower and shooting their way out of a sticky situation. They’re up there with the Borg in the category of synthetic organisms I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Weakness: The Doctor, of course! And stairs.

Danger Level: 8. They may be bent on extermination, but as long as the Doctor is around, these tin cans are going nowhere.

Agents

Source: The Matrix

Looking like Men in Black with their suits, ties and sunglasses, the Agents serve as enforcers in the simulated reality of the Matrix. Because they are bits of code, they can behave in ways that regular humans can’t, like leaping over great distances, moving at super-fast speeds, and even evading bullets. When they die, they can simply reappear. Before the Matrix franchise sank into a pit of suckdom, due to a bad case of sequelitis, the Matrix baddies were actually pretty damn cool and could give any of the other artificial entities on this list a run for their money.

Weakness: Neo and the other resistance fighters.

Danger Level: 9. Unless you are one of those super-powered resistance fighters, they’re basically impossible to defeat.

Maschinenmensch

Source: Metropolis

I’ve got to mention the robot Maria because she is probably the first case of a bad robot on film, even if she is not that dangerous. The Maschinenmensch is made of golden metal, but made to look like the good protagonist, Maria. This impostor Maria is supposed to sow discord among the lower-class workers who will mistake her for the real Maria. How does she intend to sow discord and cause a riot? Why, by dancing! In what is probably one of the most famous scenes in science fiction, Maria performs an erotic number that drives men, literally, crazy. Then she encourages the lower-class workers to destroy the city’s generator, which is not exactly a good idea.

Weakness: Fire.

Danger Level: 2. Unless you’re scared of strippers. But she’s pretty damn cool, due to the retro factor.

HAL-9000

Source: 2001: A Space Odyssey

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?” Chilling words spoken by the most infamous computer in science fiction. HAL controls the Discovery One and observes the crew with his iconic red-camera eye. HAL is not only smart, he’s downright a genius. Remember the scene where he reads the lips of the crew members planning his demise? However, unlike other entities on this list, HAL is not motivated by hate or revenge. He is mainly trying to protect himself and complete his mission. Thus, he’s not a real threat. Unless you happen to do something wrong while onboard.

Weakness: Humans who disconnect his memory modules.

Danger Level: 5. HAL is not a violent machine. But don’t do anything to antagonize him.

Proteus IV

Source: Demon Seed

I admit to an unhealthy fascination with the 1970s version of the novel of the same name, if only because Julie Christie fighting off the romantic advances of a hyper-intelligent computer that wants her to have its baby is just too campy to ignore. Proteus IV is a computer that has been tasked with running the house of a doctor and his wife. When he decides he wants to experience what it is to be human, he figures he can do it by doing the nasty with Christie. Proteus does not look very scary, but picture a horny HAL-9000 and you start to understand the implications of this situation. It’s not a good place to be.

Weakness: It would actually not be that hard to turn off Proteus, if someone actually noticed that poor Julie Christie is in trouble.

Danger Level: 7. He’s just really kind of freaky.

Gort

Source: The Day the Earth Stood Still

I bought my husband a Gort t-shirt for Christmas once. ‘Nough said. This robot has appeared in both versions of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and actually looked quite similar to his first incarnation, even as a CGI creation. The first Gort is a very big robot with a death ray. Like a metal cyclops. The size of the thing actually gives it an advantage over all the other robots on this list. After all, you can take out a Terminator with a big gun, but how the hell do you take out Gort? The second Gort has nanomachines that basically chomp on everything, bringing forth a fiery apocalypse. You can’t stop them. Your only hope is to convince Keanu Reeves to turn the thing off. Man, Keanu is still hot…What was I saying? Yes. Gort. Most dangerous robot on this list.

Weakness: Not really a weakness, but he is controlled by an alien. Gort is just following orders. If you can convince the alien you are good, things should be swell.

Danger Level: 10. Have you seen the size of that thing?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia lives in beautiful, rainy British Columbia with her family and two cats. She writes fantasy, magic realism and science fiction. You can read her stories in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing, The Book of Cthulhu, Evolve 2 and Tesseracts 13. She is the co-editor of Candle in the Attic Window, Future Lovecraft and Historical Lovecraft.

Silvia Moreno-GarciaApocalypse Week: Danger Analysis For the Techno Apocalypse