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Tag Archive: cybernetic organism


borg Hall of Fame 2018

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2018, it’s time for the sixth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2018 films and television, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future – 40 in all.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology.  Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an inaugural honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but as far as we can tell it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Black Manta from Aquaman (and decades of comics before), seem to be merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe Jon Favreau’s new television series will give us something new to ponder next year.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, we take their word for it.  Westworld continues to define its own characters as androids (like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lt. Commander Data throughout the TV series), and not cyborgs (going back to Michael Crichton’s original story), so we continue this year to hold off on their admittance unless something changes, like the incorporation of living biological (blood, cells, etc.) materials.  Are we closing in on admitting individuals solely based on a breathing apparatus that may allow them to breathe to in non-native atmospheres?  Only if integrated (surgically).  Darth Vader has more borg parts than his breathing filter.  We assume new honoree Saw Gerrera does as well.  With more biological enhancements we’d allow Tusken Raiders, Moloch, and Two Tubes from the Star Wars universe, and Mordock the Benzite from Star Trek, but wouldn’t that also mean anyone in a deep sea suit or space suit is a cyborg?  Again, integration is key.  Ready Player One has humans interacting with a cyber-world with virtual reality goggles and other equipment, but like the Programs (as opposed to the Users) in the movie Tron, this doesn’t qualify as borg either, but we’re making an exception this year for the in-world Aech, who is a cyborg orc character, and two Tron universe characters.

Already admitted in 2017 were advance honorees that didn’t actually make it to the screen until 2018.  This included Josh Brolin’s new take on Cable in Deadpool 2 and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight after her acquisition of a borg arm in Marvel’s Luke Cage.  New versions of Robotman and Cyborg are coming in 2019 in the Doom Patrol series, but they are already members of the revered Hall of Fame.  Above are the new looks for these two earlier honorees.

So who’s in for 2018?

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By C.J. Bunce

We highlight them all the time here at borg.com.  But some of them don’t naturally come to mind when you think of cybernetically enhanced organisms–cyborgs, or borgs for short.  What makes a borg?  An organism, human, alien, or animal, who has been modified by technology or uses technology as part of or in place of another biological function.  We use this broadly, encompassing not only a long-accepted group of borgs that are more metal than man, but also robots or androids modified with biology or biomatter, although taken to the extreme this would seem to include the bioneural starship USS Voyager from Star Trek Voyager.

Regardless of how you define it, meet our borg.com Hall of Fame, always ready for new honorees…

With Marvel’s big premiere of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, we’ll begin with Tony Stark’s Iron Man.  Tony Stark is not advertised as a borg, but if your power source involves techno-gadgetry via an arc reactor and you have his fully integrated armor, we think that makes you a borg.  Whedon is very familiar with borgs, having created the character Adam, the nasty, almost unstoppable foe of the Scooby Gang in Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If Iron Man is a borg, should one of the oldest creatures of science fiction be considered a borg as well–Frankenstein’s monster?  How integral are those bolts and attachments to his survival anyway?  Does an external power source make a borg?  Did he ever have to regenerate?

And if Frankenstein’s monster makes the cut, maybe this spin-off fellow should, too:

Yes, Frankenberry, the only cereal mascot borg?  Are those pressure gauges on his head?  What functions do they serve?  Before we move forward very far in time, we also think we need to at least consider Maria’s doppelganger from Fritz Lang’s sci-fi film classic Metropolis as a possible borg.com honoree–a robot admittedly, but somehow transformed into a humanoid creation with flesh, used to replace the real Maria and wreak havoc across Metropolis:

From one of the biggest science fantasy franchises, Star Wars, Darth Vader began as Anakin Skywalker, but through his own rise to evil and subsequent downfall he became more machine than man:

He even caused his son to require borg technology by slicing off his arm and hand with his lightsaber, making Luke Skywalker a borg as well:

With Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we met an interesting new villain, General Grievous, a four-lightsaber wielding almost lobster-like biological creature made up of techno-armor and, in close-up are those reptilian eyes?  His apparent disfigurement and breathing problems hint at a back story that must be not unlike Vader’s.

In The Empire Strikes Back we also briefly met Lando Calrissian’s majordomo who possessed some type of brain adapter technology–we learn from action figures, trading cards and comics his name is Lobot:

And probably the very first cyborg to be referred to specifically as a “borg” (by Luke Skywalker, even), Valance was a cyborg bounty hunter in the early pages of Star Wars, the Marvel Comics series:

Some borgs are more cybernetic than organism, at least at first appearance.  This would include Doctor Who’s Cybermen:

and we’d learn even the Daleks were cybernetic organisms:

and the Terminators from the Terminator movie and Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, very much more machine with a bit of organics (and even Arnold’s character called himself a “cybernetic organism”):

In Star Trek: First Contact the Borg Queen alters the android Lieutenant Commander Data in such a way so as to make Pinocchio a real boy:

giving real organic material to Data, (like Maria’s double above from Metropolis?) bringing him briefly into the realm of borg status, like Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man:

and this even suggests the Tin Man from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz may be a rudimentary variant borg being along the lines of Frankenstein’s monster:

All humanoids or aliens modified to become The Borg of the Star Trek franchise clearly are good examples of cyborg beings, the most famous of which are probably Patrick Stewart’s Locutus:

the seemingly innocent Hugh:

and Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager:

On Earth we encounter humans all the time with bodies improved by borg technology.  Because of the OSI Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were rescued from near death with enhanced biology and appendages to become the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman:

The British agent James Bond had to take on Doctor No, an evil scientist who took on his own technological enhancements because of medical maladies, bringing James Bond into the fold of genre franchises investigating a borg character:

Featured in a 1980s movie series and soon to be the subject of a new movie, Robocop:

showed us a variant on Austin and Sommers, and a bit like Iron Man, we have the government creating technology to make super-humans, and here, a superhuman police officer.  This is taken even further, making three animals into borgs for military use in the Eisner-nominated comic book mini-series WE3:

 …a far darker take on the classic cartoon character Dynomutt from Scooby Doo:

Inspector Gadget:

and Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock) in Spider-man 2:

 

both were borgs that made it into big-screen films.

In the DC Comics universe we have a newer Justice League featured member Cyborg, a football player/student who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, when his father’s lab goes up in flames and his father uses his own research to save his son from death:

Before that, Frank Miller envisioned a disfigured future world Green Arrow who would need his own prosthetic cybernetic arm in The Dark Knight Returns:

Mr. Freeze was an early borg villain in the Batman series:

In Marvel Comics Rich Buckler created Deathlok the Demolisher, another cyborg creation, and one of the earliest borgs in comics:

Add to that Marvel characters like Ultron, the “living” automaton:

Ultron’s own creation, named Vision, the “synthezoid”–

and the borg called Cable:

In the 1990s Jim Lee created the Russian borg in the pages of X-Men called Omega Red:

Long before these Marvel characters the cyborgs Robotman and Robotdog graced the pages of DC Comics in the 1940s, and yes, they were not just robots:

The modern Cylons from the reboot Battlestar Galactica TV series are borgs in the Terminator sense, robots made to look and pass for human.  And there were a bunch, not just background, but named characters, the most famous of which was the seductive Number Six:

  

Years before, Philip K. Dick would create more than one borg character in his novels and short stories, revealed to us the best as the Replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner:

Several replicants appeared in the film:

 

…all indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye.

In the horror realm we have Ash, from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, his arm a functioning chainsaw, and at least in the comic book, like the Star Trek borgs he has an interchangeable arm like a mega Swiss Army knife:

If we include Ash do we also need to include Cherry Darling from Planet Terror, since she has a rifle as a leg like Ash’s arm attachment?

Heck, even horrific camp troller Jason became a borg eventually in Jason X:

Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn comics had both the borg assassin Overtkill:

and the cybernetic gorilla Cy-Gor:

Speaking of borg beasties, even Japanese monster movies embraced borgs, having their hero Godzilla encounter Mechagodzilla:

and Gigan:

In the world of manga and anime we have Ghost in the Machine’s own borg girl Motoko Kusanagi:

leader of a group of borgs, and the villain Cell from Dragon Ball: 

Cowboy Bebop had the borg character Jet Black, which seems influenced by the design of Seven of Nine:

Akira had Tetsuo Shima:

And we have a new one to add to the list because of the film Prometheus, the creepy borg, David 8:

But he’s certainly not the first in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe.  Don’t forget Ian Holm’s Ash in Alien:

Lance Henrikson’s Bishop from Aliens:

and Winona Ryder’s Annalee Call from Alien: Resurrection:

But these are just the biggest examples of borgs in popular genre works.  Countless books, comics and short stories have introduced other borg beings, not to mention every other new video game.   What will be the next borg to enter the mainstream, with a new TV show or movie?

Should we add an Honorable Mention list to the borg.com Borg Hall of Fame, for beings resulting from the merging of humans with cyberspace?  Think of characters like Tron and Flynn from Tron and Tron: Legacy?  Or Neo and Trinity & Co. from the Matrix movies?  You can argue some of the above in or out of the list, but we’ll be visiting most of them here now and then.

Editor note: We’ll update this list from time to time and feature it as its own page on the borg.com home page.  Just click on “Know your borg” at the top of this page now for a full update!

A new movie trailer may explain why Ridley Scott has not been saying anything about what to expect in his new movie Prometheus, the new science fiction film from the universe of the Alien franchise.  Because, like a good magician, he is not going to reveal the big surprises until just the right time.  This is something cool and by itself gets a cybernetic thumb up from borg.com–in its realism, it is oddly prescient, and in its calmness and innocence, something outright creepy.  Check it out:

This new trailer is more an “ad from the world of Prometheus” than a typical trailer with snippets from the movie to entice us to see it.  Like Total Recall with all its advertisements for transplanted memories from the company called Rekall, this advertises something different, something at the core of a lot of science fiction–the ethics of science–just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it.

The ad seems like it may be good for people who like the chilling parts of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction, people who liked the brilliant science fiction film Gattaca, but who also hope that world never arrives.  The character is familiar–we’ve seen androids and similar cybernetic organisms before and have discussed several here at borg.com.  This guy looks like Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the eerie quiet and childlike movements also conjure something dark like something you’d get from Stephen King–or maybe like Data just before he malfunctions and takes out the crew of the USS Enterprise.

When and how is this seemingly sentient thing going to break?

Science fiction is often at its best when it shows us tomorrow… failing.  Like the Millenium Falcon with a broken hyperdrive.

This trailer feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey, maybe just because of the choice of the name “Dave”.  Now I am pretty much not a fan of most of Stanley Kubrick’s work.  Despite some neat outer space scenes in 2001, the single scene with HAL and Dave, and some neat set decoration, I’ve never been able to get through the entire film in one sitting.  I just find it stunningly boring every few years when I try it again to see if I will like it this time.  But if Prometheus is like this ad, with this kind of quiet future scary science… this trailer might have elevated Prometheus for me from a future rental to an actual theater ticket.  And that’s saying something because its traditional trailers haven’t convinced me this is something I’ll care about.  But then again, their print ads state this David 8 robot is powered by… wait for it… Verizon.  Umm… right.  And all the restaurants of the future will be Taco Bell.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Sir Ridley Scott, creator of the films Blade Runner, Alien, and the recent Prophets of Science Fiction series, has some visionary tricks up his sleeves.  But the release of this very, very different movie promotion struck me as surprising, in a good way.  And if they do the movie right, “Happy Birthday, David” may be the next sci-fi catch phrase.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Cyborg, by Martin Caidin, is the 1972 novel that was adapted into the television series The Six Million Dollar Man.  Long out of print, it is only available today via libraries or used online bookstores.  I managed to track down a copy via Amazon.com for only a few dollars.  My assumption was that this would be a dated story, but that it could be similar to the novels that it claimed to be like in its cover statement “In the explosive tradition of the The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man.”  Both The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man were by Michael Crichton, and having enjoyed both of those years ago I figured this was worth a try.  I was more than happy with this book.

First, it is a medical thriller more than a dramatic work of science fiction. Cyborg focuses on the details of witnessing the crash of a NASA stunt vehicle and an Air Force emergency response team’s reaction to a man who barely survived such a crash.  More than anything I have read before, this absolutely reads like an early Michael Crichton novel, including his way of incorporating scientific details, but not too much detail to bore the reader.  Cyborg has characters you care about, characters dropped into strange circumstances made very real.

Caidin’s description of the crash was as an eye-witness of sorts, and the first three chapters read like nonfiction.  Written before the space shuttle program, this type of mission reflected real missions of the time between the days of Apollo and the shuttle program, honing the technology leading to the first real mission with Space Shuttle Columbia.  Shockingly, the crash scene is like a foreseen account of the actual real-life disaster of the Columbia space shuttle.  The gritty realism of the first three chapters sets up the reader for a believable entry into the un-real that follows.

Colonel Steve Austin is a stunt pilot who had already served as astronaut on the last moon mission, the last man to walk the surface of the moon.  Waiting to go off as an astronaut on some Skylab mission he is now at a Mojave Desert test launch, which is vividly described.  Jan Richards is his girlfriend, all too familiar with being the spouse of an astronaut and the circumstances that come about on launch days, and although she has been there before, she is still nervous.  We learn quickly that Colonel Austin is a stunt pilot every bit like the Chuck Yeager as detailed in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  He is confident if not cocky.  Like Han Solo, in response to his girlfriend’s “I love you, Steve Austin,” he responds, “Same here.”

The fact that author Martin Caidin actually participated in the real-life NASA counterpart to the program in which Austin crashes adds a heightened realism to the novel.  Caidin was on site when a pilot suffered a similar terrible accident–the same type of disaster that aired at the beginning of each Six Million Dollar Man episode and makes up the first part of the novel.

Steve Austin, seriously injured as a triple amputee, gets not prosthetics, but improved-upon artificial limbs and an artificial eye.  But first we get accounts of medical triage, a play by play account of the cutting off of Austin’s blood loss, the overall success of protecting the body from burns because of the NASA flight suit, loss of both his legs and left arm, loss of eye through metal debris in the cockpit, skull damage, jaw damage, skin damage, assessment of respiratory damage, standard procedures from placing the intubation tube to removing the space suit from what remains of his body.

Doctor Milton Ashburn, head of emergency response, after hours go by, finally utters the words “He’ll live.”  But then all the conflict and story begins, starting from the lowest of places: “If you love that man like I do… then pray that he dies.”

If you’ve seen people recovering from surgeries, it is all about pain and lots of recuperation time.  It’s what I thought was missing for the first third of the book, then Caidin goes into detail about nerve endings and compensation for missing limbs.  To the layman even in 2012 it all seems to make sense.  Instead of brushing over the details of creating a cybernetic organism–a cyborg–he details all the processes and only in the last 20 percent of the novel do we get to the reason the government is willing to pay $6 million to keep this one man alive, and more than that, make him superhuman.  It is of course to make him a super soldier.

As storytelling is concerned, Cyborg is part Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, part Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Sphere, part Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage.  There is something exciting when a team of experts in varying fields come together to achieve some purpose that no one initially believes will work.  It’s the formula that worked so well several times for Michael Crichton.

The second third of the novel brings the realization that this in a real and thoughtful sense is a modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, only it is the story you can imagine a young 19th century author wanted to tell, as she obviously thought this type of medicine would be possible one day.  As the science is concerned, if it was not exactly possible to do in 1972, it certainly could be more possible today.  Despite the fact that this was written before the pervasiveness of computing, Caidin includes many references to computers, to micro-electronics that would one day be microchips, and bionics that would one day become the beginning of nanotechnology.

Once we get past months of recovery, recuperation, and therapy, and Austin getting to know his new body and abilities, the last third of the novel is a cross between Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger mixed with any number of 1960s military intelligence operation stories, like The Guns of Navarone.  First Austin goes on a deep-sea mission, using mechanical dolphins, off the coast of Surinam.  He then moves on to a desert mission in North Africa–a Seal Team Six type operation mixed with a True Lies international arms story where Austin teams with an Israeli soldier named Tamara.   The ending is about survival, and whereas Austin upon learning of his triple amputee state remarked that the doctors should have let him die, when he finally is left in a hopeless situation he learns he really wants to stay alive.

Great survival references are included in the final chapters including a bit about the real-life B-24 bomber downed decades ago in the desert called the Lady Be Good (documented in an episode of the History Channel’s History’s Mysteries in the 1990s).

Cyborg is surprisingly not dated considering it was written in 1972.  There is the odd focus on male-female relationships reflecting 1970s men-women workplace relations, but nothing as cringeworthy as I’ve read in 1950s pulp novels.  It probably helps that Caidin doesn’t spend any time on things like clothing descriptions, the very thing that makes the TV series a bit hard to watch today.

I’ve had the fortune of meeting and talking to three of the 12 surviving United States Apollo program astronauts who flew to the moon, and their confidence and character were well mimicked by Caidin’s account of the fictional Colonel Austin.  Clearly Caidin spent time with these guys in real life, and it is reflected in his book.

Cyborg is a great candidate for re-issue.  The TV series opening episodes follow the novel very well, with only the most minor of differences, like which arm that is lost and replaced.  It was also good to see that Phil Hester and Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man comic book series, which we review here periodically, is faithful to the spirit of both the series and novel, although it takes more of the TV series changes on in its monthly story.

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