Monday, July 28, 2008

Douglas Adams Quote err... Passage of the Day

Here's a very funny scene from Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

Marvin stood at the end of the bridge corridor. He was not in fact a particularly small robot. His silver body gleamed in the dusty sunbeams and shook with the continual barrage which the building was still undergoing. He did however look pitifully small as the gigantic black tank rolled to a halt in front of him. The tank examined him with a probe; the probe withdrew. Marvin stood there.

"Out of my way little robot," growled the tank.
"I'm afraid," said Marvin, "that I've been sent here to stop you."

The probe extended again for a quick recheck. It withdrew again.

"You!? Stop me?" roared the tank. "Go on!"
"No really I have," said Marvin simply.
"What are you armed with?" roared the tank in disbelief.
"Guess." said Marvin.

The tank's engines rumbled. Its gears ground. Molecule sized elctronic relays deep in its microbrain flipped backwards and forwards in consternation.

"Guess??" said the tank.
"Yes, go on," said Marvin to the huge battle machine. "You'll never guess."
"uummmmmm," said the machine vibrating with unaccustomed thought. "Laser beams?"

Marvin shook his head solemnly.

"Uh no," muttered the machine in its deep gutteral rumble, "too obvious. Antimatter ray?" it hazarded.
"Far too obvious," admonished Marvin.
"Uh yes," rumbled the machine, somewhat abashed."uuuh... how about an electron ram?"

This was new to Marvin.

"What's that?" he said.
"One of these!" said the machine with enthusiasm.

From its side emerged a sharp prong, which spat a single lethal blaze of light. Behind Marvin a wall roared and collapsed as a heap of dust. The dust billowed briefly then settled.

"No," said Marvin, "Not one of those."
"Good though isn't it!"
"Very good," agreed Marvin.
"I know!" said the frogstar battle machine after another moment's consideration, "You must have one of those new Zanthic Restructon Destabalizenon Emitters."
"Nice, aren't they" said Marvin.
"That's what you've got?" said the machine in considerable awe.
"No." said Marvin
"Oh." said the machine, disappointed. "Then it must be... uuuhhhh..."
"You're thinking along the wrong lines." said Marvin. "You're failing to take into account something fairly basic in the relationship between men and robots."
"errrrm, I know," said the battle machine "eeer." It trailed off into thought again.
"Just think," urged Marvin. "They left me, and ordinary menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavyduty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with?"
"Oh uhhh..." muttered the machine in alarm. "Something pretty damned devastating I should expect."
"Expect?" said Marvin. "Oh yes, expect. I'll tell you what they gave me to protect myself shall I?"
"Alright," said the battle machine bracing itself.
"Nothing." said Marvin.

There was a dangerous pause.

"NOTHING!?" roared the battle machine.
"Nothing at all," intoned Marvin dismally, "Not an electronic sausage.

The machine heaved about with fury.

"Well doesn't that just take the biscuit! Nothing eh? Just don't think do they?"
"And me" said Marvin in a soft low voice "with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side."
"Makes ya just spit doesn't it"
"Yes." agreed Marvin with feeling.
"Hell that makes me angry!" bellowed the machine "I think I'll smash that wall down."

The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the machine.

"How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly.
"Just ran off and left you did they?" the machine thundered.
"Yes." said Marvin.
"Think I'll shoot out the bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank.

It took out the ceiling of the bridge.

"That's very impressive." murmered Marvin.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," promised the machine. "I can take out this floor too, no trouble."

It took out the floor too.

"HELL'S BELLS!" The machine roared as it plummeted fifteen stories and smashed itself to bits on the ground below.

"What a depressingly stupid machine." said Marvin, and trudged away.


The Irascible Neufonzola said...

That would be Marvin, the Paranoid Android?

From which the Radiohead song of the same name was assuredly inspired. Funny bit.

Percussivity said...

Yeah, Marvin is probably my favorite character of the whole series. He is a manically depressed robot with the brain the size of a planet and makes excellent use of sarcasm whenever possible (which for someone that intelligent is pretty much always.)

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Scenes like that are pure literature...I can't even fathom them trying to make that into a scene of a movie. It would lose all its, for lack of a better term, spark. I doubt I'll ever watch the movie...better for these sorts of things to live on independently. I wonder, were British accents common in the film? I can tell that Adams, himself a Brit, wrote these with British vernacular and accents in mind. "Go on!", "I should expect", "bloody ceiling", "hell's bells". If the tank said all that with a cheesy American accent it would be remarkably out of place.

I would say similar things of Wodehouse but because its a little less of a fantasy setting (perhaps one could say it is a fantasy-ideal of prewar Britain...a Britain that never existed in such an idyllic state) the TV series actually did a great job of interpreting it. However, one of the great losses of committing it to film was that one lost the absolutely brilliant dippy inner monologue of Bertie narrating the story in a haphazard, inept way. Bits like Bertie remarking how Jeeves looked like a "stuffed frog", or not-so-casually reminding the reader over and over again about how he won the Scripture Knowledge Prize at grammar school. What Wodehouse did well was demonstrate personality in narration, which isn't all that common. Most character-based narration is pretty bland.