pop culture robots, a historical study: marvin the paranoid android

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Album artwork for Marvin’s 1981 music debut

Marvin the Paranoid Android is a ship’s robot aboard the starship Heart of Gold in Douglas Adams’s classic series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978), a radio show that was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom. The series was hugely popular and was later made into a TV Series (1981), a series of novels, a computer game, music releases and a big blockbuster movie (2005).

Marvin was originally a failed personality prototype who suffers from severe depression and boredom, in part because his brain is so big, in fact he has a “brain the size of a planet”. Apparently Marvin is 50,000 times more inelegant than any human and 37 times older than the universe (due to time travel).

The 1978 vision of Marvin was a tall humanoid robot with a large square head but he was reimagined for the 2005 movie. In the movie he was short and stocky with a giant round planet-like head. I love both incarnations of Marvin… but perhaps I prefer the movie version just a little bit more 😛 .

“I ache, therefore I am.” – Marvin

Marvin is racked with depression and suffers incredible pain due to the diodes on his left-hand-side never being replaced. His brain is woefully under-utilised and he occasionally writes music… in his track <<Marvin>> he references his pain with the lyrics “Nothing left to be enjoyed, every diode rheumatoid, Marvin.
Listen for yourself…

Marvin also wrote lullabies…

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

If by some freak of nature or because of a horrific laboratory accident you haven’t yet seen the 2005 movie then do yourself a favour. I can watch it again at any time… I just love it. Narrated by Stephen Fry and starring Martn Freeman, Zooey Deshanel and Mos Def, it’s one of my all time favourite modern reimagining of a classic Sci Fi tale. Here is the trailer…

While it’s hard to choose a favourite character in such a rich and fun filled tale, you can’t imagine this story with out the depressing and pessimistic voice of Marvin keeping everyone’s optimism in check.
I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

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