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Robot Roll-Call

Metro's critics pick their favorite robots

Richard von Busack's Top 10 Robots: Now, this is the list I wish I'd gotten assigned when I was 6. None of the below include the collection of robot master Teruhisa Kitahara (, who has several museums in Japan full of fantastic tin machines.

1.) Environmental Robot B-9, alias "Robot" from TV's Lost in Space (1965–68) A night shot of B-9 crackling lighting bolts from his claws shows that this robot was no metal stooge—despite his prime directive to play straight-bot for the George Sanders–like Jonathan Harris. He could have fried the Robinsons any time he felt like it. He just didn't feel like it. B-9 ("benign" I guess) appealed to the intellectuals by playing chess, singing opera and reciting Shakespeare. Voiced by Dick Tufield (who played the part even in the lousy Akiva Goldsman movie), Robot's pregnant silences were as mesmerizing as his hackles-raising rasp of "Danger! Warning!"

2.) False Maria, Metropolis (1927). Brigitte Helm as the gold-plated deluder of the masses. The RILF.

3.) Crow T. Robot. The film critic of tomorrow. Veteran of many seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (whose original hosts are coming to San Jose this May 17-18 to Super-Con).

4.) H.E.L.P.eR. Effeminate but loyal tin whistle–shaped robot whose name stands for "Helpful Electronic Lab Partner Robot." Property of the effeminate but disloyal Dr. Thaddeus Venture on TV's The Venture Bros.

5.) Tetsuan Atomu, a.k.a. Astro Boy. Dubbed cartoon watchers couldn't tell how deep god of anime Osamu Tezuka got into the nature of this robot. All we knew was that the Astro Boy theme song was more rousing than the National Anthem.

6.) Gigantor, a.k.a. Tetsujin 2-go ("Iron Man No. 28") TIED with The Iron Giant. When you come up with an idea like a three-story-tall giant robot that flies through the air, it's hard to limit it to just one nation.

7. A Dalek (Doctor Who): I know, they're actually cyborgs, but I don't care. "Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!" Repeat over and over in a peevish bleat that sounds like an electric goat, until ordered to shut up by your parents.

8.) Cowboy robots from The Phantom Empire (1935). Muranian robot slaves from the court of the radioactive court of Queen Tika, who lives in the center of the Earth. This Gene Autry serial was a brain-baker of the FDR era. Recently reissued in a good print, it's back to tantalize those who prefer to bake their own brains.

9.) Bender from Futurama. He's the robot you'd like to have a beer with. As long as you're paying.

10.) Our eventual friend, the suicide robot. Eighty-one-year-old Francis Tovey of Queensland, Australia, became world famous last March for "downloading plans from the Internet" (oh yeah, where?) and getting his one-way ticket out of this dump with the help of his as-yet-unnamed euthanasia robot. You busted Kervorkian, but try arresting a robot, coppers! This development is slightly troubling: So much for the First Law of Robotics.

Michael S. Gant's Top 10 Robots

1.) The Tin Man from The Wonderful World of Oz (1900). A bit of prescient reverse engineering. A human woodsman whose every limb was replaced with a tin substitute until he became an ur-robot.

2.) Number Six in her backstrapping red dress in Battlestar Galactica. Because no human was every hotter than this Cylon siren.

3.) Ro-Man in 1953's Robot Monster. A triumph of no-budget special effects: a guy in a gorilla suit with a space helmet and TV antennae menaces Earth from a cave with a folding table.

4.) Jean Marsh as Alicia in "The Lonely" episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). Stranded on a prison-exile planet, Jack Warden receives the gift of a perfect simulacrum of a woman. He falls in love until the terrible moment with the wires and circuits show underneath the skin. Was this the real inspiration for Lars and Real Girl? Runner-Up: The automaton grandma in "I Sing the Body Electric" episode from 1962.

5.) Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Three words: "Klaatu barada nikto."

6.) Peter Weller encased in aluminum as RoboCop (1987). A fine satire on the future of law enforcement. "Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening."

7.) Rosey the Robot on The Jetsons. Apron and all—the quintessential domesticated robot.

8.) The unnamed alien robot in Target Earth (1954). With heating-ducts for legs, giant ice-tongs for hands and a cinched waist, it was all about upper-body strength.

9.) Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982). Replicants count, especially when they can wax this poetic and contemplate their own demise: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I 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."

10.) Tom Servo on MST3K. The robot Roger Ebert to Crow's Gene Siskel, with an M&M dispenser for a head (so you can see into his mind) and loose, floppy springs for arms.

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